We believe building a better tomorrow for St. Louis starts with our kids, our future. Right now, our early childhood education system is poorly designed and hurting folks most impacted by racism, prejudice, and poverty.
Want to do something about it? Join WEPOWER’s Tomorrow Builders Fellowship.
Together, we will reimagine and redesign the early childhood education system across the St. Louis region.
What’s the time commitment?
2 years. Fellows will meet at least once a month in-person and there will be some kind of virtual component as well (if Fellows decide they want to meet more often, they’ll be empowered to do so). Whenever you meet, food and childcare will be provided free of charge. There will also be other optional travel and training components (offered free of charge thanks to WEPOWER and our partners) to dive deeper into what’s working well across the country and how to create tangible policy and systems change locally.
The fellowship is for folks who truly care about making a transformational impact so, in year one, you’ll focus more on gaining the tools, know-how, and network to make change then, in year two, you’ll actually do the changing. This isn’t an all-talk exercise, this is about doing. Taking action takes time, especially when you’re changing the world.
Is it full time?
No. The fellowship will offer you the opportunity to make a positive impact on the future of St. Louis city and county without negatively impacting your professional or personal responsibilities.
Are Fellows paid?
They sure are! Fellows are awarded a stipend. Plus, Fellows will have access to a wealth of skillbuilding, networking, and leadership opportunities that, on top of benefiting them personally, will make life better for ALL St. Louisans.
Who should apply?
Everyone should feel welcome to apply! Here, specifically, is what we’re looking for:
Folks who live in St. Louis city or county and care about making a meaningful difference in their region, especially when it comes to communities harmed by prejudice and poverty. And extra especially when it comes to kids.
Great communicators. That could mean a number of things. So whether you’re a skilled writer, an instagram influencer, or just the life of the party, we invite you to apply and use your gifts to transform the future.
People who “get it.” We want folks who understand that they way things are, isn’t okay. You’re mad as hell and you aren’t gonna take it anymore. Or, at least, you see that the systems that are supposed to make our lives better are often hurting the most vulnerable people in our communities. And you want to, have to, do something about it!
We want dreamers and doers. Action-oriented go-getters and creative thinkers. Show us that you imagine innovative plans, then you go out and get great results.
Team players. You’ll be working with a diverse group of Fellows and stakeholders in the community so you’re gonna need to play well with others and consider a range of perspectives.
What is the application process like?
It’s pretty quick and painless, but we want you to take your time and be thoughtful about your responses. Applications are open now and can be submitted below. There are five short-”essay” questions but, if you’re feeling your inner podcaster or Guillermo Del Toro, we encourage you to answer with the link to a brief audio or video clip. Be as creative as you wanna be, and bring your whole self to the application. We want to know the real you.
Applications close on January 13th, 2019. If you are selected as a finalist, we will schedule an in-person or phone interview with you by January 20th, 2019. Interviews will take place from January 21st-February 10th. The final fellows will be selected by February 17th. Then, the fellowship launches March 1st!
What will we learn through the Fellowship?
A lot of new and exciting tools to make meaningful change happen! We’ll work hard to make sure it is fun, engaging, and interactive. Fellowship learning will focus on systems design (see below), policy, leadership & networking, and early childhood education. You’ll also deepen your understanding of St. Louis, the problems here, and how to solve them.
What is “systems design?”
Systems design comes from a school of thought called “systems dynamics.” That’s a fancy-schmancy way of taking a step back to look at problems that are really tough to solve because they’re all tangled up together. For WEPOWER, when we talk about “systems,” we’re focused on education, health, economic, and justice systems.
Right now, we believe those systems are poorly designed and that they’re hurting regular folks, like you and me, especially those of us who have been harmed by prejudice, racism, and poverty.
This fellowship is about reimagining and redesigning those systems so they work better for everyone. Systems design is one of the tools you’ll use, as a Fellow, to do this. We’re not gonna lie, it might take a minute to get the hang of it, but WEPOWER and our partners at Washington University will be there to support you every step of the way.
Why focus on early childhood education?
For a few reasons. First, Receiving a quality early childhood education (ECE) leads to positive, multisystems outcomes:
Researchers and economists, including Nobel Prize-winner James Heckman, estimate that every dollar invested in ECE yields a $4-$9 societal return (Masse & Barnett, 2002; Koraly et. al., 2005; Heckman et. al., 2009).
Kids who attended quality pre-K programs achieve greater long term academic and professional outcomes and are significantly less likely to be arrested or commit violent crimes (Rolnick & Grunewald, 2003; Heckman & Masterov, 2004; Education Research Foundation, 2004).
Universal pre-K can improve low-income kids’ health outcomes by exposing them to greater, faster opportunities for diagnosis and treatment (Hong et. al., 2017).
Plus, there’s a lot of momentum and interest from our partners across the St. Louis region. The amazing ideas you’ll come up with as Fellows will inform a 2020 ballot initiative to increase the access to and quality of ECE, how to make sure that ballot initiative wins, and what to do after it wins.
In short, we feel like this is the best place to start that will do the most good.
Will the fellowship always be focused on early childhood education?
No, this 2 year fellowship cycle will have an ECE focus. Subsequent cycles will likely focus on the economic, health, justice, and/or education system in some other way.
What is WEPOWER? How does this tie in to the overall organization?
WEPOWER is a dynamic new nonprofit dedicated to activating community members to lead the charge for equitable systems change. It’s the brainchild of the interim Lead Catalyst of Forward Through Ferguson and St. Louis native, Charli Cooksey. WEPOWER is focused on making the economic, justice, health, and education systems work better for everyone. The Tomorrow Builders Fellowship is part of the “Activate Changemakers” strategy. To learn more about WEPOWER and our other strategies, click here.