Neighborhood Houses Helps St. Louis Youth Explore Future

Recent high school graduate Emmanuel Futrell had never visited a four-year college, and even the thought of being away from his family was a bit unsettling. But an unexpected campus visit this summer changed his perspective.

The trip to LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, arranged by CHHSM member Neighborhood Houses, a St. Louis youth services organization, offered Futrell and five other young people a look at what their futures could become.

“All in all, it was great,” Futrell says. “I got to travel and see new things. LeMoyne-Owen isn’t like other colleges. They’re going to give you support and help you keep your grades up.”

The six high school seniors and recent graduates on the trip are involved with Magnificent Creations, a Neighborhood Houses social enterprise for St. Louis teens. The teens spent a weekend getting a close-up look at college life, staying in a dorm and talking with student ambassadors. The group returned home to St. Louis with broader horizons.

“It was a wonderful experience for them,” says David Carroll, Neighborhood Houses’ chief program officer who directs Magnificent Creations, a program that teaches practical business skills to high school students as they make and market silk-screened T-shirts. “The school was so welcoming, and the guys got so much out of it.”

Carroll, who led the trip, says that several in the group had never been exposed to a college campus.

“A lot of our kids have never been out of their neighborhood,” he says, “Let alone out of state.”

The Rev. Allen Fluent, a board member of both Neighborhood Houses and LeMoyne-Owen College, proposed the trip, along with a one-day visit earlier in the summer for elementary and middle school students and their families from Neighborhood Houses programs. Both the college and Neighborhood Houses are affiliated with the Missouri Mid-South Conference of the United Church of Christ.

“It seemed like a good idea to send kids to experience what’s offered there,” Fluent says. In addition, both groups visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

Fluent thinks LeMoyne-Owen offers a good opportunity for St. Louis students served by Neighborhood Houses. At the same time, he says, the college could benefit from St. Louis students.

“There needs to be more opportunities for these students to be considered by colleges when they’re obviously bright kids but not always from good high schools,” Fluent says.

He envisions further opportunities for LeMoyne-Owen and Neighborhood Houses to forge a close relationship that will benefit St. Louis youth.

“From the conference’s point of view, this ties together two organizations that share a similar mission,” he says. “This was a good first step.”

Fluent says the choir from LeMoyne-Owen may visit St. Louis along with admissions representatives.

For Futrell, the 300 miles between the college and his family gives him pause, but he likes what he heard during his visit. He had never been to Memphis, and the experience has given him another option to consider as he begins classes close to home this fall at St. Louis Community College.

“It opened my eyes up,” says Futrell. “It just helped me weigh my options.”

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