18 North and West St. Louis City Residents Commit to Advocate for Education Justice

The cohorts emerged to pursue policy reform that decreases racial disparity in K-12 education.

 Power-Builders on their first day in the Academy. Photo by Izaiah Johnson.

Power-Builders on their first day in the Academy. Photo by Izaiah Johnson.

On June 8th, residents of West and North St. Louis City arrived at the Deaconess Foundation to start their journey as Power-Builders. The Academy supports community members who commit to long-term organizing towards policy and systems change with the goal of improving outcomes for children in their neighborhoods.

This summer St. Louis Public Schools elected board of education will regain governance power. Now more than ever, it is important for our community to build towards a more effective and responsive district. An engaged base of residents strengthens the democratic process and ensures change is built from the ground-up. The Power-Building Academy is a launchpad for community-driven change to push the district towards advancing better policies and solutions.

The Academy’s seven-month curriculum facilitates groups of residents through three phases. First, Power-Builders develop organizing skills, an analysis of systemic racism, and an understanding of how the K-12 education system works. Through door knocking in their neighborhoods, Power-Builders engage community to surface major education issues. Second, Power-Builders develop innovative and equitable policy solutions and a campaign strategy to bring about those policy solutions. Third, Power-Builders disrupt current systemic educational inequities by implementing their campaign strategy to achieve tangible policy change.

The cohorts include teachers, parents, students, young professionals, and social workers. Each resident applied to the program, sharing why they are personally motivated to improve the city’s K-12 education system.

“My goal is to help people realize that this is not how we’re supposed to be living,” said Thomasina Clarke, a retired St. Louis Public School theater teacher. Clarke lives in The Ville in the house she grew up in. She is driven to keep teaching summer school classes out of a desire to see the light bulb come on in her students’ heads. “If anybody’s going to make a change, it’s got to be us.”

Johnnie Day cares for his parents on the block he grew up on in College Hill. He said, “Instead of me being one person on one mission, when we work together as a group our voice is heard more.” In his spare time, Day coordinates neighborhood improvement efforts and dreams of opening up a mentoring service for youth in the area.

Over the course of their first weekend, Power-Builders built relationships with one another and grew their analysis of the history of local neighborhoods and education in America.

WEPOWER is thrilled to start a journey with these residents. We hope you join us in celebrating them!

West St. Louis City