East Side Aligned

Recent Updates

May 2020 — East St. Louis High School Senior Advances Education and Earns Work Certificate During COVID-19 Pandemic

Arielle Bell has simultaneously explored her career interest in hotel management and gained a competitive advantage in the field. She just earned a college-level certification in Hospitality and Tourism Management before even graduating from high school.

Arielle Bell, part of the East St. Louis Senior High School Class of 2020, has been interested in hotel management for over four years. Her mentor, Dr. Teresa Williams, connected her to a free certification program that was being offered through the College of Business at Florida Atlantic University during the COVID-19 pandemic. Arielle jumped at the opportunity – despite being the only high school student to participate in the program designed for college-level students.
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December 2019 — Jobs For Americas Graduates (JAG) Takes Root in East St. Louis

JAG helps High School Students discover their individual talents, develop skills and seize opportunities to achieve their personal potential. Read more

Students in East. St. Louis Learn to Write Code

Earlier in December Mr. Mark Bosworth, Industrial Technology Coordinator from the Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC) Granite City Campus, visited Wyvetter Younge Alternative Center to demonstrate CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machining.  The students designed their project and wrote the code for the machine to follow to cut it out. It was a great experience for them to see how their math skills can be used on a job.


September 2019 — The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program at East St. Louis Senior High School hosted an Open House Hair and Car Show on Saturday, September 14 to highlight student achievements and the exciting CTE opportunities available to the community. Nearly 200 people attended the event and seventeen cars entered the car show. The top 3 entrants received trophies and each car received a commemorative dash plaque.  You can watch coverage of the event by channel 5 here.

Though a college degree is often viewed as an essential component on a resume, many employers need hires with specific skills that can be identified through industry-recognized certifications rather than post-secondary degrees. Students in East St. Louis Senior High School’s CTE Program gain relevant, work-based experiences that prepare them for industry trades. Program areas include audio-visual, automotive, construction trades, cosmetology, culinary, electrical trades, nursing and welding.

Blake Zettler is a senior in the welding program at East St. Louis Senior High School.  As a student in the CTE program, he has already earned eight American Welding Society (AWS) weld certificates while welding plate steel. With these achievements under his belt, he is focused on mastering new skills: His next challenge will be welding pipe. Pipe welds are traditionally inspected by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Blake’s welding instructor and mentor, David Koleson, believes it is very possible that his star pupil could graduate with welding certificates from two different weld-sanctioning bodies – the AWS and ASME.  Both are recognized as the industry standard for their respective weld disciplines in structural and pressure piping. 

Many regional employers are looking for students like Blake Zettler. Employers recognize the value of CTE in preparing students for high-wage, high-skill, and in-demand occupations. The certifications Blake has received will catapult his employability after graduation. Pipe welding credentials typically net the top pay in the welding field. Blake could graduate from high school and immediately earn $70,000/year based on his skill level and earned industry-recognized certifications.  

CTE Director Dekietrich Lockett noted, “Blake is a highly skilled and competent welder.  He has become adept and this year will master skills that many established welders do not know.”  Lockett added, “My job this year is to connect him to employers so his skills are maximized in the region after graduation.  He is ready.”

The Career and Technical Education Program’s Open House Hair and Car Show took place on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 12 to 6 p.m. at 4901 State Street in East St. Louis. The Open House featured tours and students, such as Blake, showcasing their area of expertise.  Cosmetology students provided a Hair Show. There was a 50/50 drawing, dash plaques, DJ, door prizes, food, games and many activities for the whole family to enjoy.


September 2019 — Student Encourages Other Youth to Consider Careers in Healthcare

Diana Edmonds has always known she wanted to be a nurse and she is actively on the path towards her goal.  Between her junior and senior years at East St. Louis Senior High School, Diana was awarded the Dr. Helen Nash High School Internship for Excellence in Healthcare.  This paid internship was created in memory and honor of the lifelong commitment of Helen E. Nash, a pediatrician who broke racial barriers to become the first black physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1949.

Diana earned the coveted Dr. Helen Nash High School Internship for Excellence in Healthcare position based on her application (including references, personal essay, resume and transcript) as well as an in-person interview.  She competed against other applicants across the St. Louis region.

Diana participated in the paid, four-week internship in summer 2018 with BJC Healthcare.  She experienced departmental rotations through Strategic Planning, Nursing, Pharmacy, Advocacy/Outreach, Physician or Scientist, Radiology and Therapy.  Diana proved to BJC School Outreach that she possessed a positive attitude, willingness to work hard, patience in a complex environment, and confidence to take initiative.

Based on her outstanding performance, BJC Healthcare asked her to return as a Patient Care Tech on the NICU floor and offered her full-tuition reimbursement at St. Louis Community College, Forest Park Campus to complete her prerequisites for Nursing School.  She will then transfer to the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College for her BSN degree.  

Diana was also a student speaker at the 6th Annual Illinois 60 by 25 Network Conference. She has been mentored by East St. Louis School District CNA Coordinator Stephanie Tate-Patterson.  


June 2018 — Walking Across Two Stages

Montez Holton, Valedictorian of the East St. Louis Senior High School Class of 2018, walked across two stages in May: earning a high school diploma and associate’s degree.

Montez Holton, Valedictorian of the East St. Louis Senior High School Class of 2018, walked across two stages in May: earning a high school diploma and associate’s degree.

Montez and 29 other Flyers are participants in Running Start, a partnership program between School District 189 and Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC). Montez had to qualify on academic merit to take all his Junior and Senior level classes at SWIC. He paid $0 for his associate’s degree, as District 189 covered all his tuition, books, supplies, meals and transportation expenses.

Montez plans to use his 68 college hours of credit to transfer to Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He will enter this fall as a college Junior on a full tuition scholarship worth about $20,000 per year. Since the cost of Fisk is approximately $32,000 per year for tuition, fees, housing and meals, Montez will begin his college career with a $64,000 savings.


Is Early College Worth the Sacrifice?

Although he and his family are very proud and excited about Montez’s accomplishments, he will tell you that it did not come without a cost. He ran cross-country and track for two years, but quickly discovered that working up to 30 hours per week and taking college level courses left little time for practice and competition.

“I tried to go to practice and compete the first semester,” said Montez, “but studying for college courses and juggling everything was overwhelming.”  He said that he misses that part of high school, but the college credit is worth the sacrifice. Montez says that he would tell anyone choosing Running Start to be ready to be independent, work hard, and sacrifice.


29 Others in Running Start

Is Montez an outlier? Absolutely not. The first Running Start cohort was from the Class of 2017, which celebrated 4 seniors who earned both a high school diploma and associate’s degree. Now there are 29 others from East St. Louis Senior High School in the Running Start program – 5 others graduating like Montez with two diplomas – and even more who are on track to graduate next year. All are earning transferable college credits through the program and getting a “running start” on their postsecondary ambitions.



Community Contact Information


Lead Intermediary Organization

United Way of Greater St. Louis

Region Story

Recognizing a growing sense of urgency to achieve measurably better outcomes for children and youth in the East St. Louis District 189 footprint, a group of committed stakeholders began laying the foundation for a collective impact process in November 2012. This process, now known as East Side Aligned, envisions a day when all children and youth in the greater East St. Louis community are supported – physically, intellectually, and emotionally – and ready for success in school, work and life. Our collective mission is to create the conditions that will equip every child for success through aligning and advancing policy, practice and investment across sectors.

The collective impact process has presented an opportunity for community stakeholders to coalesce around bold action on behalf of young people. Using the Forum for Youth Investment’s Ready by 21® developmental pipeline to shape our work, the initiative is currently undertaking a master planning process to improve outcomes for children and youth.

Areas of Expertise

  • Collective Impact
  • Pathways Curriculum Development
  • Career Information and Advising
  • Employer Engagement
  • Opportunity Youth (Non-engaged Young Adults)

Prioritized STEM Industry Clusters

Key Success to Date

  • Conducted a Pathways to Prosperity Asset Mapping in East St. Louis with JFF
  • Secured funding and employer engagement for Career Cruising Inspire
  • All East St. Louis School District students (7-12th grade) developed their individual learning plan for college and career pathways
  • Recognized at the annual College Changes Everything Conference for its work

Key Goals for Next 2 Years

  • Implementation of the middle school Possible Futures and Possible Selves career exploration pilot program
  • Create a dual credit agreement with Kaskaskia College
  • Offer a one-day job shadowing experience with St. Elizabeth’s Hospital

High School Career Development Project

  • Create a Health Science job-shadowing program with St. Elizabeth’s Hospital so students can obtain the necessary field hours for the CNA certification and expand the paid internship experience program for high school students with moderate to severe mental disabilities. One example of a current work-based learning opportunity is twice a month with the school-based food pantry students unpack bulk donations and divide them up into family boxes for distribution.