You don’t have to look far to see the racial disparity that exists in our city.

In St. Louis, a black student is twice as likely to drop out of school as compared to their white counterpart. A black worker is 2.5 times as likely to be unemployed.
(East-West Gateway Council of Governments)

It’s hard to ignore these numbers, because they mean as a city we’re setting black students up for failure from the start. Our organization exists to change these numbers- so eventually we can say all students have the same opportunity to succeed.

We believe in creating opportunity- because skin color, geography and income shouldn’t determine how much opportunity you have. Our Beyond Jobs, Beyond School and Beyond Charity programs create opportunity in St. Louis, but we’re not the only ones striving to do this in our city. We’re joined by some amazing community development corporations and nonprofits like us that believe in empowering people by taking a holistic approach to community building and breaking the cycle of poverty.

Community development corporations, like Beyond Housing and Old North St. Louis Restoration Group, focus in on areas of high need in our city and empower them with a variety of resources. They don’t do just one thing, instead they create change by focusing on a small demographic and investing in it to keep people in the community.

Beyond Housing, for example, works within the geographic region of the Normandy School District in St. Louis so their resources have a greater impact on one community. They have job readiness classes, youth development programs, and they renovate homes. They do a lot, but in a small region, so the deep impact helps the entire community become a better place to live.

Most recently, they have begun building a movie theater after finding out that 85% of their community members will leave their town to go see a movie. By building a movie theater, they are enabling their residents to remain in their community for entertainment, spend money there, and they’re bringing other people into the community. By really listening and responding to what the community needs and taking a holistic approach to community development, Beyond Housing is making the community a better place for the people living in it- rather than what outsiders think the community should look like. Read more about Beyond Housing’s movie theater here.

There are also nonprofits in St. Louis that are equipping people with the tools to access more opportunity, like financial assistance and training new skills. Justine Petersen is a St. Louis-based company that creates opportunity through microloans, financial education classes, and credit building tools. By building trust with those they serve, Justine Petersen is allowing people with low-incomes to maintain their businesses, helping low-income families purchase homes and educating communities on financial literacy. They’re creating opportunity for individuals by eliminating barriers and increasing support. As they empower individuals, their community becomes a safer, healthier place to live as a result.

We’re encouraged to be surrounded by other organizations that are also focused on creating opportunity and empowering people in our city. We’re hopeful for what’s to come in our city!