Ferguson Forward Program Provides a Path to Employment for Aspiring Nurse Practitioner

Alexis Brown is a caring and determined young woman, proving with her determination and focus on becoming a nurse practitioner what we all believe is true: that with hard work and perseverance, no obstacle is too great to overcome. After having been laid off at a major corporation a year earlier due to significant cutbacks, Alexis found it difficult to not only secure a job, but also to be self-sufficient and afford her own housing. She found support through an Independent Living Program (ILP), and as the time available to her in the ILP ran out she turned to her case worker at Epworth Children & Family Services for help. That’s when the 23-year-old learned about the Ferguson Forward employment program offered through STL Youth Jobs and MERS Goodwill.

“Without the proper attire and a means of transportation it was extremely difficult to secure a job. After months of searching for employment, I didn’t know what else to do or where to turn,” said Alexis. “STL Youth Jobs Ferguson Forward and MERS Goodwill helped provide the necessities for a job interview while also helping in preparing me for what to expect and how to handle myself once I secured a job.”

STL Youth Jobs logoThe STL Youth Jobs Ferguson Forward program was established in October 2014 and is fully-funded by Ferguson-based company Emerson. As the program partner for STL Youth Jobs, MERS Goodwill provides the job training skills and support to at-risk youth. Stemming from the STL Youth Jobs summer program that strives to transform youth outcomes and help fill the gap in employment services for St. Louis City’s at-risk youth ages 16-24, the Ferguson Forward work experience program provides comprehensive employment support. This includes individualized career assessment, financial literacy and job readiness training, job coaching and continued career support to youth in Ferguson and the surrounding North County area.

Once enrolled in the Ferguson Forward program, Alexis was introduced to her Program Coordinator Jerica Robinson. “From day one Alexis stood out to me,” said Jerica. “I was impressed with her professionalism and her readiness to work hard.”

After meeting with Jerica, Alexis attended the required financial literacy class and other training courses focused on communication skills, job readiness and team building. These classes and workshops are designed to equip the program’s participants with skills that will last them a lifetime. Some of the essential skills training includes selecting the appropriate work attire, navigating coworker relationships, assembling a resume and understanding money management.

“Participating in the training, specifically the financial literacy class, was extremely beneficial and helpful in preparing me for not only my job but also life outside work,” said Alexis. “I learned a lot about making smart financial decisions and I have already been able to save money better than I had in the past.”

Within a week of enrolling in the eight-week summer program, Alexis interviewed for a job at SSM DePaul. The Volunteer Coordinator, Barbara Toulster, was touched by Alexis’ story and determination and recommended her for a position in the Operator Department. After interviewing, Alexis was hired as a Switch Board Operator where she helps connect callers with patients, sets up patient appointments and is responsible for overseeing the code phone. According to Alexis, sitting at the front desk and interacting with patients and staff all day long has made her more outgoing and has allowed her to come out of her shell.

“My favorite part about working as a switch board operator is getting to help someone’s loved one reach them while they are in the hospital,” said Alexis. “Helping connect people while working in a field I love has been an amazing experience, and I am so thankful for this opportunity. I gained professional experience while also growing as a person.”

When STL Youth Jobs finds a fit between an employer and young employee, the possibilities are endless. After working close to 30 hours each week, Alexis quickly completed the maximum 160 hours offered through the program. Her hard work paid off and after completing her summer experience, Alexis was hired by SSM DePaul to continue her roles and responsibilities in the Operator Department.

While continuing her job as a Switch Board Operator, Alexis is also currently in school studying patient care and working on passing her Patient Care Technician (PCT) certification. Upon completion of her certification, Alexis hopes to work in the dialysis center. When Alexis is not working or in class she likes to be around her family and friends, read and sketch, and is working on helping out her community more. SSM DePaul is working toward hiring Alexis as a full time employee.

“The foot in the door I received from STL Youth Jobs and MERS Goodwill has changed my life,” said Alexis. “I was not only given an opportunity to find a full-time and secure job, I have also been able to rebuild my confidence, become more outgoing and it has solidified my desire to work in the health care field.”