As the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis approaches its centennial anniversary in 2018, it is making strong strides toward a host of educational, economic and advocacy goals throughout the community.
The League, which works to empower African Americans and others in the region to secure economic self-reliance, social equality and civil rights, looks to expand its programs by increasing current membership from 600 to 1,000 by 2018, as well as generate more members for its Whitney M. Young Society, which launched in December.
Like the local League itself, which is part of the more than century-old National Urban League, the Society is steeped in history. Its namesake, Whitney M. Young, is an iconic leader who served as president of the National Urban League at the height of the Civil Rights Movement. “Young also is known as the father of the modern Urban League, which marries corporate communities with African American communities to help people in need across America,” notes Urban League president and CEO Michael McMillan.
The Society, which honors outstanding donors and volunteers, will be celebrated at a reception and cocktail party Aug. 27 at the Top of the Met in downtown St. Louis. Co-chaired by Todd Schnuck and Lou and Jackie Brock, the evening will feature a program highlighting the League’s mission, as well as entertainment. “It will be an opportunity for us to thank our current 160 members and recruit new members,” McMillan says.
The Society helps raise funds to support the League’s 25 economic, educational and advocacy programs, which annually aid almost 80,000 people across the region, explains board chair Richard Miles. And by the League’s centennial anniversary, it hopes to annually serve 100,000.
Among the League’s economic programs are job-readiness services, including basic computer skills training, financial literacy, resume building, dress for success and placement assistance. “We hope that the Society will raise funds to help us continue the quality services we provide to those who really need them,” Miles notes.
The League’s education programs include its largest event, the Back to School and Community Empowerment Festival, which is expected to draw 10,000 to 15,000 attendees to Chaifetz Arena on Aug. 2.
Education always has been a key component for improvements locally and nationally, McMillan notes. To that end, the League also is expanding its collaboration with local universities and colleges by creating the Leadership Academy. “The Leadership Academy tries to make sure some of the best and brightest people—specifically people of color—stay in the region.” Participants are provided with a mentor inside and outside of the League, are awarded a matching gift from the League when they earn a scholarship, and receive assistance with their college and professional careers. “We want to help create confident, capable workers committed to the League and the community,” McMillan adds.
As the League looks toward its centennial celebration, its members are excited for the future. “We hope to increase our membership to a more regional and diverse audience, who is really committed to empowering everyone in the community,” Miles says.