DES MOINES, Iowa -- Howard Nelson has dreams for his life, like going to college and beginning a career in marketing. But with a court record, getting that first job wasn't easy, until he discovered StreetCred Studios.
"Before this, I really didn't have a job. I was going to school, but I didn't have a job or anything," Nelson said. "But they helped me gain experience, helped me get better jobs, and now I'm moving forward in my life, and building my resume and my career."
StreetCred Studios is only about a month old. It's a new business venture from ArtForceIowa, a local non-profit dedicated to helping court-involved youth find their purpose through various forms of art.
"Especially for young adults and youth who have had any kind of criminal background or juvenile court involvement. Work is often really hard for them; it's hard to find a job, and sometimes it's hard to keep a job, even if you've found one," said John Mark Feilmeyer, executive director of ArtForceIowa. "So, what we're trying to create is more of a therapeutic work environment, where youth can really develop those skills."
ArtForceIowa already pairs mentors with youth to learn how to design and screen-print shirts. Soon, it'll add photography and video editing to the list of services StreetCred Studios offers. Organizers say taking those tools, and turning it all into a business that gives youth real work experience is priceless.
"We've already printed over 500 shirts, done a few thousand dollars worth of business, and we're feeling really good about the potential," Feilmeyer said.
In just its first three weeks of operation, StreetCred Studios mentor, Jose Marentes-Gonzalez, says youth like Nelson have shown major improvement in their self-confidence and ability to find job opportunities.
"I needed that opportunity; I had a criminal background," he said. "And for the longest time, that was holding me back. Having a criminal background, I feel like I'm one of these kids, but I didn't grow up having this ArtForce."
So next time you need shirts made for a team or event, StreetCred Studios asks for your business. For them, this is more than work - it's an opportunity for something greater.