Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Emerson Funding $4.4 Million for Ferguson Scholarships, Job Training

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Emerson Funding $4.4 Million for Ferguson Scholarships, Job Training

Article excerpt

Emerson, one of the region's largest companies, is donating $4.4 million to fund scholarships and youth employment efforts for residents in north St. Louis County and Ferguson, where its headquarters is based.

The funding commitment is one of several investments announced in recent weeks by St. Louis businesses to address economic disparities in Ferguson in the wake of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by police Officer Darren Wilson.

Emerson, a Fortune 500 company with $24.7 billion in annual revenue, employs 1,300 people at a campus near the site of protests and looting that followed Brown's death on Aug. 9. Emerson's headquarters on West Florissant Avenue is across the street from the temporary location of a police command center during the weeks of unrest.

Through its new "Ferguson Forward" initiative, Emerson will contribute $300,000 a year for five years to the University of Missouri-St. Louis' Opportunity Scholars Program for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students who are minorities or whose parents didn't attend or graduate college.

Emerson builds a wide range of products, from residential garbage disposals to high-tech process controls that automate oil refineries.

Each year, 30 scholarships will be made available to graduates of the Ferguson-Florissant, Normandy, Jennings, Hazelwood, Riverview Gardens and Ritenour school districts. Emerson previously donated the same amount annually to UMSL, but funding for the next five years, totaling $1.5 million, will go to students in north St. Louis County.

Emerson chairman and CEO David Farr announced the funding at a St. Louis Regional Chamber meeting Thursday morning, where he challenged other businesses to pledge funds.

"Ferguson is our home and has been for the last 70 years," Farr said in a statement. "We choose to be here and are committed to this community, especially now in its increased time of need. We believe in hope and opportunity and want to help remove barriers so that more of our neighbors can succeed."

Emerson also is donating $750,000 to fund youth employment efforts through MERS/Goodwill Industries and the STL Youth Jobs program. Emerson's funding will sponsor 100 jobs for teenagers and young adults aged 16 to 23 in the Ferguson area.

Hilary Wagner, vice president at the nonprofit MERS/Goodwill, said Emerson's donation will allow STL Youth Jobs to expand to St. Louis County for the first time. For the past three years, the program has only been available in the city of St. Louis.

"The program has never received a commitment of this size," Wagner said.

In 2014, STL Youth Jobs funded part-time work for about 400 youth for eight weeks. The program will now be expanded to include more participants and the ability to work up to six months. "Our intention is to help these youth transition into permanent jobs after the program is completed," Wagner said. …

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