Springboard Serving St. Louis Children Throughout the Years

founder_elise_schweich_1967Springboard to Learning began with a simple idea. St. Louis resident Elise “Leesy” Schweich, a former teacher, had traveled the world extensively with her husband Joseph Schweich, learning firsthand about other peoples and cultures. Returning to St. Louis, the teacher in Mrs. Schweich lamented St. Louis schoolchildren were afforded a limited worldview and lacked opportunities for experiences outside their own neighborhoods. With that idea, Springboard to Learning was born. Mrs. Schweich began visiting Ford School in the St. Louis Public School District in fall of 1965 – sharing cultural stories and artifacts from her many trips abroad. That first year, Mrs. Schweich reached 462 students! Interest grew, and soon Mrs. Schweich expanded her visits to include enrichment lessons in arts, sciences and humanities. In 1966, Springboard to Learning officially launched under a Title I grant. Two years later additional teaching specialists were recruited to deliver more programs to even more children, particularly those in under-served communities. Their programs engaged, informed, and inspired students to learn more about the world through multidisciplinary, hands-on lessons.

In 2006, Springboard to Learning and Young Audiences merged and became the local affiliate of the nationwide Young Audiences Arts for Learning organization. In 2017, Springboard to Learning became the first and only Missouri affiliate of Wolf Trap Early Learning Through the Arts, providing programming to early learners and job embedded professional development to early childhood educators.

Today, Springboard continues serving economically challenged schools and reaches more than 50,000 students annually.

Historical Overview

Decade 1: 1965-1974

Springboard founder, Elise R. Schweich, begins expanding the worldview of inner city children at Ford Middle School, providing arts and cultural ‘hands on’ learning experiences. By year four, Springboard to Learning has expanded to 35 Springboard teachers working in 32 schools with 8,500 children. In year six Springboard places black teaching staff in all-white city schools which is a first for St. Louis.

Decade 2:  1975-1984

Springboard faces a crisis when due to failure of school tax elections, the Board of Education cannot fund educational programs taught by Springboard staff. The community responds by contributing $25,500 to keep Springboard alive. During this decade, St. Louis Magnet Schools begin and a $10,000 grant is given to Springboard in support of Springboard teaching staff. During this decade.  A Board of Directors was created, an Executive Director is hired, and a Springboard central office was opened. Under the Metropolitan School Desegregation Plan Springboard began providing educational programs in City and County schools where 38 teachers worked with 19,000 children.

Decade 3: 1985-1994

Springboard expanded arts-integrated educational programs to Roosevelt High School, and the Special Schools District. Springboard’s radio show ‘Heroes, Heroes Everywhere’ airs on SKLH-FM. Springboard teachers received scholarship funding to travel abroad as a means to enhance their classroom cultural and arts-integrated education curriculum. Springboard to Learning began a partnership with The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, providing 5th grade children in the ‘WiseWrite’ Signature Program the honor of having their student-written one-act plays performed on stage by professional actors at the Rep.

Decade 4: 1995-2004

A partnership with Springboard and The University of Missouri- St. Louis was created through establishment of The Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker Endowed Professor of Education in Collaboration with Springboard to Learning, providing Springboard with community resources and educational expertise to assist in the development of arts-integrated educational program curriculum.

Decade 5:  2005- 2014

In 2006, Springboard to Learning and Young Audiences of St. Louis merge, expanding our service area to include surrounding counties of Missouri and Illinois, and allowing us to become the largest provider of in-school enrichment and arts-integrated educational programs in the region. Springboard became an affiliate of the national organization -Young Audiences Arts for Learning and began offering artistic performances, and multi-classroom arts-integrated educational workshops, in addition to single-classroom, arts-integrated educational 8 week residencies. The first proprietary Springboard Signature Programs were developed.

Decade 6:  2015- 2018

Springboard to Learning has grown to providing arts-integrated education in 125 schools to 52,660 children. In 2017 Springboard to Learning became the exclusive Missouri and Illinois affiliate of the nationally recognized Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through The Arts, expanding service to early learning and providing teachers with professional development using the Wolf Trap model. Springboard to Learning partnered with Webster Arts and The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis to create the Meacham Park Project, teaching 7th grade children, to conduct anecdotal, oral interviews with residents of Meacham Park. The documentary video shot by TGC of the Meacham Park Project, aka ‘Connecting Community through the Arts’ aired on Channel 9 during the month of May. 2018.  Also in May of 2018 Springboard to Learning received the What’s Right With The Region award for ‘Improving Racial Justice and Social Equity’ presented by Focus St. Louis.

Future Goals

Develop additional Springboard to Learning proprietary Signature Programs and through increased funding make available to additional under-resourced students.

Increase the number of Signature Program community partners who provide culminating events that offer students real-world learning experiences.

Grow the number of Wolf Trap to Early Childhood Learning through the Arts 16 week arts-integrated educational residences taught by Springboard to Learning Teaching Artists, from the current seven St. Louis Public Schools to all 27 SLPS early childhood classes.

Further information please contact Springboard to Learning Executive Director – Cathy Hartmann at 314-768-9663 or chartmann@springboardstl.org