When Executive Director Josh Wilson founded Mission: St. Louis in 2006, he had a goal—eliminate poverty in Saint Louis City within six months.
“I was just really stupid. I just thought that if we had enough money, people, resources, we would eradicate all poverty in St. Louis,” he said. Of course, poverty persists.
“I think it comes down to really this idea of dignity. . . . I think the biggest mistakes that can happen is to go like, ‘Hey I feel sorry for you,’ and when . . . we’re motivated out of feeling sorry . . . I think we do way more harm,” Josh reflected.
Now Josh has a different plan—“empower people to transform their neighborhoods.” The organization has been successful. Since it’s founding, Mission: St. Louis has helped men like Eddie find employment, provided after-school support for students and families, and facilitated home improvements.
Additionally, Beyond School, a division of Mission: St. Louis, has developed a summer program to combat the summer slide.
The summer slide (or summer learning loss) occurs when students in low-income communities lack learning opportunities during the summer. Many students from wealthier backgrounds have summers filled with trips to museums, camps, and other enriching activities. Low-income students do not. In fact, one study showed that more than half of the achievement gap between low-income and high-income students can be explained by students’ experiences in the summer.
While some have rallied around policy reforms such as year-round schooling to fix this problem, Mission: St. Louis demonstrates that the key to closing the gap between high- and low-income students is not only providing low-income students with learning opportunities, but also by providing a choice in what those opportunities are. This leads to more investment from the student and an all-around more positive experience.
I encourage you to check out our new video about the summer learning opportunities provided by Mission: St. Louis.