Last year, when Renay Hopkins lost her job, it was a frustrating and laborious effort to find a new one. While searching, she moved in with her grandmother to save some money. She recommended that Renay visit Austin Coming Together (ACT), a social service organization and United Way partner in her southwest neighborhood.
Only 29 percent of jobs in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) fields are currently held by people of color. It’s not a lack of interest in these fields that prevent minority students from entering the workforce, but rather a lack of access and awareness. But that’s changing for youth in the communities of Austin and Little Village, two United Way Neighborhood Networks.
At the close of his high-school career, Jeramie McGill was at a crossroads in his life. Like many graduating students, he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do with his future.
A study from Voices for Illinois Children found that 20 percent of Illinois workers are employed in minimum wage jobs, which currently pay $8.25 an hour. For many Illinoisans, that makes supporting a family arduous, if not impossible. But all hope isn’t lost.
At the age of 13, Michael, an 8th grade student at George Leland Elementary School in Austin, faced tough choices. Living in an under-resourced neighborhood with high crime, poverty and unemployment, Michael fell into a crowd of friends who were participating in dangerous activities with local gang members. When staff at his school recognized the behavior, they intervened and referred him to BUILD, Inc., a youth development organization and United Way of Metro Chicago community partner that specializes in gang intervention and prevention.