The St. Louis American Foundation awarded a record $1.95 million in scholarship and education grants at the 2020 Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship and Awards ceremony, which was held virtually on October 16 and 17. Traditionally a gala dinner, the 33rd annual Salute was celebrated online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We believe now more than ever that it’s critical that we celebrate these educators who are both on the frontlines in our local classrooms and meeting the virtual learning needs of our students,” said Donald M. Suggs, president of the St. Louis American Foundation.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Rev. Doris Graham, whose formative experiences growing up in segregated schools had a significant impact on her 38-year career as a teacher, administrator and teacher’s union organizer.
“If you can be the vessel that God can use to help somebody go higher in life to become more successful,” Rev. Dr. Graham said, “please do it.”
Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, superintendent of University City School District, received the Stellar Performer in Education award for her dedication in advocating for equity, trauma-informed practices and student voices in education.
“I aim to be unflinching in my pursuit of excellence for all children, particularly the ones that I serve,” Hardin-Bartley said. “I feel that we have to be brutally honest about our realities and understand where we are in order to determine where we’re going to go.”
Hodgen Tech Academy was recognized with the Bayer School of Excellence Award, as well as the first Bayer Fund Michelle Insco STEM Grant of $10,000, in honor of Michelle Insco, program director for Bayer Fund, who died after eight years of battling colon cancer.
Ariel Turner, a college and career counselor at Lift for Life Academy, was awarded this year’s SEMO Counselor of the Year. “Lift for Life is one of the best-kept secrets in the city of St. Louis,” Turner said. “I think when you come here, a student will fall in love just like myself.”
The eight 2020 Excellence in Education awardees were LaShanda R. Boone, head of school, LaSalle Charter School; Shantana Goodwin-Payne, master teacher, Magnolia Head Start/Early Head Start Center, Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; Karen Hall, superintendent, Maplewood Richmond Heights School District; Romona Miller, principal of Pioneer Pathways, Kirkwood High School; Sheryl Denise Rogers, science teacher, Normandy Schools Collaborative; Rhonda Stovall, Science Enrichment Lab teacher, Grades 3-5, Gateway MST Elementary; John E. Thomas, assistant principal, Webster Groves High School; and Craig Waddell, 8th Grade algebra and math teacher, Hazelwood North Middle School.
The 12 participating Missouri schools that provided scholarships at this year’s gala were University of Missouri-Columbia, Southeast Missouri State University, Harris-Stowe State University, Missouri State University, Webster University, St. Louis Community College, Fontbonne University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Washington University, the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes Jewish College and Maryville University.
This year, the St. Louis American Foundation introduced a new partnership with the Omicron Theta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. to serve students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).
“The scholarship funds awarded tonight bridge a critical gap given the economic hardship so many of our families are enduring,” Suggs said.
Emmy Award-winning actor Sterling K. Brown, a St. Louis native, made an appearance via Zoom to congratulate the awardees and urge young people to vote.
“Our scholars are coming into adulthood and pursuing higher education during a pandemic, an ongoing Black Lives Matter movement and an impending historic election,” Brown said. “Please vote. They deserve our respect and recognition now more than ever.”
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