Opportunities for 1st Generation St. Louis College Students

By Emma Iffrig and Ronald Walter

Almost everyone has a friend who will be a first generation student going to college in the fall. Our friend, John*, is an African American who will be the first in his family to go to college. He starts this fall, and needs money to attend college. He works part time at Foot Locker and uses his money to help with his family bills  while saving a little for himself. John goes to the library on his days off to research how to get money and found out about STL Graduates here. As John researched, he found that St. Louis Graduates was created for students just like him. 

 Illustration By  Najee Person

Illustration By Najee Person

Opening its online doors in 2011, St. Louis Graduates is a scholarship and interest-free loan based program geared to help first generation African American students achieve a post-secondary degree. The scholarships are less competitive than the national scholarships because they are locally funded by companies such as: The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, The Jewish Community Foundation of St. Louis, and St. Louis Public Schools, with many more companies that care about educating our youth. You too can be a donor by donating to St. Louis Graduates. 

St. Louis Graduates is a great company because it is for local St. Louis residents, and has its central location in the Delmar Loop. You don’t have to go far, and you don’t have to worry about getting scammed online. You could even go visit them in person. Give St. Louis Graduates a call at (314) 725-7990.   

If you’re like John and live in St. Louis check them out, and create your own profile to get yourself some cash.

*This is an anonymous name.

16 Year Old Teen Fights off Bullying and Builds a Business

Courtney Jay Harris, 16 year old high school junior in St. Louis, MO is the founder of Bash Out Bullying. Bash Out Bullying is a movement but also a testament of what Courtney experienced. After experiencing bullying in her personal life, Courtney decided to bring awareness to bullying and inspiring others to stand up and speak out. Courtney shares her experience being a bullied student in a very close knit school environment. What can come from people being very close? On the positive end, there's a great amount of support, although on the negative end, gossip can seep through. 

According to bashoutbullying.blogspot.com,

"We had a trip during the sixth grade to Memphis where we stayed at another school overnight. During that trip, a lot of "girl drama" was said, by not only me but by others as well. Looking back heck just about everyone said something about someone. Because our moms were friends and they all knew us well, they quickly got to the bottom of things. All of our parents and us girls met at our school in a conference room and talked about the "girl drama". I said something really mean about a good friend, I am not in any way making excuses, but I wasn't the only person who said some things, practically everyone did. However, if you know or ever meet my mom, you will quickly learn she doesn't play games, so she immediately became furious with me in the meeting! She got on me tough and told me that wasn't nice; I apologized to my "friend" and her mom. This is when I learned the importance of friendship," said Courtney.

Instead of making the situation worse, Courtney went the positive route to influence others to prevent the mistake she'd made.

Courtney has now brought awareness to bullying on various spectrums. Bullying doesn’t just have one face. What Courtney experienced in her testimony was social bullying. Courtney describes this as, 'relational bullying' which involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Examples are: leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, or embarrassing someone in public. "My biggest challenge is that teenagers don't outwardly support my mission, people text me directly or inbox or direct message me rather than show support via socialmedia. I want them to know it doesn't make you look weak or less popular for supporting a good cause," says Courtney. We all may have easily experienced some sort of bullying directly or indirectly. Though how we allow it to affect us is what is key.

 "I was bullied for over three years. I've experienced cyber bulling, social bullying and I went through a very serious bullying incident, where I was told to 'go kill myself' via Twitter."

-Courtney Jay Harris

Courtney is now bringing awareness to not only social bullying but issues such as cyber bullying, homelessness, child abuse, depression and mental health. We asked her a few questions how she got Bash Out Bullying established and funded.

How do you fund Bash Out Bullying?

I use money from my part time job to pay for t-shirts, candy for the goody bags that I pass out, and flyers. My mom also helps out a lot too. My organization's name is registered with the state of Missouri, but I'm still working on saving my money to become a non profit which is around $700. My mother said she will give me half, so I've been saving my money from work, sales from B.O.B., my t-shirts, and donations from my speaking engagements. I also receive donations from people who just believe in my mission. [Also] my mother went to a workshop at SCORE, an organization that offers free business counseling. The seminar [she attended] was about how to become a non-profit organization.

What financial tips do you have for other teens who want to start their own organization?

Have a goal of how much money you want to save and also a date that you would like to have it, this helps you stay on track. Also consider the costs associated with starting your own organization.  Consider paying for literature to promote [your business] such as flyers and business cards. Even [document how much] gas is used to travel to various venues. I document everything. Save money from [your] part time job, birthday and Christmas gifts. [Lastly, host a] fundraiser. For example, I sell Bash Out Bullying t-shirts. I don't charge for speaking engagements, but a lot of the organizations make a donation.

Where do you see Bash Out Bullying in the future?

My goal is [for Bash Out Bullying] become a non profit by spring 2016. I want B.O.B. to be a nationally recognized organization like, the Megan Meier Foundation and Keshia Knight Pulliam's Kamp Kizzy. I want to make a huge impact in regards to bullying, whether it's helping the bullied, the bully, or the bystander. I have so many people that have told me they have experience "bullying", whether they were the bullied, the bystander, or even the bully. Bullying is a huge epidemic that goes under the radar and I want to help get the information out! 

Want to be a part of that change? Bash Out Bullying now via: bashoutbullying.blogspot.com, facebook.com/bashoutbullying, and twitter.com/bashoutbullying

The Art of Investing In Yourself

On The Money's Najee Person sat with independent artist, Brock Seals, about his entrepreneurial journey. Brock's natural love of art has led him to create pieces that others love. Brock has even turned his art into a career. The journey has left Brock with an amazing story to tell. 

Photo By: Najee Person

How would you describe your style of art?

Brock: My style would be definitely colorful and vibrant. I try to evoke emotions within my artwork. I want it to strike you. 

What is the largest mount of money you have ever sold a piece for?

Brock:  I sold one for like a stack [$1,000]. That was like my first big step and I was thinking, 'It's real.' I can eat off this now.   

Who was your first art teacher?

Brock: Mr. Arnold. He painted me on the wall in my old elementary school and he was super cool. He was a super hero to me, I always felt like [Mr. Arnold] could do anything. 

Financially, how hard is it to be an artist in today's time?

Brock: You gotta work three times as hard for sure. I can't just create art alone. I have to work two other jobs. Sometimes it takes no off days. I'm adjusted to it now so its life to me. It's good to have incomes in line. Its definitely good to be financially stable when you're doing this because it's not cheap. You have to make an investment in yourself.

Do you have a savings plan that you follow to support your art?

Brock: Yes. I stay at a minimum amount and I try and save more then I spend. 

How important is money to you?

Brock: Money is important. Is it everything? No, not at all but it's just as close. It's like the next thing. You've got to survive to live your life on this earth.            

Where do you see yourself  in two years?

Brock: In two years I will be displaying my art across the world, touring, sharing my music. I will have at least an art gallery here in St. Louis for sure. Ideally, I'd like to have two art galleries across the world where I can hold my own shows. In two years, I want to be able to support myself full time creatively.   

Brian Owens Speaks on Money

By Najee Person | Photos from Sara Levin Photography via Brianowens.tv

Have you ever wanted to see a change in your community but didn’t know where to start? You may ask yourself, ‘How will I pay for this to begin?’ Brian Owens of The St. Louis Symphony, did not allow those factors to scare him. Instead, he turned to his resources to establish a life changing organization known as Life Compositions. Life Compositions is free for students and has proven to help teens excel.

What is your role at the St. Louis Symphony?

Brian Owens:  Within The St. Louis Symphony, I am the IN UNISON Artist in Residence and Program Manager. IN UNISON began 25 years ago, as an outreach to the African American community.  I manage the program side of it which includes finding students to give scholarships to and program development for initiatives aimed for young people.

Tell us about your relationship with Sterling Bank.

Brian: I have a relationship a really good partnership with Sterling Bank.  I partnered with Sterling Bank to do all the [concerts] that I’ve offered, like The Heal Ferguson and The Soul of Ferguson.  Sterling Bank also helped with community events for nonprofits to raise money.

How did Life Compositions start?

Brian:  The idea came out from the relationship with the St. Louis Symphony, Sterling Bank and with Maryville University.  My relationship with Sterling Bank connected me with The Little Bit Foundation, which connected me with Confluence Academy - Old North. When I went there [to Confluence Academy - Old North] and started working with the choir students, I was like ‘Dude, I have to something here.’  I asked the teacher, "How many of the students have experienced urban trauma?" She said "All of them."  We soon partnered with Maryville University getting 6 graduate students of [within Music Therapy] to come in and do therapeutic songwriting with 6 kids from Confluence Academy- Old North.

What did it cost to fund the program?

Brian: There are so many partnerships that play into it. We were blessed in the pilot stage to do a whole lot. My time is taken care of by The St. Louis Symphony. That’s a position that’s already taken care of [financially]. I had guest artists like Lydia Caesar and JR Peebles, who came in and offered mentorship. These artists are donating their time because it’s a cool thing to do while giving back. Sterling Bank, Maryville University and more donated time and helping with funding. Maryville University paid a stipend to their students to lead their [music therapy] side. Destin 2B1 Records is a company I’ve partnered with and they helped with funding for studio time as well. Sterling Bank also offered funding for studio time. Honestly, I believe that if someone wants to do this, they can do it. Don’t let [lack of] money be a determining factor.

How is music considered therapy for you?

Brian: Music is a universal language. Music can speak to the deepest part of us that no one else can see. Music is therapeutic for me because it speaks to the part of me that I can hide from everybody else. Music bypasses what society defines people as. Music bypasses what country you’re from, your socioeconomic status, the color of your skin, and what high school you’re from (if you’re from St. Louis).

Are the students working in a studio?

Brian: Every kid recorded a song and produced in Shock City Studio! They donated some time and discounted services for us. Luke Arens mixed and mastered for free. (Average price of professional studio time is $65/hr plus $65/hr for mixing and mastering which is a longer process.) We recorded seven songs in three days. To mix it was an average of two hours per song. So you’re looking at fourteen hours times the cost of mixing and mastering.

How have the students personally progressed since starting the program?

Brian: Prior to participating in [Life Compositions], one of the students at Confluence Academy Old North was on his way to being expelled, literally. He was in the process of having to go before the board [regarding his academic career]. He joined [Life Compositions] and graduated. One of the [factors] of [students within] the program is behavior. So if you want to be a part of this program, you’ve got to quit that [old habit]. Arguably, he’s probably one of the most talented kids who have participated since the program has started, in a raw sense. His voice on the mic is crazy. That’s the adventure of finding diamonds in the rough. ▪


Ferguson Youth Initiative: Young People Making A Difference In Ferguson

The Ferguson Youth Initiative is a collective effort to engage teenagers between the ages of 13-19 years old. The organization works with youth to enrich their lives, promote collaborations and develop of sustainable programs geared directly towards the youth of Ferguson. We sat down with a youth member and their director to see how they are making a positive impact in the Ferguson community. 

Read More

Silver Lining Celebrities

We all see how much money celebrities make, and some of us may think, ‘All these rich people do is carelessly spend their money on whatever their heart’s desire!’ But that’s not true for all celebrities. We decided to highlight a few of your favorite celebrities and their charitable ways.

Read More