Express Scripts commits $2.5 million to UMSL’s precollegiate Bridge Program, wrap-around scholarships
A new partnership with Express Scripts will allow the University of Missouri–St. Louis to expand its efforts to help local young people thrive.
Focused particularly on north St. Louis County high school students, the $2.5 million investment by Express Scripts promises to bolster UMSL’s Bridge Program, which annually equips hundreds of area youth for college and career success. In addition, the gift will fund up to 20 active UMSL scholarships with preference given to Bridge participants from public high schools in north county.
“The need for strong, sustainable pathways to education and employment for young people in our community is urgent,” said UMSL Chancellor Tom George. “With this generous commitment, Express Scripts helps us reach significantly more students in our region and prepare them for leadership and service throughout their lives.”
The gift is one of three recent corporate partnerships aimed at fostering opportunity in the north-county area in collaboration with UMSL. The Emerson Community Scholarship Program was established last fall, and two months ago Ameren announced a similar initiative to boost access to higher education and professional development opportunities in the region.
“Investing in education is one of the most valuable investments we can make,” said Express Scripts Chairman and CEO George Paz. “We are proud to partner with UMSL to create more educational opportunities for deserving students in north county. Together, we will help change the trajectory of an entire region through greater access to higher education.”
Presently, the Bridge Program’s Saturday Academy alone enrolls 570 high school students, who spend many Saturday mornings on the UMSL campus sharpening their academic skills as well as developing professionally and personally. With Express Scripts’ new support, that intensive academy will grow to serve 690 students each year, along with their families, to increase college matriculation and persistence.
“To have a strong partnership with Express Scripts is an honor,” said Natissia Small, assistant dean of students and director of Bridge, which is in its 30th year of existence at UMSL. “They’re leading the way in demonstrating how corporations can not only provide financial support but also impact the lives of students who seek higher education by providing professional development, mentoring and internship opportunities.”
UMSL’s current first-year freshman class of 507 includes 29 graduates of the free-of-charge Bridge Program. Campus leaders expect the new funding to enhance the university’s efforts to recruit and reward top students from the precollegiate program – particularly from the Ferguson-Florissant, Hazelwood, Riverview Gardens, Jennings, Normandy, Ritenour and University City school districts.
Along with supplying up to $15,000 a year toward each student’s tuition and student-housing costs, the new scholarships will provide recipients with peer mentors at UMSL and with mentors and networking and internship opportunities at the neighboring Express Scripts headquarters.
Small noted that among those young people currently participating in Bridge’s Saturday Academy, 273 are students from the north-county area. Since 2003, the entire Bridge Program has logged a 100-percent college matriculation rate and has continued to empower and engage several thousand St. Louis students, families, educators and community leaders each year.
Earlier this year, the Bridge Program received the 2015 Focus St. Louis “What’s Right with the Region” Award for Promoting Stronger Communities.
“Bridge has a rich history in the St. Louis community and nationally by consistently demonstrating our commitment to bulldoze barriers that impede college access and promote college persistence,” Small said. “This new partnership further demonstrates Express Scripts’ leadership and strong social values as we seek to strengthen the St. Louis community by increasing the pipeline to college.”
Express Scripts is the largest corporate donor to UMSL, surpassing $6.4 million in its philanthropy to the university with which it shares a campus. Express Scripts’ support has focused on the Bridge Program, a new business building, various research projects and scholarships.
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