St. Louis, MO [May 4, 2018] – At the Wyman Gala, Together in the Pursuit of Success, on Saturday, May 5, 26 teens from Wyman’s programs will demonstrate their leadership, as they share with more than 250 guests and leaders from across the region how they’ve been supported by Wyman’s programs – the Teen Leadership Program (TLP), Teen Outreach Program® (TOP®) and InspireSTL program.
These teens represent the 3,000 teens served by Wyman across the region, who are graduating high school, entering college and serving their communities at rates far beyond their peers. While just over 80 percent of teens graduate on time nationally, 100 percent of Wyman’s leadership and college persistence program teens graduated high school on-time, and over 90 percent of them enrolled in four-year colleges and universities, which exceeds the national average of about 60 percent.
Leading the program is Ray Stewart, who joined Wyman’s InspireSTL program in eighth grade. Now an incoming Junior at Truman State University, Ray will be sharing his story of advancing equity, inclusion and diversity as a teen. Stewart will share how being a part of the InspireSTL program created a foundation of belonging, strength and leadership skills to influence change in his surroundings, as well as academic support to propel him to successfully enter the college of his choice.
“As part of the InspireSTL program, we attended tutoring and ACT prep, every single Saturday – the entire school year,” said Stewart. “In the sanctity of that special place, my fellow scholars and I learned about social justice and what it meant to us. Together, we explored our leadership skills, and talked about how we could influence change in our schools and communities.
“Those bonds that I created outside of school with my fellow scholars and coaches became the rock that I leaned on, and the spark that reignited my flame when external events left me feeling defeated. The difficult re-election of our first black president, the murder of Mike Brown, the eruption of pain that ensued, and the responses I experienced when I spoke out,” said Stewart. “But my Wyman coaches and peers gave me courage. They helped me pursue every opportunity I could to boldly advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion everywhere I could, not for me, but for others who will come after me.”
After serving in numerous leadership and advocacy roles throughout high school, in 2016, Stewart entered Truman State University to pursue his Master’s in Education. On campus, he serves as the President of the Association of Black Collegians, a minority student organization that advocates for students of color and a vibrant student life on campus. This summer, he will also be working with the Department of Admissions, Multicultural Affairs, and Student Involvement on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, and will arrive on campus two weeks early to support first generation minority students during their first year of college. Stewart is the first in his family to attend a four-year college, as are many teens in Wyman’s programs.
“As a future history teacher, I want to be that person who represents students, who believes in their potential, and reinforces their importance in society, just like my Wyman coaches did for me,” added Stewart. “Young people from St. Louis need more people who understand them, who believe in them, and who can help them find their voices and develop the skills they need to succeed.”
“These young people are the compassionate, capable and connected leaders of the future, who are building fulfilling lives of meaning and purpose,” said Claire Wyneken, Wyman President and CEO. “They are our future physicists, superintendents, mayors, journalists, engineers, chemists, attorneys and military commanders. All of us in that room will be standing for them, because we believe in the potential of all young people, no matter their circumstance. We are fiercely determined to help them break down barriers and achieve their dreams.
“We appreciate our donors and host committee for joining us and investing to ensure more young people are able to achieve educational success, develop life and leadership skills, and build a foundation of healthy behaviors and relationships,” added Wyneken. “With support from our donors, partners and the larger community, we are unstoppable!”
Wyman’s gala host committee includes David Frey, Tony Garavaglia, Lee C. Kling, Brad Kosem, Jennifer Krusemark, Lesa Steward and Kristin Thompson. The Wyman Gala is made possible through generous investments from lead sponsors Kitchen House Coffee, McCarthy, the Steward Family Foundation and Wells Fargo, as well as sponsorships and investments from Becky Brown & John McHugh, Brown Smith Wallace LLC, the Kling Family Foundation, Restoration St. Louis, Missouri Foundation for Health, Sense Corp, the Southside Lions and Stifel.
At this year’s gala, Wyman is also celebrating 120 years serving youth from disadvantaged circumstances. Over the course of the last 12 decades, Wyman has evolved from a youth camp in Eureka, Mo., into an evidence-based provider of programs that empower more than 22,000 teens annually to thrive in more than 190 communities nationwide.
Learn more: https://wymancenter.org/gala/.
Wyman, a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit and proud member of the United Way, has been dedicated to serving youth from disadvantaged circumstances for more than a century. Wyman empowers teens, equips adults and strengthens systems. Wyman’s engaging, empowering and experiential programs and services help teens build skills, and develop a sense of self and connections to their world. As a result, teens achieve educational success, develop healthy behaviors and relationships, and exhibit life and leadership skills. From thousands of teens in St. Louis – to tens of thousands nationally – Wyman programs and services make a difference in the lives of today’s teens and tomorrow’s leaders.
Senior Director, Strategic Communication and Stakeholder Engagement