A Legacy of Leadership
Anniversaries offer a valuable opportunity for reflection — for considering where you've been, honoring the people and partners who've helped you along the way, and making plans for the future. This year, FOCUS St. Louis had the good fortune of commemorating our 25th anniversary (although our organizational roots go back much further.)
We have seen a lot of change over the past 25 years — both as an organization and as a region — but the value and importance of quality leadership has remained unwavering. Our region depends upon leaders who seek first to understand, who can reach across divisions and bring people together, and who ensure everyone’s voices are heard. These are the types of leaders we strive to develop through our FOCUS leadership programs and civic engagement initiatives; these are the leaders who we are proud to call our alumni.
As I look back on the past year (and the past 25), resiliency and relevancy are the descriptors that spring to mind. At FOCUS, we have demonstrated our ability to not only weather storms, but to use those challenges to inspire us as an organization and the leaders we serve. Along the way, we continue to adapt and innovate to meet the changing needs and priorities of our region — all while delivering the trusted "FOCUS experience."
While this annual report is a look back at the past year, we hope you will also join us (and support us) in looking forward to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for FOCUS and for our region.
Dr. Yemi Akande-Bartsch
President & CEO
FOCUS St. Louis
Our Year in Numbers
Came together from 74 ZIP codes across the St. Louis metropolitan region
Sent participants through a FOCUS civic leadership program
Incorporating interviews with regional leaders, simulations, discussion and reflection
Contributed 1,350+ hours in support of FOCUS, from committees to selection days
Attended or viewed one of our leadership program informational sessions
Joined us at a FOCUS event this year for learning, discussion and networking
- As a result of their FOCUS leadership program experience, 95% of this year's graduates said they were better able to actively listen to understand the diverse perspectives and opinions of others.
- 90% felt the FOCUS experience provided them with opportunities to form relationships and build community with people from a variety of backgrounds.
- 89% of graduates reported improved relationship-building skills.
- 86% said FOCUS helped them understand their personal responsibility to the region.
- 85% felt that their experience increased their ability to think critically about how relationships between civic assets, issues, and stakeholders impact the health of our region.
- Inspired by their experience, 65% of this year's graduates plan to volunteer for a new cause, 53% plan to deepen their commitment to a current cause they're involved with, and 42% plan to join a new board with the next 12 months.
Our Mission at Work
Throughout the pandemic, our commitment to delivering high-quality civic leadership education and immersive experiences never ceased, first as we transitioned to our Virtual Campus and then to a hybrid model. This year, 265 leaders benefited from the "FOCUS experience" through our continuum of programs. Many more joined us for our professional development offerings, including sessions on diversity and burnout, along with our custom training programs.
Our community needs leaders who are able to break through silos and work across sectors and industries — and FOCUS strives to be that connector. This year, we brought in more than 150 regional leaders (many FOCUS alums themselves) to speak with our program classes. In addition, we hosted a variety of networking opportunities for our members and alumni, including our 25th Anniversary Party, Taste of Mentoring, the Women's History Month Breakfast, alumni dinners and more.
Facilitating Important Conversations
Bringing leaders together for dialogue around regional issues is at the core of our mission — whether occurring in our programs or out in community. With support from Incarnate Word Foundation, FOCUS presented a quarterly series of forums around topics including DEI in schools, environmental policy, neighborhood development, and new civic leadership. We also had the privilege of being a partner on the 2021 Racial Equity Summit.
The Year in Snapshot
Celebrating 25 Years
We kicked off our year-long celebration with the introduction of the 25th Anniversary Fund, launched through the generosity of Ameren and Wells Fargo Advisors. With additional contributions from our alumni and friends, this fund raised more than $62,000 for FOCUS programs and initiatives.
Leadership St. Louis
Our 2021-22 class of Leadership St. Louis brought together 71 experienced leaders from across sectors. Topics explored included the justice system, health care, economic development, racial equity, education and quality of life — all while examining the systems and institutions shaping our community.
Women In Leadership
A total of 56 leaders were part of our this year's fall and spring Women In Leadership cohorts, coming together for learning, connection and reflection in seminar and field days. At graduation, 100% of participants reported an increase in civic readiness and relationship-building skills.
This year, 71 early-career professionals graduated from Emerging Leaders, gaining the tools to take an active role as the next generation of regional leaders. In addition to seminar days, participants put their leadership skills to work through Civic Action Projects in collaboration with community partners.
Youth Leadership St. Louis
Youth Leadership St. Louis provided 71 high school juniors from 15 partnering schools and community organizations with the knowledge, resources and inspiration to become the next leaders in our region. No other program in our community brings together such a large and diverse group of students.
Building Dialogue Across Borders
FOCUS was honored to be selected as one of five U.S. partners on the German-American Sister Cities Youth Forum, with current/past Youth Leadership St. Louis participating in a transatlantic dialogue on a range of issues like climate change and civic engagement.
Women's Leadership Breakfast
In March, FOCUS marked Women's History Month — and the 40th anniversary of Women In Leadership — with a morning of inspiration. More than 130 alumni and community members turned out for this virtual panel discussion, Q&A and networking.
What's Right with the Region Awards
Our community came together in May to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the What's Right with the Region Awards back in-person at The Sheldon, recognizing 20 outstanding honorees, alongside civic leaders June McAllister Fowler, Neal Richardson and Dr. Terry Jones.
25th Anniversary Party
FOCUS alumni from across programs and years joined us following the What's Right with the Region Awards for a 25th Anniversary After-Party. Thank you to all who joined us, and to Nine PBS and Anheuser-Busch for their in-kind support of this celebration out under the stars!
Named A Top Workplace for Women
FOCUS gained the distinction as a top place for women to work by the Women's Foundation of Greater St. Louis. We were recognized as one of 24 St. Louis employers demonstrating excellence in four areas of workplace gender equity – leadership, compensation, flexible work policies, and recruitment and retention.
New Endowed Scholarship
Our alumni consistently demonstrate their dedication to giving back — both in community and to FOCUS. This year, the 2020-21 class of Leadership St. Louis (Class 45) came together to establish a new endowed scholarship to support LSL participants who might otherwise not be able to participate.
Thank You to Our Supporters
The listing below reflects all membership and donation gifts recorded between July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022. If you have a question or need to make a change to how you are listed, please contact Kayla Dix at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Become a Member
Membership in FOCUS is open to all who want to make our region stronger and more equitable.
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