Progress 64 Entrepreneurial Scholarship Fund Established with YouthBridge

Sometimes the most obvious solutions are right under your nose. Progress 64 West has been awarding scholarships to young entrepreneurs for decades, but last year the Scholarship Committee began discussing ways to be more effective. The group needed help to expand its reach and deepen its impact through larger scholarships. Unbeknownst to the committee, the solution it was looking for all along existed within its own backyard at YouthBridge Community Foundation of Greater St. Louis.

Fortunately, a light bulb turned on for Scholarship Committee member Mike Doster, a founding member of Doster Nations Ullom & Boyle, LLC, Attorneys at Law. A few years earlier, Mike introduced a local grantmaking nonprofit to YouthBridge Community Foundation of Greater St. Louis. Having worked with both organizations, Mike understood that YouthBridge could provide exactly what that nonprofit needed to manage its grants. Fast-forward to 2023… As the Progress 64 West Scholarship Committee pondered how to raise more money for larger scholarships and how to administer them more effectively, Mike realized the model was already in place. Collaboration with YouthBridge Community Foundation was the answer, and in August 2023 the Progress 64 Entrepreneurial Scholarship Fund was established.

Due to YouthBridge’s broad network and its nonprofit tax-exempt status, which is more favorable for donors, both the number and amount of Progress 64 Entrepreneurial Scholarship donations increased dramatically last year. YouthBridge managed all aspects of the scholarship application process, and on November 22, 2023, four high school seniors each received $5,000 – Progress 64 West’s largest scholarship distribution to date.

The Progress 64 Entrepreneurial Scholarship Fund supports, encourages, and fosters young entrepreneurs by awarding scholarships to high school seniors living or going to school in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County. The one-year awards can be used at trade schools as well as two-year colleges and universities. To qualify for consideration, students are required to submit an executive summary of a business plan that includes a description of the business concept; a market analysis, including market need, competition and profit strategy; an operations plan; and sales and marketing strategies.

The Advisory Committee for the Fund, which includes Mike Doster, was very pleased with the handling of the entire process. The expertise and administrative organization that YouthBridge demonstrated – from managing application submissions and the selection of recipients to providing appropriate tax forms to donors – made the experience much smoother for Progress 64 West. An additional goal of Progress 64 West, to be more collaborative, was also accomplished. Similarly, YouthBridge’s vision of “Connecting Resources and Community Needs” was achieved, underscoring Mike’s belief that “we don’t always need to do everything on our own. We need to facilitate connections that already exist.”

When asked what he felt was most surprising this year, Mike said that even though the selection process was more objective due to the scoring system that YouthBridge developed, he was intrigued that all four recipients were female, and two were African American. He stated, “This diversity brings a sense of hope! It shows that something is going on out there in our education system.” Since 2023 was the first year that YouthBridge administered the scholarship program, time will tell, but Mike and the Advisory Committee are hopeful that the increase in diversity among Scholarship Fund applicants will be a mainstay. Thanks to the ongoing partnership with YouthBridge Community Foundation, Progress 64 West is confident that the reach and impact of its Entrepreneurial Scholarship Fund will continue to expand, transforming the committee’s hope to reality in 2024 and beyond.

YouthBridge connects donors with community needs. If you are interested in learning more about how we can make charitable giving easier for you, please contact Michele Mosley.