Christine Chadwick and Blake Strode Named As Inaugural FOCUS Alumni Award Recipients

Becky RasmussenAlumni, News

At the 22nd Annual What’s Right with the Region Awards, FOCUS will introduce two new awards to honor graduates of FOCUS’ civic leadership programs.

2019 FOCUS St. Louis Alumni Award
Christine Chadwick – Coro Women In Leadership 1984 / Leadership St. Louis 1986-87

2019 FOCUS St. Louis Emerging Alumni Award
Blake Strode – Youth Leadership St. Louis 2003-04 / Leadership St. Louis 2018-19

“Each year, more than 300 individuals graduate from our FOCUS programs and take what they’ve learned into their personal, professional and civic leadership roles,” says Dr. Yemi Akande-Bartsch, President & CEO of FOCUS St. Louis. “These new alumni awards are designed to recognize FOCUS alumni who have demonstrated this commitment to putting their leadership into action for our region.”

Christine Chadwick, Alumni Award RecipientChristine Chadwick was the founding Executive Director of FOCUS St. Louis, a role she served in for 18 years until her retirement in 2014. Under her leadership, FOCUS trained more than 4,000 community members, from high school students to senior-level executives. She also personally directed the Leadership St. Louis and Experience St. Louis programs for 17 years.

Chris remains one of the St. Louis community’s most active volunteers, having served on more than 30 boards. She currently serves as Chair of the Metropolitan Zoological Park and Museum District and International Women’s Forum-Missouri, as well as on the boards for the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Harris-Stowe University Board of Regents, and the Peace and Justice Commission. She has received numerous honors and awards for her community service and continues to serve in an advisory capacity for several boards.


Blake Strode, Emerging Alumni Award RecipientA native of the St. Louis region, Blake Strode completed FOCUS’ Youth Leadership St. Louis program while attending Pattonville High School. He then attended the University of Arkansas, where he majored in international economics and Spanish. After his graduation from Harvard Law School, Blake returned to St. Louis and joined ArchCity Defenders, a nonprofit civil rights law firm, as a Skadden Fellow and Staff Attorney in 2015. In this role, he helped to establish the Civil Rights Litigation unit at ArchCity, which has challenged a variety of unlawful and predatory practices, including debtors’ prisons, police misconduct and inhumane jail conditions.

In 2018, he was named as the new Executive Director for ArchCity Defenders. He has spoken at conferences and panels throughout the country and authored articles and columns on civil rights and criminal justice for local and national media. A member of the current Leadership St. Louis cohort, Blake has also returned to educate and inspire recent classes of Youth Leadership St. Louis.

 All in the community are invited to help us recognize these outstanding leaders at the 22nd  Annual What’s Right with the Region Awards Celebration.

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