In the middle of a recent afternoon, Alice Prince called about a dozen managers into her office for a quick pep talk.
After updating them on the recent death of her father-in-law, Prince took a few minutes to thank them for stepping in during her absence and encouraged them in their work at the St. Louis Agency on Training and Education.
“Whoever went out to visit the community on Saturday, I received so many emails and text messages like, ‘Team SLATE is great!’ All of that made me feel really good, because I know what we do really saves lives. As I was losing a life, I knew my team was here saving lives. I want to tell all of you how much I appreciate you.”
Prince has been the executive director of SLATE since her appointment by Mayor Lyda Krewson in August 2017. The St. Louis city agency connects “real people with real jobs,” Prince described, through training programs and connecting clients directly with potential employers. The agency also works with employers to diversify their workforce and helps young people develop career skills. Before becoming director, she had been the Young Adult Workforce Division director since 2008.
It’s apparent that Prince’s Catholic faith guides her work. In fact, Mayor Krewson called with the job offer several weeks after Prince finished praying the St. Anne Novena at her parish. “That novena changed my life,” she said. “How do you get a position you didn’t even apply for? That is nothing but God.”
The St. Charles Lwanga Center was to honor Prince, a member of St. Nicholas Parish in north St. Louis, with the Torch Bearer Award April 29 at its annual Testimonial Dinner. Prince was one of several honored at the event (see related) for their contributions in the community. The archdiocesan agency promotes spiritual formation and leadership development, including advocacy for justice and racial equity concerns among the black Catholic community.
SLATE works with people in the community who face the greatest barriers to education and employment. Noting the direct correlation of poverty and crime with unemployment and lack of education, Prince said providing access to education and
job-skills training is critical.
Not long after her appointment, Prince established Workforce Wednesdays, which includes resume and application help, job search support and same-day interview opportunities with area employers. The agency also gives priority services to veterans and their families, helps build diversity within union jobs, including access to apprenticeships. Prince also expanded SLATE’s hours of operation to 7 a.m.-7 p.m., noting that “we can’t save a life between the hours of 9 and 5.”
Prior to becoming director, Prince established Workforce High School, a partnership with St. Louis Public Schools that gives young people wanting to complete their high school diploma 24-hour access to educational services.
“We know we need to break the cycle of illiteracy in some communities, so we want to make sure that adults and high school dropouts go back and get that diploma or GED,” she said. “We know that there’s no path for our community if they’re not getting skilled. Making sure we have open access to education is so important.”
Prince also started the Employment Pop Up Shop program, in which city workers go into neighborhoods with high crime rates and connect young people with employment opportunities. Meeting clients where they’re at is critical, she said, and that often includes social media.
“Sometimes they are on Facebook. Sometimes they are on Instagram and Twitter. Sometimes they are texting. But sometimes they are in the ‘hood or on the block,” she said. “We meet them wherever they are and we keep our hands on the heartbeat of our community. Whenever anything changes, we change with them. That’s an aspect of most governments or agencies don’t have.”
Her faith gives her the resilience that she needs in her job, Prince said. She’s inspired by the work of saints, including St. Teresa of Kolkata (she chose Teresa as her Confirmation name) and of course St. Anne, Jesus’ grandmother. She’s also influenced by the late Sister Antona Ebo, who marched for voting rights for blacks in Selma, Ala., during the Civil Rights era.
“When we look at all of the saints and what they have done for the least of us, that’s what’s important, and that’s what drives me,” she said. “When we talk about poverty, education, equality and social justice, I look at my job as a social justice issue. My faith carries me on — this is my pilgrimage.”
>> Alice Prince
Hometown: St. Louis
Parish: St. Nicholas in north St. Louis
Bachelor of science, St. Louis University; master of arts in
communication management (emphasis crisis communication), Webster
University; doctorate in educational leadership
Family: Husband Carlton, daughter Taylor (17) and sons Jalen and Kalen (15)
>> Lwanga Center honorees
Father Edward F. Feuerbacher Lifetime Achievement Award:
Judith Jackson, member of St. Matthew Parish and longtime musician and
educator. She is the fine arts department chair at Cardinal Ritter
College Prep High. Her music ministry has focused on piano and choir,
and has included roles with the MLK Choir and National Association of
Negro Musicians. She also taught at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Baden,
and led music for school Masses and an after-school arts program. Her
music ministry has taken her to numerous churches in the area.
Torch Bearer Awards:
Alice Prince of SLATE; and Community Health in Partnership Services
(CHIPS), a nonprofit organization that began at Sts. Teresa and Bridget
Parish adult honorees: Edna Hester (Sts.
Teresa and Bridget), Ella Scott (St. Nicholas), Melanie Wilson (St.
Matthew), Carol Henderson Powell (St. Alphonsus Rock), Helen Moody
(Blessed Teresa of Calcutta), Corinne Wohlford (Fontbonne University),
Donna Dittmer (Our Lady of the Holy Cross), Eric Thomas (St. Augustine),
Michele Randle (St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist), Nicky
Hoxworth (Most Holy Trinity).
Parish young adult honorees:
Sarah Jimenez (Fontbonne University), Julian Francis (Our Lady of the
Holy Cross), DeAnna Nash (St. Augustine), Christopher Hannon (St.
Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist).
Parish youth honorees:
Jalen and Kalen Prince (St. Nicholas), Jasmine DuMaine (St. Alphonsus
Rock), Barbara Echols (St. Augustine), Narrez Hopson (St. Elizabeth
Mother of John the Baptist), Zackery Patterson (Most Holy Trinity).