What’s the point?
Cultural Leadership’s High School Leadership Program exists to educate, ignite, and train high school students about oppression and resistance. “The best friend of oppression is silence,” our sage lead facilitator always says. So we talk about it! Then do things about it.
We learn history, visit historical sites, and meet change agents who pass us the torch — we stand on the shoulders of giants to keep fighting for justice today. Cultural Leadership is training the next generation of civil rights activists, or – as we fondly call them – “troublemakers of the best kind!”
How does the program do it?
Cultural Leadership students participate in an intensive year of over 420 hours of programming during the School Year – August to August. These programs include cultural activities, public speaking, leadership training, travel, and facilitated workshops on issues of injustice. Through these activities, students engage in their own and each other’s histories, religions, and cultures. They learn to see how systems of oppression connect, and then are supported in building action projects to take on the piece of the solution they care most about.
Central to the praxis of each diverse cohort is building relationships across neighborhood, school district, and socioeconomic segregation lines. St. Louis is among the most segregated cities in the country. Cultural Leadership recruits all over the city and intentionally crafts Class cohorts that defy the logic of St. Louis’ social status quo. These relationships are a crucial first step in the process of healing the wounds of St. Louis’ ugly, longstanding, and persistent divisions.
Highlights of the year:
Sunday Programs and Weekend-Long Retreats: The village gathers about once a month for either a Sunday program or retreat. These are opportunities for team building, bonding, and learning. Expert speakers come in to give talks and do workshops on topics like: African American history and culture, Jewish history and culture, racism, antisemitism, socialization, power, housing segregation & school inequity, economic justice, and digital communication for activism in today’s social media landscape. At the second retreat, students learn how to facilitate difficult conversations and pair up with a classmate to lead a “courageous conversation” for friends and family.
Students visit a school different from their own to learn first-hand about education inequity. After a grounding education in the property-tax based school funding model in place in Missouri and a history of racial housing segregation, students go see the current effects of a longstanding problematic history of school segregation.
Students who attend more resourced schools, such as private schools or schools in districts such as Kirkwood, Parkway, Ladue or Clayton, will spend the day shadowing a student at a historically marginalized school, in districts such as St. Louis Public, University City, Jennings, Hazelwood, and Ferguson-Florissant. And then they switch. Students host each other at both schools, and have a debrief conversation with administrators in each school to ask questions and discuss their experiences.
Holiday Swap: Jewish students host their non-Jewish classmates for a traditional Passover Seder, and Christian students host their non-Jewish peers for either a Palm Sunday or Easter Sunday worship service and/or celebratory meal. Students of other religions are also invited to host their classmates for a worship service or holiday.
The Transformational Journey: For three weeks in June, students travel to U.S. cities throughout the Northeast and South, visiting people and places significant to social justice and the Civil Rights Movement. Destinations shift each year but can include: New York City; Philadelphia, PA; Baltimore, MD; Charlottesville, NC; Washington D.C.; Atlanta, GA; Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuskegee and Selma, AL; Little Rock, AR; Jackson, MS; New Orleans, LA; Whitwell and Memphis, TN. They meet and visit people and organizations that have made — and are still making – significant contributions to improving society. Adult trip leaders accompany students and facilitate nightly discussions and activities.
Sound amazing? Apply now.
Cohorts are interviewed and chosen throughout the spring and summer each year, to begin in August.
Visit our FAQs page for more details on program expectations, outcomes, and fees.
Follow this link to apply online. The application consists of short answer questions, letters of recommendation, an unofficial high school transcript, and a photo of yourself.