Meet Our Alumni
One of the challenges most FOCUS program participants face is balancing program days with their existing professional, community and personal responsibilities. Mary Danforth Stillman was no exception. When she joined the Leadership St. Louis class in 2014, she was also in the process of launching Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, the region’s first all-girls STEM charter school.
In spite of this balancing act, Mary completed LSL, and Hawthorn is now in its third year with 200 students in 6th-9th grades. “The students are doing well, they’re growing and they’re starting to identify as Hawthorn girls,” Mary says. “It’s also been great to see all the amazing adults who have come together to support the students.”
What prompted you to apply for Leadership St. Louis?
A good friend, who knew that I was working on launching a charter school in St. Louis, encouraged me to apply to broaden my understanding of the city. The Leadership St. Louis experience helped me be more culturally aware of the differences and similarities among us St. Louisans.
What did you gain from the program?
The biggest takeaway from the program was the other people I met. Worlds collide in different ways, and it’s a tremendous asset to be able to reach out to these individuals.
For example, classmate Ben Beinfeld of World Wide Technology helped prepare our strategic plan to plot our IT needs for Hawthorne. There’s value in having those relationships to be able to say, “Oh, I know someone working on that.”
How do you describe FOCUS to others?
FOCUS programs are a great opportunity to come together for broader and deeper understanding. We’re all in our own silos. FOCUS programs jumble people together who should have known each other all along – and now they do.
FOCUS is creating space for people to be real and to have conversations, both moderated and unmoderated, about the things that matter. It was very enriching to learn more about different perspectives on our region beyond my own knowledge base.