James Keeton saw the need for change in his community — then he got to work. Keeton watched circumstances lead youth in his community down a tumultuous path and he was determined to lead them to change.
MBU alumni, James Keeton (’13, ’17) currently serves as the director of programs at St. Vincent Home for Children. This home equips at-risk youth to overcome challenges and believe in their ability to succeed. In this role, Keeton works with youth who are facing significant life changes, such as a loss of a parent. Through building a support system, the students are then empowered to improve themselves and their community. In his role as director of programs, Keeton serves on the executive leadership team, leads the clinical services department in providing individualized care and oversees all program details.
Keeton values people for who they are — he believes a person’s value does not diminish because of the mistakes that were made. He goes the distance to make people feel significant. “You can have all of the resources, but you have to build a relationship with a spirit of grace,” Keeton said. “You have to meet people where they are. People are so valuable,” he continued. Seeing through the lens of empathy helps Keeton focus on what is truly important — making others feel valuable.
Keeton began his professional career working for the Missouri Department of Mental Health, serving as a habitational specialist. Over the past twenty years, Keeton has worked with many youth-serving companies in the St. Louis area, including Provident behavioral health services, and Places for People, a non-profit in St. Louis. In 2015, Keeton started his own private practice, Keeys to Fitness, with his wife Zhanna. His practice focuses on physical health and mental health counseling services for young men. Keeton also currently serves as the Vice President Board of Directors at Phoenix Behavioral Health, a leading trauma non-profit agency in St. Charles, Missouri. These experiences with youth and counseling allow him to excel in his new leadership role at St. Vincent.
Keeton’s main goal is to continue the work he started and instill confidence in the youth using compassion and empathy. “I hope to make a serious impact on my community. I want to be someone who mentors and leads for the vital change of the community,” Keeton said. As director of programs at St. Vincent, he gets the opportunity to live out his passion — counseling youth and valuing people.