We launched the Reinvent Grant Fund to support educators with bold plans to reimagine school fall. Learn More

Innovating for the 21st Century

The average school today looks, feels, and runs just like school did when we attended.

And when our parents attended. And their parents. Like the factories on which our current system is designed, kids are seated in rows, instructed to listen quietly and practice rote skills — preparing for jobs that are unlikely to exist when they graduate. This design zaps the creativity from both children and teachers and reinforces inequities in our community.

For St. Louis to thrive in the 21st century, we need something different. We need a system designed to foster ingenuity and to be agile and dynamic. School should be a place where diverse people come together to solve common and relevant problems.

Bringing Leaders Together

We are gearing up to launch the fourth Catalyst Fellowship cohort. We hope to be able to gather four times between October and March to imagine, build, and test new ideas and approaches to teaching and learning. In the event that in-person gatherings aren’t possible, we will instead conduct 6 shorter virtual sessions. The culmination of the program will be concrete designs that can help transform the student experience and a plan of action to launch and pilot those ideas.

October 2020
St. Louis, MO

What are the aspirations and realities of our students?

What are the values, aspirations, and realities of the families we serve?

What will the future demand of them?

November 2020
New York City, NY

How are schools evolving to meet the needs of today and tomorrow?

What are the leading edge ideas in teaching and learning?

How do our learning environments in St. Louis need to evolve?

January 2021
St. Louis, MO

How do we refine + bring our visions to life?

How can we strengthen our ideas through feedback and research?

How might we pilot our ideas in small but meaningful ways?

March 2021
St. Louis, MO

What is required for innovation to thrive?

What is required to design, lead, and evolve an innovative learning environment?

Where do our visions and learnings go from here?

Kelli Best-Oliver

Founder, LitShop

Thanks to the Catalyst Fellowship, I was able to take LitShop, a program that provides hands-on building and making opportunities for middle school girls, from pilot to non-profit organization through a careful process of design, feedback, mentoring, and networking. We are now able to provide unique learning experiences for girls in St. Louis that didn't exist two years ago.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are you looking for?

We hope to build a diverse cohort of 12-15 leaders with a range of backgrounds and experiences. As a common thread, we are looking for people who have demonstrated:

  1. Leadership in their school community
  2. A track record of achieving strong results with their students
  3. A deep conviction and optimism about the need to reimagine school
  4. A voracious curiosity and openness to learn
  5. A commitment to partnering with students and families
What does the commitment look like?

Given the nature of the program, it is critical that participants can attend all four cohort meetings. These will run on Friday evenings and all-day on Saturdays, except for the November meeting, which will be an inspirational visit to New York City that runs from mid-day Wednesday through Friday afternoon.

What's happening in New York City?

To spark ideas for our own designs, we’ll explore provocative schools and non-school learning environments in New York, meet with leaders of those communities, and synthesize ideas and insights we can apply to our own context. All costs will be covered by The Opportunity Trust, but you will need to work with your school community to be away from campus for three days.

Key Dates

Initial applications accepted on a rolling basis

Virtual info session at 4pm

Application deadline

Follow-up conversations as needed

Cohort selected


  1. Fill out the Catalyst Fellowship Interest Form

  2. Complete the application when it opens in July

The Opportunity Trust invests in educators and school systems eager to build the capacity required to make significant and measurable change.

If that's you, check out our opportunities