A Winning Combo: Innovation & Results

“The innovation grants gave us the chance to test an idea we had about student leadership, and we ended up with a whole new approach to hearing students,” reflected Stacey Cook, 5th grade teacher at Mason Elementary School.  “Leadership isn’t just telling people what to do; it is setting a good example for others,” noted Channing, a sixth grade participant in this year-long leadership development project at Mason.

As part of its efforts to build strong school leaders, the SLPS Foundation launched the innovation grants program in 2016. This year, thanks to funding from Wells Fargo Advisors and Ameren, SLPS Foundation awarded 7 innovation grants that schools used to address one of two issues: developing student leadership and ensuring students read at grade level.

The program is built on the idea that innovative solutions often come from those working on-the-ground and who have direct relationships with the challenges facing their colleagues and students, yet lack the funds to implement the solutions that may make a big impact. Through Innovation Grants, these leaders are able to take their solutions from idea to reality. “Innovation grants give us the chance to imagine new paths for our students, and the freedom to pursue those paths,” noted Diane Dymond, principal of Stix Early Childhood Education Center. 

These grants have led to the creation and implementation of many new and successful programs. This year we saw the creation of an Elementary Student Council Consortium which was born from the desire of the Mason Elementary School Student Council to share and learn with other student councils from all over the city. Their innovation grant allowed them to create a network that connects other elementary schools in the District so councils can come together, share ideas, and learn from each other’s challenges and achievements.

In addition to the consortium, this grant also allowed the student council from Mason to travel to Washington, D.C. to learn about leadership and get an intimate look at how our government works. The students had the opportunity to tour national monuments and government buildings, learning about how our federal government operates and solves problems. They were welcomed into Missouri Senator Blunt’s office, where they had a full tour and candid conversations. The students finished their trip by joining other students from all over the US for a leadership conference. One of the participants, a 6th grader named Joy, summed up what she learned, “Leadership is not about you, it’s about how you help others.” The students learned lessons that will last a lifetime and were able to bring back and share these lessons with their schools, classmates, and all of the members of the consortium, infinitely multiplying the impact of this experience.

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