Skip to content
Back to Top

Against the backdrop of the Missouri Botanical Garden, more than 100 educators, parents and partners of The Opportunity Trust convened on June 8 to celebrate individuals and schools whose work advanced educational equity in St. Louis this past year.

Members of the University City High School Orchestra perform.

The Game Changers in Education Awards honored 11 educators and schools, as well as two parent leaders and two students, for their work in advancing educational excellence and equity throughout St. Louis.

Keith Williamson, board chairman of The Opportunity Trust, underscored the importance of their achievements and the night. “There is no more important and perhaps more challenging job in our community right now than the work of our educators and those who are supporting schools,” he said.

As schools and educators strive to help students recover from the  pandemic, many of The Opportunity Trust’s partner schools have created conditions that are enabling their students to accelerate. They’re implementing curriculum and strategies that are research-based. They’re supporting teachers and students in ways that foster learning.

University City Schools Superintendent Sharonica Hardin-Bartley with Jaquin McBride, a teacher at Pershing Elementary School.

District and charter school partners with the most growth or achievement in different areas were recognized and received cash awards. Parents and student leaders were also recognized for their commitment to advocacy and excellence.

At Pershing Elementary School in the School District of University City, co-principals Deitra Colquitt and Jessica Hawkins implemented strategies that resulted in Pershing receiving a math growth score that was in the top 10% statewide, as measured by the 2022 Missouri Assessment Program.

“I’m proud of our leadership,” said Dr. Sharonica Hardin-Bartley, superintendent of University City schools. “Our school redesign allowed our co-principals to engage in rich, meaningful learning with support from The Opportunity Trust to understand their instruction practice, but also their impact where it matters most, which is in the classroom.”

Atlas Elementary scored the highest in the TNTP Instructional Culture Index which measures the degree to which teachers feel affirmed, valued, and supported in their work.

“If we want students to learn, we have to invest in our educators,” said Colby Heckendorn, co-founder of Atlas Public Schools.

Board Chairman Keith Williamson welcomes the crowd.

This was the first time The Opportunity Trust has held a celebration awards event honoring schools and organizations in its portfolio. The organization solicited nominations and applications from partners and used data from a number of sources to select honorees.

“An important part of building coalitions is regularly and publicly practicing gratitude, acknowledging the contributions of others, and naming, celebrating, and sharing credit for progress,” said Eric Scroggins, founder and CEO of The Opportunity Trust. “We are thrilled to recognize individuals and school communities who have made tremendous contributions toward a more just and equitable education system in St. Louis over the past year.”

Parents and students also were honored. Renee Stephens, a mother of two, received an award from Bridge 2 Hope, which has empowered her to be a stronger advocate for her children.

Krystal Barnett, CEO of Bridge 2 Hope, honors Renee Stephens with the Parent Award.

“I needed to help to get back into the schools and support my children,” she said. “ I started the program with Bridge 2 Hope  in February. They helped me become more equipped to ask the right questions. I was more empowered coming into the schools after feeling that was something I needed to do for so long.”

The following is the complete list of awards and honorees: