AT&T Believes, a national philanthropic effort of the telecommunications company, is launching a local initiative this month at a kickoff event at Harris-Stowe State University.
Believe St. Louis will focus on philanthropy and volunteer partnerships that target preschool-age children through young adults, said Jomo Castro, the regional director of external affairs for AT&T.
Each of the nearly two dozen cities that participate in AT&T Believes chooses a focus specific to that community. The program started two years ago in Chicago, with a push from an AT&T employee who was concerned about the gun violence plaguing that city.
The company sponsored neighborhood cleanups and set up training programs and hiring events in under-resourced areas of Chicago.
Videos of Believe Chicago‘s progress were shared within the company, and employees in other cities began expressing interest, Castro said.
“As a corporation, we thought, ‘We’ve got something here,’” he said. “We give autonomy to each city to pick the issues they have.
“This is our new way of philanthropy. We merge volunteerism with a more focused strategic approach in our giving. It’s more local.”
In St. Louis, education, mentoring and career preparation were identified as priorities, with special attention on neighborhoods in the St. Louis Promise Zone.
That federally designated zone, which includes parts of north St. Louis and north St. Louis County, gives high poverty areas priority access to federal investments in an effort to boost economic activity and job growth and improve educational opportunities, among other initiatives.
Castro said AT&T’s 4,500 local employees will be encouraged to volunteer their time in neighborhood-restoration efforts, by teaching coding and circuitry classes at community centers, and becoming mentors in schools and with Scout troops.
But Believe St. Louis is also trying to bring other companies and nonprofits into the fold.
“It’s a holistic approach,” he said. “We want to be a convener to others as much as a doer. We want to inspire others to do similar things, whether it is with us or in their own way.”
AT&T’s nonprofit partners include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, Better Family Life, LaunchCode and NPower. World Wide Technology, Emerson Electric, St. Louis University and Washington University have also come aboard.
By the end of August, Believe St. Louis had invested $600,000 in the community, Castro said, with a goal of $1 million by the program’s official Sept. 26 launch at Harris-Stowe.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page are among the leaders scheduled to attend the kickoff event that morning with Craig Unruh, president of AT&T Missouri.