Preparing for a Thriving Future
As the City of Saint Louis strives to renew itself, important choices must be made. The scope of the challenge is vast and complex, encompassing economic development, social balance and growth, infrastructure, education, and other factors essential to ensuring a competitive, vibrant and relevant future for the region.
Those choices are particularly challenging for a city whose population has declined from over 850,000 in the 1950's to under 320,000 today, creating a sense of urgency to determine the best course for the community to grow and thrive.
Spotlighting Education and Nutrition
Within this climate, community meetings occurred in the fall of 2014 involving residents of the city's Shaw neighborhood, professionals from a variety of disciplines, and representatives of Saint Louis University. The ambition of those meetings was to propel the development of an urban resource center focused on two major challenges facing St. Louis and other large American cities: poor nutrition and inadequate science education, especially among disadvantaged youth.
From these meetings grew an initiative called the Green House Venture focused on urban food production using a unique combination of education techniques for elementary school students.
Forming the Foundation
To bring the project to life, several initial steps were taken. A formal organization was created; a 501(c)(3) designation was obtained; a Board of Directors was formed; legal and organizational structures were created for the Urban Education Alliance; and an architectural firm was retained to design a facility that forms the core of a 5-garden educational complex.
The location for Venture center was chosen in an area with a concentration of elementary schools that are in close proximity to major scientific, educational and economic institutions. Working under the direction of Saint Louis University, the four elementary schools comprising the newly formed Alliance include:
- Tower Grove Christian Academy
- Mullanphy Investigative Learning Center
- Saint Louis Language Immersion Schools
- Saint Margaret of Scotland
This unique education partnership touches more than 2,000 students, representing African American, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic and Multi-Racial students. From the outset, the faculty of these schools and professors from Saint Louis University have guided the development of the curriculum and design of the program.
Setting the Stage
The Ambassadors Program was launched in fall 2016 at one of the Alliance schools with a class of 20 students — 5 from each school. It was our first step toward engaging students from all four participating schools in the vision for a dramatically new approach to elementary education in bio-science and urban agriculture.