When and why was Cultural Leadership founded?
Cultural Leadership was founded in 2004 to provide young people in the St. Louis region with the knowledge, motivation, and skills necessary to address the many issues our communities face. In many ways, marginalized groups in America continue to be denied access to the basic resources and rights required to survive and thrive. St. Louis is one of the most racially segregated metro areas in the country, and we all suffer the consequences. Cultural Leadership works to bridge divides and build relationships among young people who want to create positive change in their communities and beyond.
In Cultural Leadership, participants learn about systems of oppression through the lenses of African American and Jewish histories. These groups, in their respective histories, have experienced both unimaginable violence, diaspora, and cultural exclusion. These groups have also persistently acted with incredible strength, resilience, and resistance. Their vibrant cultures persist, and deserve celebration. We celebrate them and look to them for insight into systems of oppression and wisdom on how to continue the fight for justice — while maintaining joy along the way.
What are the objectives of Cultural Leadership?
Cultural Leadership works to…
- explore and explicates the causes and consequences of social injustice;
- promote cross-cultural awareness by immersing youth in cultural experiences, gradually dispelling ethnic and cultural stereotypes;
- encourage cooperation, mutual respect, and dialogue through year-long relationship building activities;
- provide direct exposure to leaders of social movements as mentors and models of social activism to demonstrate how youth can become agents of social change;
- develop leadership competence through practical skills training in public speaking, facilitation, community organizing, and public relations;
- motivate students to initiate change in their families, schools, neighborhoods and other circles of social influence;
- expose young people to the wisdom of their elders who have fought for justice and endured through unimaginable obstacles to thrive in America; and
- cultivate the next generation of activists, community organizers, and leaders.
Who can participate in Cultural Leadership?
Cultural Leadership is open to high-school sophomores and juniors in the St. Louis region who have demonstrated curiosity, maturity, a sense of civic responsibility, and leadership potential. We welcome applicants of all identities who are interested in becoming civil rights change agents and “troublemakers of the best kind.”
What qualities do you look for when selecting students for the program?
Among the traits we value are…
- Maturity: students must be responsible, dependable, and committed to Cultural Leadership and its mission
- Open-Mindedness: students must be curious and open to new experiences, new thoughts, and new ways of doing things
- Risk-Taking: students must be willing to go outside their social and intellectual comfort zones, to try and to fail, to learn from that failure and try again… and again… and again
- Action: students must be motivated to Stand Up, Speak Out, and Take Action when they see any injustice; and to “grab an ally or two or three, roll up their sleeves, and get to work”
- Leadership: students must be able to inspire and motivate others to rally around a cause
We are dedicated to socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and ability diversity in each cohort.
How much does it cost?
The actual cost of the program is approximately $10,000 per student per year. We are generously supported by individuals, local foundations and corporations who underwrite a significant portion of the costs.
Tuition for Cultural Leadership’s high school program is determined on a sliding scale system. Upon acceptance, we will request that you self-report information about your financial situation that will help Cultural Leadership determine what your family will pay. Family contributions range from $250-$3,500 for the program year. Every tuition level is eligible for payment plans in up to 6 monthly payments, July-December of the program year.
Tuition includes a non-refundable deposit, proportionate to your level on the sliding scale, due shortly after acceptance and agreement to participate in the program, which is deducted from your overall due fee. All details and income brackets will be shared in the interview and selection process.
Do not let the cost deter you from submitting an application or participating in the program! We are committed to working with every family to make participation possible.
During the program year, each family is expected to collaborate with another family to provide 2-3 meals or snacks to the whole group.
Cultural leadership is an investment in a student’s leadership skills and cultural understanding. Tuition includes ongoing training and coaching by an experienced facilitation team, expert topic-area speakers (often University Professors) at every program, three local weekend retreats, and during the three-week Transformational Journey in the summer, Cultural Leadership provides food, lodging, transportation, and admission to all venues for the students. The real cost of this once-in-a-lifetime year is approximately $10,000 per student.
Funding from our broad base of corporations, foundations, and individuals enables Cultural Leadership to set tuition below true program cost per student. And we are committed to equity, such that the cost for each participant is different depending on available family resources.
How many students does Cultural Leadership accept each year?
Camp Cultural Leadership is open to as many campers who qualify!
Approximately 24 students are selected for our High School Leadership Program.
Social Justice College Internship program is open to our alumni who will dedicate their summer to work in St. Louis. We will work to find internships for all alumni who are committed to it.
What role do adults play in the High School Leadership program?
In our High School Leadership Program, adults meet in parallel to about half of their students’ programs. This parallel curriculum is designed to help parents better support their children and guide them through the Cultural Leadership experience. While we strongly encourage parents to attend these programs, they are not mandatory.
How many programs are participants required to attend?
Attendance is required at ALL programs throughout the year.
Excused absences are extremely rare. They typically involved 1) illness, 2) a once-in-a-lifetime event such as a wedding, bar/bat mitzvah, or funeral, 3) something that affects the students future, like a college admissions interview. Because the High School Leadership program meets only a handful of times throughout the year, attending each program is imperative to students’ success. Missing too much time for any reason may result in a student having to withdraw from the program.
An example schedule is available here: Class 14 Schedule
How is Cultural Leadership funded?
Cultural Leadership has an annual operating budget of $300,000. The total cost per student for program, travel and food expenses exceeds $8,000 this year. In addition to participant program fees, Cultural Leadership is funded through donations from individuals, foundations, and corporations.
Who is on the board?
Our board of directors is a diverse mix of professionals, entrepreneurs, educators, parents, and alumni. For the current members, please see our board page.
What about outcomes?
The students who graduate from Cultural Leadership emerge better educated, more curious, and more confident in themselves. They stay engaged with an ever-growing national network of youth committed to fighting ignorance, teaching understanding, and promoting lifelong learning. The achievements and contributions of our students include…
- A group of alumni organized a diversity round table at their high school
- Jen recruited 14 classmates and began a tutoring program for middle-school students who are reading below grade level
- Cece and Cydney (both Black) each started Diversity Clubs at their mostly white high schools
- Emily planned and carried out Mix It Up Day at her high school
- A Black alumna joined the board of Hillel at her college
- Ron lives in Israel and is in a Muslim-Jewish dialogue group
- Jillian was awarded the Community Leader Award by her local YWCA
- Terrell, Tyjuan, and Maurice attended Brandeis University on the Transition Year Program (each is the first in his family to go to college)
- A Jewish alumnus was a member of a Latino empowerment group
- Jeremy produced a documentary on civil rights and lived on the Social Action floor of his dorm at NYU
- Richie was an Ingram Scholar at Vanderbilt
- Blake is bringing a chapter of the first multi-cultural fraternity to his state university
- Hannah in Class 5 and Trevor in Class 6 both received the Princeton Prize in Race Relations