St. Louis Children’s Hospital Presents Annual Advocacy Award to Reverend Starsky Wilson
|Reverend Starsky Wilson and Hospital President, Joan Magruder (left) and Kelvin Westbrook (right), chairman of the hospital board of directors.|
It’s not the programs, it’s the partnerships that create an environment where children flourish, according to Reverend Starsky Wilson, president and CEO of Deaconess Foundation. Wilson received the annual Child Advocacy Award Tuesday for his role as a catalyst in these critical community partnerships.
The award, established in 1994, recognizes local and state leaders who leverage their positions, influence and resources to advance St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s mission to do what’s right for kids.
Wilson, also a pastor and youth leader, attributes his success, and that of Deaconess Foundation, to the understanding that making a safer environment for children does not require new programs or initiatives.
“It’s about alignment and partnership,” explains Wilson. “We act as convener of conversations. We set the table, bring people together and expose them to next practices. In their various empowered spaces, people do the things they’re best equipped to do.”
When the right people come together, change happens, like a recent collaboration among local health departments and school districts to address violence as a public health problem. The result was more mental and behavioral health professionals at certain area schools and early childhood settings.
Wilson’s passion for service is rooted in his personal experience growing up as the child of a single mom, and suffering the tragic loss of his brother to gun violence.
“It was always the church setting that nurtured and kept me on a solid path and provided me with mentorship and guidance.”
Deaconess Foundation has applied its mission of improving child health and well-being through its support of, and partnership with, dozens of local organizations, including St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where Deaconess funds have made possible programs like the Healthy Kids Express mobile health van, and the SPOT, an adolescent drop-in center providing at-risk teens free medical, social and vocational services.
“Advancing health and hope for children in poverty, this is the mission of Deaconess,” says Greta Todd, director of child advocacy and outreach at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Starsky Wilson lives and breathes this mission, focusing his work and the work of the Foundation toward programs that do what's right for kids in our community”
Three factors that allow a child to thrive, according to Wilson, are quality childcare, safe neighborhoods, and financial investments in the future. “Investing in a child development account increases expectations from parents and motivates the child toward better academic performance,” he explains.
Wilson’s work and foundation have led to empowered youth advocates for college tuition assistance for low-income students and immigrants, increased funding for youth jobs, and support for more than a dozen local programs aimed at strengthening non-profit advocacy.
For his accomplishments, his partnerships, and his philosophy that any policy or program planning should begin with the question, “Is this good for the children?”, Reverend Wilson was selected by St. Louis Children’s Hospital as the 2013 recipient of the Child Advocacy Award.
“I’m honored to receive the award. The greater blessing is to do the work and to put these children at the center of the community’s conversation.”