Leadership for Changing Times

For 25 years, our FOCUS programs have challenged leaders - to think differently, to seek out new perspectives, and to take action.

The past year challenged us at FOCUS to do the same. We are always working on innovative ways to educate and connect leaders, and the pandemic presented an opportunity to reimagine everything that we do - from how we work to how we recruit to how we bring leaders together. We continued to break barriers, build bridges, redefine and expand what civic leadership and civic engagement mean. We pivoted and had deeper conversations to reach new levels of understanding and impact. True growth only happens when you step outside your comfort zone, and this year is a testament to that.

I'm inspired by what we've achieved in the face of unprecedented challenges, and all the more appreciative to the supporters who've helped to make it possible, including our board, donors, program participants, event attendees, members and community partners.

An annual report is just a small snapshot of the work that goes on in a year, but we hope it gives you a picture of where we've been - and inspires you to join us for the journey ahead.

Dr. Yemi Akande-Bartsch
President & CEO
FOCUS St. Louis

The Year in Numbers

Leadership Programs

Serving a continuum of leaders from high school students to senior executives

Program Graduates

Coming together from 161 organizations and 74 ZIP codes across the region

Program Hours

Incorporating interviews with regional leaders, simulations, discussion and reflection

Events & Trainings

Including workshops, issue forums and our signature What's Right with the Region Awards

Event Attendees

Joining us from all sectors and industries for learning, networking and discussion

Workshop Participants

Broadening our reach through custom programs and community trainings

  • After completing their FOCUS leadership program,
    82% of our 2020-21 graduates reported having a greater sense
    of personal responsibility and commitment to the region.

  • FOCUS provided more than $85,000 in program scholarships this year,
    up nearly 50% over last year. This tuition assistance ensures our programs remain accessible
    to all leaders regardless of socioeconomic status.

  • More than 90% of this year's event attendees
    said they would attend a future FOCUS event
    or recommend one to others.

  • After completing their FOCUS leadership program,
    80% of our 2020-21 graduates reported having a better understanding
    of the civic landscape of our region.

  • More than 200 prospective candidates attended one of our new
    FOCUS program informational sessions this year,
    offering the chance to hear from program directors and alumni.

  • After completing Youth Leadership St. Louis,
    91% of this year's participants reported an increase in self-management skills,
    and 87% reported an increase in decision-making skills.

A Few Highlights of Our Year

Learning and Connecting in New Ways

FOCUS Launches Virtual Campus

FOCUS programs successfully transitioned to virtual at the start of the pandemic. Then in January 2021, we introduced a next-level online user experience. The FOCUS Virtual Campus provides a unique digital space to bring our leaders together and facilitate their learning. With a single sign-on platform, participants can navigate their program curriculum, measure progress, access additional resources and materials and engage in discussions with their cohort.

The response has been overwhelming, with participants consistently reporting a positive experience and other organizations reaching out to learn how they can use the platform. 

Meet This Year's Program Graduates

Collaborating for Action

Cohorts Tackle Projects to Improve the Region

In addition to the rich learning and discussions that take place in all of our programs, our Impact Fellows, Emerging Leaders and Youth Leadership St. Louis cohorts put their experience to work with action projects designed to address issues in our community (or in the case of YLSL, their schools.) 

These projects not only give participants the opportunity to stretch their creativity, problem-solving and collaboration skills, they also give these leaders the chance to connect with community partners and stakeholders, while leaving a lasting impact.

Learn More

Bringing Our Community Together

FOCUS Hosts Record Number of Events

The pandemic did not stop FOCUS from carrying out our role as a convener and connector. Transitioning to virtual events and trainings not only allowed us to keep the discussions going but also to reach new audiences.

From alumni dinners to a mayoral forum to speed-mentoring, this year's events provided opportunities for our regional leaders to learn, to stay on top of important issues and to connect with each other. We wrapped up the year with another successful What's Right with the Region Awards, as more than 300 tuned in (virtually) to help us celebrate 23 individuals and organizations making a difference.

View Event Recordings

The Year in Their Own Words

  • "I’m so grateful for FOCUS St. Louis continuing the Emerging Leaders program
    even through the pandemic because I was able to
    build new relationships across the city of St. Louis."

    Jazmyn Ferguson, Emerging Leaders Spring 2021
  • "Youth Leadership St. Louis is a safe place to share ideas,
    converse with people who have different perspectives, 
    and open up and examine why you think the way you do."

    Youth Leadership St. Louis 2020-21 Participant
  • "Leadership St. Louis is the most
    important journey you did not know
    you needed to take."

    Aimee Rowbottom, Leadership St. Louis 2020-21
  • "Women In Leadership was a transformational experience. I came away feeling
    energized and confident about what I have to contribute and with a clear sense
    of next steps in order to engage more in the St. Louis region."

    Elyse Washington, MSW, Women In Leadership Spring 2021
  • "Emerging Leaders provided space for me to realize
    that you can't schedule your entrance into leadership.
    You're ready, whether you realize it or not."

    Jessiree Jenkins, Emerging Leaders Spring 2021
  • "Youth Leadership St. Louis has helped me understand
    that no matter how old I am,
    I still have a voice and it matters. "

    Youth Leadership St. Louis 2020-21 Participant
  • "Leadership St. Louis elevates leaders to the next level and inspires within us
    a commitment to action that will ultimately make the St. Louis region
    a stronger, better place to live, work and visit."

    Carey DeLargy, Leadership St. Louis 2020-21

Program Highlights

Leadership St. Louis 2020-21

Our 2020-21 class of Leadership St. Louis brought together 56 experienced leaders from across all sectors to gain a deeper understanding of the St. Louis region, explore collaborative civic leadership and build connections. Program day topics included health care, criminal justice, economic development, racial equity, education, urban planning, quality of life, education and more, in addition to open and closing retreat.

What participants said:

  • "I was told LSL would be life changing and transformational and indeed it was. I will likely never know the extent that it helped me get through this year in particular and how much more life affecting it was to have occurred in such a pivotal time in our world's history, let alone the St. Louis community."
  • "Going into this program, I understood that the St. Louis region has deep structural problems that have bedeviled the region for generations. However, this program helped me realize that this is not an excuse for inaction, and that there are tangible acts we can all take to improve our region that will absolutely make a difference in peoples' lives, and can be a catalyst for systemic changes."
  • "LSL helped me lose the tunnel vision of just being a leader in my sector and focus on being a leader in the community as a whole."

Learn more about the program.

Thank You to Our 2020-21 Supporters!

The listing below reflects all membership and donation gifts recorded between July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021. If you have a question or need to make a change to how you are listed,  please contact Kayla Dix at kaylad@focus-stl.org


Revenue Pie Chart
Expenses Pie Chart

*Unaudited financials

Get Involved

Become a Member

Membership in FOCUS is open to all who want to make our region stronger and more equitable.

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Connect with the FOCUS network and gain access to member benefits and discounts.



As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, we rely on your donations to carry out our mission and programs.


You can designate your gift to support our individual program and scholarship funds.



It's never too early to consider a contribution to FOCUS in your estate planning.


Contact Development Director Michelle Stevens for more details on planned giving.



We're always seeking prospective candidates for our six civic leadership programs.


Learn more about our continuum of programs at the link below.

Learn More

Get Engaged

We offer a variety of forums and events throughout the year to learn and connect.

Get Engaged

Check out our calendar of upcoming events at the link below.

View Calendar

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