2020 Summer Programs

Virtual Institutes for Teens

At FOCUS St. Louis, we believe that everyone possesses the power to be a leader – and for nearly 25 years, we’ve been committed to helping people tap into this potential.

This summer, we’re excited to offer a new program for high school-age leaders to stay connected, engaged and learning – all without leaving home! With our Virtual Summer Institutes, your student will have the opportunity to explore leadership through a new lens alongside a small cohort of their peers. They’ll also strengthen their creativity, curiosity, critical thinking, and communication – skills that serve them in the classroom and as civic leaders.

L.E.A.D. – Leadership Exploration through Arts & Drama

“Creativity is the single most important leadership skill in a world that is more volatile, more uncertain, and more complex than at any time before.” – IBM Study

Come explore the lighter side of leadership! In this session, we’ll show how tapping into your creativity and imagination can also help you discover and strengthen your unique leadership talents.

Creative leaders see potential where others see problems and are able to
develop innovative solutions. Get your creative juices flowing as we dive into the worlds of storytelling, improv, comedy, theater, design and the arts to explore new ways of  thinking, leading and engaging with the world around us.

Each day will be different, with interactive exercises, discussions, games, demonstrations, real-world scenarios and more. Find hidden talents you never knew existed – no prior experience or background required! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect and learn from leaders and professionals working in the arts throughout our region.

Grade Levels: For students entering the 10th-11th grades in fall 2020
June 15-19, 2020
Schedule: Monday-Thursday, 1:00-3:00 p.m.; Friday performance time TBD
Cost: $200 for FOCUS members; $235 for non-members


Through the Lens: Current Events in Perspective

Are you what you watch? 

Storytelling is used every day — to connect with friends, to share ideas and to explain complex ideas. In this session, film and television will be used as tools to examine historical and cultural events, how they shape the society we live in, and our ideas of moral and political value. Netflix videos will be used as the starting point to facilitate informed discussions relevant to today’s most pressing social issues.

Grade Levels: For students entering the 11th-12th grades in fall 2020
June 22-26, 2020
Schedule: Monday-Friday, 1:00-3:00 p.m.
Cost: $200 for FOCUS members; $235 for non-members


What to Expect

Each daily 2-hour session will be conducted via the Zoom web meeting platform, with a mixture of full- and small-group discussions, activities, and exercises. Sessions are facilitated by our experienced FOCUS program staff, as well as bringing in the expertise of regional leaders.

Each institute is limited to 20 participants to give each student the opportunity to fully participate and interact.

Some individual work/reflection may be expected between sessions. The Through the Lens program will require advance viewing of the films to be discussed (approximately 6 hours). A film list will be provided to registered participants.


All students need a device capable of accessing the Internet with webcam enabled (desktop/laptop computer or tablet recommended).

The Through the Lens session will also require access to a Netflix streaming account.

Our Institute Facilitators

Matthew Kerns

Matthew Kerns
Matthew is the Associate Director of Member and Alumni Relations for FOCUS St. Louis. He is also a John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Creative Ticket award-winning arts educator. Matt has been training students to go on to professional careers in the performing arts for 20+ years, and his students can be seen on national commercials, network television shows, in films and on stages across the world.

Matt has taught at The Chicago Academy for the Arts, The Actors Academy for the Performing Arts, Sonoma Academy, Loyola University CHICAGO and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He is Founder of The Drama Club STL and serves as the Executive Producing Director of St Lou Fringe.

Matt holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree in Contemporary Theatre Performance from Naropa University.
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Wally Siewert, Director, Civic Engagement & Impact FellowsDr. Wally Siewert
FOCUS Director of Civic Engagement Dr. Wally Siewert specializes in creating neutral and safe, but brave and exploratory, spaces for political and moral investigation among diverse audiences. He has facilitated public values workshops with many audiences, from students to elected officials, from corporate leadership to police officers.

Dr. Siewert has over a decade of experience with civic and political engagement, from the grassroots and applied level to academic analysis and theory. Before coming to FOCUS, he was was the Director of the Center for Ethics in Public Life (CEPL) at the University of Missouri St. Louis. He holds a Ph.D. in political philosophy and ethics from the University of California Santa Barbara, as well as an M.A. in philosophy and a B.A. in philosophy and German from Western Michigan University.
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For More Information

Matthew Kerns
Associate Director of Member & Alumni Relations
(314) 657-4023
Email Matthew