The Catalyst STL program teaches high school students to start their own businesses

    What is a Catalyst?  A catalyst is described as an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action.  At the Medici Media Space in Overland, that’s exactly what happens every week because of a class called “The Catalyst.”

    “We believe this is a good launching pad, a catalyst so to speak, of something that can ignite the passion and interest in an area they want to pursue,” says Catalyst Director Justin Hildebrand. 

    Today’s guest speakers each have a career in real estate & they are talking about what their jobs are really like!

    “We really try to have professionals connect with our students and have candid conversations,” Hildebrand says.

    This is part of The Catalyst Program, a collaboration between 4 high schools as part of the “CAPS Network” or “Center for Advanced Professional Studies”.  The students are from Ladue, Brentwood, Clayton & University City High Schools.

    “Anyone can google what its like to be a dentist, what is it like to be whatever career choice but to be able to sit down and ask questions that are more intimate really gives them an insight into what the day is going to be like & what did it take to get there,” he says.

    The Catalyst Program is a unique class offered daily to juniors and seniors to give them hands-on real world experience. 

    “We teach the students by getting them to actually do things,” Hildebrand says “They learn through internships, launching their own businesses, business partner projects, we take on students as clients.”

    Hildebrand says that students need to learn 21st century skills and those are not necessarily taught in an every day classroom.

    “I started C-Town apparel with my friend it’s a school store for Clayton High School which is where I go because we didn’t have a school store there,” says Emmy Sandquist, High School Senior.

    Sandquist says “So far we’ve only come out with one drop of clothes but it was basic C-Town apparel logo on sweatshirts, shirts, shorts, polos, we had a lot of options and people could order online.”

    These Juniors & Seniors get the opportunity to connect with over 100 professionals. This program was created by Justin Hildebrand. 

    “That’s actually why I created it because something like this didn’t exist when I was in school,” he says.

    Hildebrand wanted to make sure his students were prepared for life after high school.

    “You need to do more things, you need to build portfolios in order to connect with people in order to post high school get a job, go to university, whatever it might be,” he says.

    This year long class begins with a professional bootcamp. “We bring in people to teach them about dressing for success, email correspondence, basically things you need to be a professional adult. They set up LinkedIn accounts and have a real good digital online presence. The Mizzou career center was great, they teach us all about resumes,” Hildebrand says.

    Then students get to choose the path they want to pursue. 

    ”So if they want to work 3 different internships throughout the course of the school year, thats fantastic. If they want to launch their own business, that’s even cooler.  If they want to partner with local businesses on partner projects & client projects as we call them, that’s also an option for them,” Hildebrand says.

    “It’s for the restaurant Rookies, its in New Town St. Charles, so we built them a website we put pictures up there of their food & its like a sports bar so we tried to stick with that theme,” says Kendall Pace, High School Junio. It was really fun, it took a lot of work but it felt really rewarding in the end,” Pace explains. 

    “I also did start my own business which is a car detailing business which is called Blaze Mobile Detailing. Not everyone has the time to take their car to an automatic car wash and also with the nicer cars you don’t want to get your paint ruined by that or if your car can’t fit into one of those so I come to you and I detail your car out and I bring all the equipment necessary,” says Jack Blase, High School Senior.

    Students even get the chance to earn Angel Grant money or startup money. 

    “I did pitch to a guy who owns a car detailing place and he gave me $1000 to buy everything I needed to start the business.  That’s the best part of this class is you have the ability to get money to start business,” Blase says. 

    They even learn to give back with trips to non-profit businesses. 

     “This year we were able to institute a day of giving so once a month we visit local non-profits to donate time and whatever resources we have. This year we were able to partner with Operation Food Search and the Little Bit Foundation,” Hildebrand says.

    Like all high school classes these students do get a grade but it’s not based on whether their businesses succeed or fail. 

    “What matters is the process so I’m not going to penalize a student if their idea wasn’t the best in the world because at least they tried and went through the process and they learned a lot of things you shouldn’t do next time,” Hildebrand says.

    Failing forward and empowering students. This class hopes to be a catalyst to helping them discover their passions. 

    “With this class you can figure out what you want to do as your career or do an internship or learn how to start your own business and have the skills to do that in the future,” Blaze says. 

    “Its really fun, I love this class, you can do so many different things and it’s really interesting and it’s really helpful,” Pace explains.

    “Who knows what path they are going to take but understanding there are a lot of different paths to look into & don’t close any doors because you never know what life is going to bring,” Hildebrand says. 

    The Catalyst is always looking for more support, you can find out information at