Dynegy Inc., the largest retail electricity supplier in Illinois and a major power generator, today announced a $200,000 investment in East Side Aligned, a collective impact movement that aims to improve outcomes for young people in the greater East St. Louis area. The investment is designated for strengthening and improving local public safety efforts. Dynegy president and CEO Robert Flexon made the announcement at the East Side Aligned State of the Movement address this morning, where nearly 200 business, philanthropic and civic leaders gathered at New Life Community Church in East St. Louis to discuss progress happening in the community.
“As a power generation company, we continuously look for ways to improve our environmental impact and safety of our workers and the surrounding communities. Safety is a core value of ours and it always has to come first and you always have to be aware of it,” said Flexon. “Our commitment to safety extends far beyond the fence line of our generation plants. That is why we are pleased to invest in East St. Louis through East Side Aligned and to focus on creating a safer community, not just for children and youth, but for everyone who calls this community home. It is only when you feel safe that you can focus on achieving great things.”
Dynegy’s investment, which builds on a $25,000 donation made in 2013, will provide backbone staff and support to enhance the capacity and skills of local police departments; provide training for local officers on community-oriented policing; and create more avenues for residents and police to communicate. Last fall, St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern announced the county, in partnership with East Side Aligned, had received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to develop and implement a plan to reduce youth violence and victimization. At the event this morning, county administrator Debra Moore said that they are on track to finalize the plan this summer with hopes of implementation quickly following.
“East Side Aligned stakeholders are incredibly grateful to Dynegy for their continued commitment to East St. Louis and to helping enhance public safety systems,” said Evan Krauss, director of ESA. “When children feel safe in their home, school and neighborhoods, they are more likely to succeed. With Dynegy’s investment, as well as the grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, we will be able to support schools, social service agencies, law enforcement and faith communities in their efforts to reduce violence and crime in the community.”
The movement was established in 2013 and receives backbone support and investment from United Way of Greater St. Louis. Many individuals involved in East Side Aligned spoke at the event, including St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly.
“The East Side Aligned movement is playing an integral role in helping us increase and improve the capacity, efficiency and accountability of our local law enforcement. The efforts of bringing stakeholders from across the community and across sectors is truly a remarkable and productive achievement for East St. Louis,” said Kelly.
East Side Aligned focuses on three key areas of child and youth well-being to help all young people be safe and secure; ready to learn and work; and empowered to create change. In addition to public safety, the collaboration consists of partnerships, coalitions and programs that support quality education, comprehensive health care, early childhood and out-of-school programming, and career development.
At the event, several other organizations who’ve made significant investments in East Side Aligned were recognized, including Mission and Ministry – Daughters of Charity, which invested $200,000 to support the establishment of a coordinated, effective out-of-school time system; and GSK, which awarded the movement a $500,000 grant in late 2015 to help children and young people live healthier lifestyles.
“These investments have accelerated the work and allowed us to serve more kids and provide high-quality programs in this area,” noted Diane Sonneman, director of the Griffin Center: Catholic Urban Programs.
East St. Louis School District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver discussed the progress his district has made. “By integrating restorative justice practices, the district experienced a 12 percent decline in the overall suspension rate last year over the previous year. In just our secondary schools we saw a 43 percent decrease.”
According to Culver, the district has also increased the four-year graduation rate at East St. Louis Senior High School by more than 10 percent from 2012 to 2016, and that seniors in the class of 2017 have already earned over $10.5 million in class scholarship earnings. He also noted that on average, the district has had an increase of 13.25 percent of students meeting the measures of academic progress (MAP) growth targets in 2016 compared to 2015.
Krauss noted that one of the main reasons East Side Aligned has been successful is because of the dozens of local young people who have become engaged and used the movement as a platform for creating change. One of the individuals, Montez Holton, a junior at East St. Louis High School, gave his insight into why this work is important to the East St. Louis community. “This movement has provided me and other youth with incredible opportunities. East Side Aligned is our hope for a better future.”
Missed The State of the Movement? Watch the presentation here: