Morgan, a recent Job & Leadership Training student, spent his childhood in South St. Louis. After turning 18, Morgan left foster care and dove head first into adulthood. Despite his hard work, financial struggles still came, Morgan had no one to turn to for support.
A few months ago, Morgan’s life changed forever. On a normal night, Morgan dropped off his friend at someone’s house. He learned later that night that his friend was killed causing Morgan to start evaluating the people in his life. He had another friend who was on the honor roll in high school and graduated college yet was now on trial for murder. It seemed as though things weren’t turning out as expected.
Morgan wanted to live a life that would make his friend proud. He thought to himself, “how can I do this if I’m not doing anything with myself?” That’s when Morgan learned about JLT. Thinking back to this time, Morgan reflected,
“Before joining the program, I wanted to change. I was just hoping to grow up in this program. I wanted to learn what it looked like to be apart of this working society, to be a better person. That was the minimum. When Jason interviewed me for the program, him sharing his background with me made me think it was perfect to learn from him, someone who knows where I was and exactly what I need to do to overcome my surroundings.”
Morgan joined the 2017 Spring Session and committed to the eight-week journey. Classes 3 days a week allow students to work through heavy topics and share their opinions. One of the discussion questions that impacted Morgan centered on violence in St. Louis, a topic that hit home for him. Morgan challenged classmates to not just stay away from it, but to do something to prevent the cycle of violence from continuing. “If you aren’t doing anything about the problem,” he says, “you’re just as much a part of the problem.”
When it came time to select an internship, Morgan selected and was matched with Bubenik Painting, owned by Joe Bubenik. With Joe, Morgan learned not only the skill of painting but also learned about himself. It wasn’t always easy (he even spilled an entire bucket of paint on his first day), but it was humbling. His perseverance through the internship and Joe's patience helped make the learning process rewarding.
During Phase I, Morgan also developed a strong relationship with his mentor, Kevin. “Every time we were together, I forgot he was a mentor and just talked to him like he was a friend. We are supposed to meet for an hour, but we would go way over that hour. He doesn’t say, ‘I’m just here to talk to you.’ He’ll help me with anything I need.” The relationship built between mentor and mentee is meant to create another layer of support for students throughout their time in the program and beyond.
Mission: St. Louis strives to be a safe place for students in and outside of class. The accessibility of our staff and our open gym makes this possible. Morgan would take advantage of our space by spending extra time in the building. He says, “this building is an escape for me. When things are going bad or crazy, I know I can come up here and hang out at the gym, do whatever. It’s a big part of my life now.”
What makes JLT work?
For Morgan, it’s the staff. He says, “the staff put so much into seeing you succeed. For a grown person, people don’t put that effort into you, but coming in to JLT they take you under their wing until you’re ready to go off on your own, they’ll have your back.”
JLT is more than just an eight-week training bootcamp; it is a commitment to our students to walk with them as they set goals for their future. Even after the Phase I program, our staff follows up with graduates for a year after graduation, providing resources and additional support through their transition into the workplace. Joe Bubenik, Morgan’s employer, attributes the success of the program to how we empower students. Joe believes, “JLT has great success not because it gives the participants job skills, but because it instills in them the truth that they are valuable and they can accomplish difficult tasks.”
Morgan graduated from the program in the the spring session of this year. Not only is he employed by Bubenik painting, he sees his work as more than a job: it is a career. He plans to someday have his own painting business and continues to tell Jason Watson that he will one day take his job. Jason tells the students at graduation that he hopes they do take his job: what better way to see success in students than to see them exceed the potential of their leaders?
Congratulations Morgan and congratulations to all the men from all over our city that commit to this eight-week-plus journey. We want to empower men to be leaders in our community, whether that is in their workplace, their homes or their neighborhoods. Though, we cannot do this alone. It takes many people working together to make JLT possible. Whether you are an individual that can volunteer your time or you work for a business that can provide an internship opportunity, we need your help! Contact Cami at 314.534.1188 or firstname.lastname@example.org to see how you can get involved.