HomeGrown StL, an initiative born of the Race and Opportunity Lab at Washington University in St. Louis, has recently formed the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) to provide direct community governance. The RSC is comprised of 25 senior-level decision makers from across the region who seek to be intentional about organizing and aligning regional strategies and infrastructures to address the critical issues impacting Black boys and young men between the ages of 12-29 years old within the St. Louis region.
Professor Sean Joe, founder and principal director of HomeGrown StL, states, “The RSC is a civic governance group of organizations in which citizens come together and assume responsibility for the outcomes that they want to see within the community. It will help fortify the region’s commitment to strategies that impact the lives of Black boys and young men and contribute to the region’s economic health.” Joe shared that the RSC is the first civic governance structure of its kind erected within the nation for a city to bring together regional leaders from both the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County to address issues that pertain specifically to Black boys and young men.
“The regional effort reflects many of the perspectives that surfaced during the university’s strategic plan discovery phase. This exciting initiative by HomeGrown StL is indicative of our commitment to the St. Louis region,” said Beverly Wendland, Washington University Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
“Partnering with this diverse group of influential leaders will heighten the impact that Washington University can have to improve the lives of people and work toward eliminating disparities across our region,” said Wendland, who leads the university’s strategic planning process. Co-chairs of the RSC will be Flint W. Fowler, PhD, president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis (BGCSTL); and Valerie Patton, chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer of Greater St. Louis, Inc. and president of Greater St. Louis Foundation.
Fowler stated “ensuring that the youth receive a quality education, are prepared for the region’s workforce, and have mentors as they move into young adulthood are among the goals that the RSC seeks to achieve.” He hopes that HomeGrown StL and its programs will become a national model that other communities can use.
“It’s an important time in our history to address these issues,” said Fowler. He has led BGCSTL, which now serves more than 10,000 youths, for 25 years. “The idea is that to make St. Louis an optimal place for young boys to be. It’s the best place for an effort like this and an important investment in our community.”
Fowler expressed that cooperation and information sharing among organizations led by RSC members will increase the effectiveness and impact of efforts to address common goals to improve the lives and contributions of Black boys and young adults. He believes the connection to the Brown School will bolster the effort.
“Being grounded in Washington University provides stability and access to information and research that’s needed to be effective. It gives us a network of other institutions to connect with and be able to use what we learn and start programs in other communities.”
The RSC members each serve three-year terms and are linked to Homegrown StL’s Seven Pillars of Personalized and Comprehensive Care for Black boys and young men ages 12-29: Banking and Finance, Health, Housing, Legal, Mentoring, Personal Safety, and Skills to Jobs with Livable Wages.
Fowler said that the RSC would help keep each participating organization focused on their common goals. “Groups have come together before—you make promises, shake hands, and then go back and continue to do your thing. It’s easy to look inward. Having this committee is the external impetus to keep organizations like mine focused on the greater good and working together.”
Joe expressed that “the socio-economic mobility of Black males is tied to everything that we experience in the region. We have tried everything, but we have not tried a community driven approach these past 47 years. Given the philanthropy and people, St. Louis has an opportunity to do something transformative that no city or region has ever done. Indicators are getting worse, so the Regional Steering Committee is an audacious endeavor to implement something new.”