Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Friday, December 30, 2016

Results of Our Investigation into the New Assault Laws in Missouri Published in St. Louis American


I'm sure many of you have read the news reports about Missouri's new assault laws and how they will affect kids. After reading these stories, I was highly concerned about what would happen to Missouri children in school.

In an effort to educate communities and help families protect themselves, I started investigating the law and the information surrounding it.

This investigation included interviews with people all over the state of Missouri, many days of research, and community discussions.

The conclusion I drew from all of this work is that, contrary to many of the news reports out there, the new assault laws do not allow more prosecution for school fights. It would be wrong for any of our institutions to go after more kids on the basis of a change in the law that does not exist.

I'm thankful that the St. Louis American published these results today to help kids and parents feel more secure in the rights they have. I have been working with area school districts and law enforcement officers to make sure our kids are treated like kids should be.

But families are rightfully terrified by what our kids are going through in many of our communities. Far too many kids are denied access to opportunity. Racial bias is undeniably a part of our system. Socioeconomic bias is undeniably a part of our system. Even if the new laws are the same as the old, the old ways weren't helping a large and growing portion of Americans.

The only way we fix these problems is by working together. I'm proud of the work the Education Exchange Corps has been able to do for the last nine years, and I have met many people who are determined to make Missouri a better home for all of our kids. Together, I know we can.

Here's the link to the St. Louis American story:

Our post about the new assault laws
Our post about the juvenile justice system
Our post about the redefinition of "physical injury"
Our post about school district reporting requirements
Our post about the harassment law

To report a suspected issue with how the assault law is implemented, follow this link:

To support the Education Exchange Corps, you can donate at this link:

Elad Gross is a former Assistant Attorney General of Missouri. He graduated from Washington University School of Law.

This blog post is not meant to provide legal advice. If you are in need of legal assistance, please contact an attorney.

Elad Gross, J.D.
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Missouri Assault Law: New Definition of Physical Injury Makes It Harder to Prove

I've posted about the changes in Missouri assault law as they pertain to kids in school. I've also posted about how the juvenile justice system works.

This post compares the changes in the definition of "physical injury" in Missouri criminal law.

Each crime is defined under the law, and each type of assault has its own definition (in 2017, we will have Assault 1st, Assault 2nd, Assault 3rd, and Assault 4th). These definitions are important because they include the requirements of what a prosecutor must prove - beyond a reasonable doubt - to convict a defendant of a crime.

Let's look at the definition of Assault 1st as it will be in 2017:
"A person commits the offense of assault in the first degree if he or she attempts to kill or knowingly causes or attempts to cause serious physical injury to another person." RSMo 556.050.1.

One way to commit Assault 1st is to knowingly cause or attempt to cause "serious physical injury."

To commit Assault 3rd (the one everyone is talking about), you don't need to cause serious physical injury. You just need to knowingly cause "physical injury." No serious needed.

What qualifies as serious or regular physical injury?

That's defined in another part of the law. And the definition has changed for 2017. So here's a chart:

Nothing has changed about serious physical injury. But the definition of physical injury has changed. (Unfortunately, it appears that the old versions of these statutes are being deleted off of the state's website to make room for the new ones. You can see the old definition on this website or in this court case.)

Starting in 2017, physical injury will include less violence than it once did. In 2017, causing "physical pain" will no longer be enough. Causing "illness" will no longer be enough either. And "any impairment of physical condition" has been limited down to an impairment of body functions or temporary loss of use of a body part.

So, in 2017, you've got to do something worse than the minimum you had to do before 2017 to be convicted of a crime requiring a "physical injury." The new definition has raised the bar on what counts as "physical injury."

This new definition will make it harder for a prosecutor to prove that defendants caused a physical injury to someone, which will make it harder for the prosecutor to prove certain crimes occurred.

When it comes to kids who do make it into criminal court, this new definition will make it harder for kids to be convicted of the new Assault 3rd for school fights.

Bottom line: Law enforcement, school staff, and others should not be using this new definition to refer more kids to the juvenile or criminal justice systems.

And again, even with this new definition, kids are still facing tremendous obstacles to success. We have to do better.

In the coming days, we will put out potential steps folks and organizations can consider taking to
address at least some of those obstacles.

(Click here for our first blog post about the changes in the assault laws.)
(Click here for our blog post on the juvenile justice system.)
(Click here for our blog post on school reporting requirements.)
(Click here for our blog post on the harassment law.)

Elad Gross is a former Assistant Attorney General of Missouri. He graduated from Washington University School of Law. 

This blog post is not meant to provide legal advice. If you are in need of legal assistance, please contact an attorney.

Elad Gross, J.D.
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Missouri's New Assault Laws, a Juvenile Justice Whiteboard, and an Interview with a School Resource Officer Coordinator

(If you're here to read about school district reporting requirements, you can read a little about that in this post, or a lot about it here.)

Missouri's new assault laws will not increase prosecutions of kids for school fights.

Our last post described the changes in Missouri assault law and showed that really not much is changing, especially when it comes to kids. For a long time, it seemed that we were the only ones telling it like it is. But, thankfully, St. Louis Public Radio published an article further confirming this truth. They interviewed folks with a lot of experience in the juvenile justice system in Missouri.

But just because the law isn't changing does not mean we do not have a problem! Our juvenile justice system is heavily strained. Our schools are under-resourced. Our communities lack real support. These are big problems that need our attention, and we cannot be distracted by false news reports and mistaken notices about some "new law" that's the exact same as the old.

I have reached out to school districts, police departments, the media, and others to try to get this confusion about the law cleared up in Missouri, and, together, we can get this done. I'll talk about these problems further down in this post and in future ones, but I also think it's important we all understand what a kid faces if the kid ends up in trouble: The juvenile justice system.
Our last post focused on adult criminal law. But that's not where kids enter the justice system. They go through the juvenile court system. Hopefully, this post clarifies what actually happens to kids.

So if a kid gets into a fight, how does this all play out? You can watch our video if you like cats and whiteboards. Or you can just keep reading!

I like whiteboards. A lot. And I like color-coding things. Also a lot. Let's do both.

In Section A, two kids are fighting. Oftentimes, that's the end of that story. No one ever hears about the fight, outside of a few silent witnesses. 
Kids: Don't fight. People get hurt, and it's not going to fix anything. And kids: If you fight at our summer program, you know you'll be sitting doing nothing fun for far too long. So no fighting.

In Section B, an adult may intervene in the fight. At school, this can be a teacher, a principal, or another staff member. If a fight makes it into Section B, it might end there too. Teacher admonishes kids. Done.

At school, there are some reporting requirements. (For our more extensive conversation about this topic, read this blog post.)

A teacher has to tell a principal, and a principal has to tell the superintendent and local police, when someone commits Assault 1st, Assault 2nd, Assault 3rd, Sexual Assault, or Deviate Sexual Assault. Interestingly, this law was not updated for the change in the assault laws. Remember from our previous post that old Assault 3rd is a misdemeanor? Now, Assault 4th will be the misdemeanor. Assault 4th is not included in this reporting law, so there are actually less reporting requirements for school officials starting in 2017.

Another law requires school districts to set a policy for school administrators to report, at a minimum, several major crimes. Neither Assault 3rd nor Assault 4th are included. And this reporting law has been updated!

So, in 2017, the reporting requirements could be the same (if the school district sets such a policy), but the 2017 legal requirements are less than they are currently in 2016, especially with respect to misdemeanor assault.

In Section C, a police officer is involved. This could be because a teacher refers a serious issue to the police, or maybe the police officer was already at the school as a School Resource Officer. 

If a kid makes it through Sections A-C, and the officer believes that something serious happened, the kid would be referred to a juvenile officer.

Now a kid would be involved in a juvenile court, shown in Section D. Unlike what news reports have strongly implied, the kid does not go straight to an adult criminal court, shown in Section E.

Juvenile court is not like adult court. It was designed to help kids deal with bad behavior in a rehabilitative way. A kid may be dealt with informally, such as by receiving a warning or having to check in with a supervisor. A kid may be dealt with more formally if the issue is serious or if the kid is a frequent visitor. In those formal situations, the juvenile officer would file a petition with the court, and a judge would hear evidence to determine what treatment or services a kid needs.

Then how does a kid get to adult criminal court? The kid must be certified to stand trial as an adult. At a hearing, the juvenile officer may recommend it, the judge would have to certify the kid as an adult, and the local prosecutor would have to charge the kid with a crime.

In some situations, a certification hearing is mandatory. That means the court would have to at least consider certifying the kid as an adult. A kid of any age could be certified as an adult for some major crimes, like murder, or Assault 1st (attempt to kill). A typical school fight does not qualify for a mandatory certification hearing.

In other situations, a certification hearing is discretionary, which means that, in these situations, the court doesn't have to look into certifying the kid if the court deems it inappropriate. Discretionary hearings are only available in limited cases. First, the kid must be between 12 and 17 years old. And the alleged crime must be a felony.

So those stories about 5-year-old kids being prosecuted for felony crayon-throwing? They are wrong.

In order to make it to criminal court, a kid has to go through a lot of steps. The system is designed so that kids, except under extreme circumstances, do not end up in adult criminal court. The prosecutors I have spoken with across the state say the same thing.

I spoke with a Sergeant with the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. Sgt. Jon Broom deals with the area's School Resource Officers. I asked him if he knew of any school fights that rose to such a high level to be prosecuted as a felony. He knew of maybe 5 serious fights that could have potentially qualified, but he wasn't sure if they had made it to adult criminal court.

Sgt. Broom was interviewed in one of the first news reports on this topic. He wished the changes to the law had been explained more thoroughly. And kids do need to know that serious fighting can get them in trouble. A kid who hurts someone can end up being referred to juvenile court and may even have to spend a night in detention. So, again, kids: Don't fight.

But 5-year-olds are not going to become felons for throwing crayons.

The change in the law is not a real problem for kids in school fights. 

But one big and very real problem is our juvenile justice system. Kids do not get enough support in the system. Nationally, our juvenile justice systems are strained. Too few staff dealing with too many cases. That leads to kids not receiving the best or, at times, even adequate defenses. That leads to kids falling through the cracks. But rarely does it end up with a kid being convicted of a felony.

Other than the lack of resources, our juvenile justice system also places the juvenile officer in an awkward position. The juvenile system is supposed to rehabilitate kids, and the juvenile officer is supposed to be supportive. But, especially when the situation gets more serious and formal, the juvenile officer may have to act more like a prosecutor than a supporter.

The juvenile justice system in St. Louis County has come under scrutiny from the Department of Justice, and they've recently come to an agreement to reform the system. The Department of Justice report found significant constitutional violations and racial inequity in the system. Those are serious and very real problems.

Of course, our juvenile justice system is deeply interconnected with what is going on in our schools and neighborhoods. The deficiencies in our justice system are a direct result of poverty and societal negligence. Until we deal with the underlying problems of poverty, unemployment, education, and opportunity, there's only so much that even a perfect system of justice can do. Another set of real problems.

And that's why it's important for us to focus our energies on the real problems facing kids. 

And it's important for all of us to do our part. So if you were fired up about those incorrect news stories out there, ALRIGHT! Let's get you involved in the real fight for our kids' future. And if you need help doing that, sign up on our website at or send me an email at
Elad Gross is a former Assistant Attorney General of Missouri. He graduated from Washington University School of Law.

This blog post is not meant to provide legal advice. If you are in need of legal assistance, please contact an attorney.

Elad Gross, J.D.
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Thursday, December 22, 2016

New Missouri Criminal Code Will NOT Increase Assault Prosecutions of Kids

There have been a lot of stories and posts on social media about how Missouri will now be upping imprisonment penalties on kids involved in school fights come 2017.

These stories are not correct. Imprisonment penalties will remain the same, although potential monetary fines will increase. And the 2017 law will not bring a rash of new prosecutions against kids.

Today, people involved in fights in Missouri can be prosecuted under the law. These laws are listed in the Revised Statutes of Missouri (or "RSMo" for short).

In Missouri, a crime called "assault" involves the use of force (or sometimes the threat of force) between people.

Today, one of these assault crimes is called "Assault while on school property." The statute is RSMo 565.075. If someone "knowingly causes physical injury to another person" at school, a school activity, or in a vehicle traveling in the service of a school, that person can be prosecuted for a Class D felony. Today.

Missouri revised its criminal code. So, come January 1, 2017, the law will change. This assault while on school property crime will no longer exist. Instead, it will be absorbed into "Assault in the third degree." This statute is RSMo 565.054. If someone "knowingly causes physical injury to another person" (there's that "knowingly" language again), they can be prosecuted for a Class E felony.

This means that, today, there is no crime for "knowingly causing physical injury to another person" outside of school. Today, a prosecutor would either have to prove that the attacker outside of school "knowingly caused serious physical injury" (and impose a higher penalty) or prove that the attacker "recklessly caused physical injury" (and impose a lesser penalty). Today, there is no middle ground for assaults outside of school.

That middle ground does exist today, but, for some reason, only for school-related fights. Starting in 2017, this same rule that applies to school assaults will apply outside of schools too, giving prosecutors more flexibility to make an appropriate charge for the circumstances.

Here's a chart showing the changes to the assault laws. I left out assault charges related to weapons and a few words to make it a little more readable. Clicking on the chart makes it bigger!

You can read through all of these statutes here, starting at RSMo 565.050. 

Bottom line: The new law expands prosecutors' ability to charge assault outside of school. It does not increase prison penalties for children.

I wrote a follow-up post to this about the juvenile system, which is where almost all kids would end up for an assault charge. These assault laws we're talking about are for the adult system. A child would need to be prosecuted as an adult - which would require a judge's approval - to even be at risk of a felony conviction.

But let's go worst-case-scenario here anyway.
Today, a kid fighting at school technically can be prosecuted for a Class D felony. Starting January 1, that kid can be prosecuted for a Class E felony.

That means the kid gets a better deal in 2017, right? No.

Today, Class Ds are the lowest form of felony and Class Es do not exist. On January 1, Class Es will be the lowest. Both are punishable by up to 4 years in prison (today's law; 2017 law).

However, today, the potential fine for a kid convicted of a Class D felony is $5,000. In 2017, the potential fine for Class C, D, and the new E felonies will be up to $10,000.

So a kid who assaults someone in 2017 cannot be imprisoned for a longer time, but the kid could be fined more in 2017.

There's one other portion of the new language that could be confusing on the surface. The new Assault in the third degree crime includes a provision requiring that if the victim is a "special victim," the punishment will be higher.
What's a "special victim"? That's defined in another law (just to make it easier for everyone to figure out). Under RSMo 565.002.14, "special victim" is defined as a:
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Emergency personnel
  • Probation and parole officer
  • Elderly person
  • Person with a disability
  • Vulnerable person
  • Corrections officer
  • Highway worker
  • Utility worker
  • Cable worker
  • Mass transit employee
None of these folks look like kids, except "person with disability" for some kids, and maybe "vulnerable person". What's a vulnerable person? 
Another law! RSMo 556.061.50 defines a vulnerable person as: "any person in the custody, care, or control of the department of mental health" receiving services. This same definition is used in the mental health statutes, and it's the same definition for the soon-to-be-deleted laws regarding assault on vulnerable people (see this one for an example).
Kids are not automatically vulnerable people under this definition. So just because a kid beat up another kid does not mean the punishment will be higher. If a kid assaults another kid who has a disability, then the assault charge could be increased.

So, in general, the potential prison punishment for a kid in 2017 will be the same in 2016 when it comes to an assault charge for "knowingly" causing physical injury. (What is "physical injury"? Read this post about its redefinition.)

Does this mean prosecutors no longer have the flexibility to charge a kid with a misdemeanor?
No. Those stories are false. In 2017, a prosecutor can file an Assault in the fourth degree charge. Today, that same charge is called "Assault in the third degree." It's true that Assault in the third degree in 2017 will be a felony. That's why in 2017 there will be a new level of assault that does not exist today called Assault in the fourth degree.

See the chart above. Today's Assault 3rd is almost the exact same thing as 2017's Assault 4th!

The only major difference in how the assault law is defined in 2017 versus 2016 is that prosecutors will have more flexibility to charge people outside of schools with appropriate criminal violations. The new law does not put a special focus on kids. It puts a new focus on those outside of school.

Prosecutors can technically go after kids, sure. I had the fortune of having a few other fine officers of the court - including prosecutors - send me notes as I was working on this, and all of them told me it would be silly and very hard for prosecutors to go after kids for fighting at school, especially on a felony charge, without some showing that the kid viciously attacked someone, or at least intended to. 

That's what the law seems to say too. 

Prosecutors have to be given some flexibility in the law to decide what charges to file. Every situation is different. So yes, the new law, just like the old one, gives prosecutors the power to seek to incarcerate a kid for four years for an assault under some circumstances. In 2017, the prosecutor can also seek a fine of up to $10,000, which is more than the $5,000 the prosecutor can currently try to get.

But that does not mean that every kid in a fight will be sent away or fined exorbitantly. Prosecutors, the court, and juries play huge roles in determining what the punishment should be, and defense attorneys get to put on their cases as well. And remember: Almost all of these cases are dealt with in juvenile court, not in adult criminal court. Kids are not saddled with felonies in juvenile court.

Many of us who work with kids know that they face a lot of challenges, including in the justice system. But we need to identify the real problems, not become distracted by fake ones created by distressingly negligent members of the media.

The media reports about the change in Missouri's laws are not only overblown. They are deceptively incendiary. I could not find one article that included any kind of investigative comparison of the new laws with the old. This failure is inexcusable, and not only because it does a great disservice to the public who rely on these reporters to do their jobs.

These stories have taken advantage of a group of folks who are subject to grave inadequacies in our judicial system. There is no question that far too many kids are caught up in a system that too often does not treat them fairly. But, instead of talking about the real issues underlying the school-to-prison pipeline, these media outlets are inciting panic, which will inevitably dissuade folks from joining an important fight when they realize this story of terrifying change actually has no merit.

The more the boy cried wolf, the less people listened.

All of these reports seem to trace back to the Hazelwood School District's pronouncement that the law is changing in 2017 to allow fighting kids to be charged with felonies. Ferguson-Florissant put out a scary video saying 2017 could bring felony charges. Well, those felony charges are available today too.

I don't know exactly when Hazelwood put up this notice (I know it was at least a couple of days ago, before this whole thing blew up online).  This notice, just like all the reports that followed it, make it seem that 2017 is going to be drastically different from 2016, that we must act immediately to save our kids.

These articles are right about one thing: We need a sense of urgency around our kids. But they are wrong about almost everything else.

I'm not sure if these school districts put out these incorrect messages because of a mistake, or if school officials were trying to use the uncertainty that comes with change to scare kids into better behavior. Whatever it is, these school districts need to correct the mistake.

Kids are not more susceptible to ADULT prosecution for assault as a result of the change in the assault laws. If you are a parent or kid facing that prospect, call an attorney.  

We cannot afford to destroy the work a lot of folks are doing by discrediting their efforts through suspect reporting and school notices.

There is a school-to-prison pipeline.  It must be broken. We must tell the real story about how it works so we can make that happen.

(Click here for our blog post on the juvenile justice system.)
(Click here for our blog post on the redefinition of "physical injury.")
(Click here for our explanatory video.)
(Click here for our blog post on school district reporting requirements.)
(Click here for our blog post on the harassment law.)

Elad Gross is a former Assistant Attorney General of Missouri. He graduated from Washington University School of Law. 

This blog post is not meant to provide legal advice. If you are in need of legal assistance, please contact an attorney.

Elad Gross, J.D.
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Happy Holidays from the EEC: Two Stories, a Brief Data Dive, and a Happy Ending

I was BLOWN-AWAY honored to have folks choose the Education Exchange Corps as their nonprofit for holiday donations!

You can join the cool club too by pressing this lovely yellow-orange button!

An international litigator making her argument to a skeptical
Federal Judge Charles Shaw.
With your help, we're able to run our Summer Leadership Academy in North St. Louis City so that it's free for families. That means a great group of kids K-12 learns how to run the world, high school students earn a summer paycheck and receive financial advice, and parents have a safe place for their kids to go during a time when there is not much accessible programming.

Basically, you're super awesome.

There are some folks out there who do not know what we do and why we do it, so that's why we post about all of it and the additional services we're exploring too!

A lot of people ask, "Why do you put so many things in your fanny pack, Batman? Sounds like you do a lot of things."
Batman says, "Because I need a lot of ways to go POW on a bad guy."

We started out 9 years ago focusing on education. Academic performance was low, and academic skills are taught in the classroom, so the problem must be in schools... EUREKA! Nine years later, that explanation doesn't come close to doing it.

The challenges in education are a comprehensive problem. And a comprehensive problem demands a comprehensive solution.

Allow me to tell you a story. (Actually, I would like to tell you two stories. The first one is frustrating, but I promise the second one will pick you right back up. So, go grab some hot chocolate, buckle up, and read along.)

I'm meeting with folks at a school, as I often do. We're sitting around a table, talking about the challenges a school is facing and ways the community can support it.
Half the room is used for storage, and some electronic thing in a back corner is constantly making noise. The other half of the room is our meeting space. After a while, you get used to the noise.

Within this meeting space, there's a bulletin board. Papers line the board. Papers with graphs all over them showing all sorts of data. Attendance. Performance on a standardized test. Performance on other tests. Different subjects. Different colors. All the things.

At some point, these graphs come up in discussion. This school, like so many others, needs to see academic performance increase. One of the graphs shows how many children are proficient in different subjects.
The numbers are in the high teens or low twenties.
One of the community members asks, "What's a comparable number? Is this normal?"
Staff: "Within a few points, yes. We're very close to what the other schools around us are doing, and so much can vary quickly because of the small class sizes."

The meeting moves on, the discussion going to strategic needs and community assemblies. But I'm just looking at those numbers. I've seen them before, but, for some reason, they're sticking pretty hard now.

Several minutes pass. "I don't think we should postpone any of the work we want to do," I say. "There's obviously something deeply wrong. These numbers mean that on a good day, 70-80% of kids are not proficient at reading."

The staff member nods her head, but in the way like a teacher does when she knows another mind is making the journey into the neighborhood she lives in.

"There's got to be more done than what this school and staff can do," the nodding continues. "So I want to know why are kids leaving this school so much. You said that only three kids in this school have been here for all grade levels, and they're doing better than most of the other students here. Why are folks moving so much? What do they need to stay?"

"They're leaving because they don't have a home to stay in. They're in transition," says the staff. "So that means they don't have money to afford staying here, or they're living with a relative, and they have to move. This neighborhood especially sees a lot of people moving in and out."

"What do they need? Short-term money?"

"There are organizations that already provide emergency funds and that are focusing on attendance and keeping kids in school. But it's not working. It's too big of a problem. It's economics."

It's economics in a lot of places in St. Louis City.

First, let me give you a comparison point: Clayton, a well-off municipality that borders the city.
Here's how Clayton compares to St. Louis City in standardized test scores:

In Clayton, the vast majority of kids are proficient. In the City, the opposite is true.

The individual school data shows an even deeper problem for the City. Clayton kids get better as they move up in grade level. Clayton's lowest score is 54.2% proficient in one subject at one elementary school. That's averaged out by way higher scores in higher grade levels.

In the City, 29 tests showed that at least 90% of kids taking the tests were not proficient in the subject material. Another 23 tests were inconclusive because not enough kids sat for the test in one school for it to count. Of those scoring below 10%, one of those tests was done at a high school and five were done at the middle school level. Unlike Clayton, low scores are present in upper grade levels too.

Overall, 77 scores were below 20%. 155 scores were below 50%. Only 38 were at or above 50%.

There are so many tests because each school in the system is subjected to four tests, but these numbers demonstrate the widespread academic performance problems in the City. There are a few schools in the City that are performing tremendously high. The drop-off from those in high-performing schools to the rest is huge.

But it's not just schools. Any district facing the challenges of educating kids who are moving from one school to another, often multiple times during an academic year, will have these same problems.

It's economics. It's a lack of jobs. It's a lack of wealth. It's a lack of resources.

"But, Batman, per pupil spending is higher in the City than the average in Missouri!"
That's true, but the City is also spending large amounts of money on transportation for a large number of kids and on building maintenance, including maintaining buildings that are no longer in use. A district once built to teach 80,000 kids now works with a bit over 20,000 kids. Just this week, the City chose to close two more schools. These are not the same challenges a school like Clayton faces, and Clayton still spends more per pupil than the City.

The challenges kids face - and that their teachers face as a result - are monstrously big. The problems are interconnected, and attacking one particular problem area while neglecting others does not and has not done the job.

That's why we're trying to put a bunch of tools in the tool belt. A comprehensive problem needs a comprehensive solution.

Last story for today.

One of the high school students who worked for us this past summer found himself in a bad spot this fall. He was suddenly homeless and with no place to turn. He was not attending school, and he had lost confidence in his ability to go back. The job search wasn't going well. And he'd been involved in violence and came very close to losing his life.

It wasn't always like this. He told me once that, when he was a little kid, his artwork was honored by the Mayor of St. Louis. He always loved art. He still wanted to be an artist someday, if that day ever came.

He's a young man who knows that he's had to endure a whole lot, and he knows firsthand how these challenges can derail academic performance. He was staying in the same neighborhood the school I was talking about before serves. I've written about all this kid had to go through.

I met this young man because we decided not just to be a traditional education program. We saw a problem with youth unemployment, so we hired kids to work for us in the summer. I met this young man because the EEC tried to be more comprehensive and deal with a need as we saw it.

Because we met, he was able to call me. He had a place to stay for a few weeks. He had time to figure things out. And he got into Job Corps, where he is receiving housing and training in a trade, along with an education.

I spoke with him just the other day. He said everything is going great! He's learning welding. And he's also decided that he wants to get a college degree. Eventually, he wants to get involved in the local arts scene, maybe one day manage or own a gallery. And he wants to go back to his neighborhood and work with kids, to pay what he got forward. Never has he had a clearer picture of where he wants to go.

These are the kinds of results we can get when we care. We can build a world where kids who today are so often left to fail don't, where 20 percent proficient is flipped upside down because a kid is encouraged not just to learn, but to find a passion. These are the kinds of results we can get when we work across disciplines and organizations and divisions to offer access to opportunity for every child.

These are results we're seeing thanks to folks like you.

Happy holidays to you and yours. And thank you for supporting a better future for all of us.


Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Giving Tuesday and the Education Exchange Corps

Happy Giving Tuesday!

We would be honored to be one of your recipient nonprofits today. 

There's a lot of work to be done to make our home a fairer place for everyone. Here's what we're doing about it:
  • Planning our next Summer Leadership Academy to give kids a free and super awesome academic enrichment program, and to employ local high school students to run it;
  • Working with partners to expand our Global Leadership Simulation game to the academic year;
  • Boosting tech and entrepreneurship education through Hack4Hope;
  • Providing mentorship to high school students;
  • Developing a legal clinic in North St. Louis City to serve as a one-stop shop for families looking for more ways to give their kids access to real opportunity.
You can help support all of that by donating here: 

When you do, tweet @EduXchangeCorps or post on Facebook and we'll be sure to give you a shout-out!

But what would a Giving Tuesday be if we didn't give something to you? Just for reading this email, here's a cute picture of a future president of the United States working out an international treaty with our special guests from the Missouri House of Representatives:

If you'd like to read more about what we're doing, check out this recent article written by one of our fantastic high school volunteers.

Enjoy this Giving Tuesday!

Sincerely Yours,

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Education, Opportunity, and Now Employment!

Hello Supporters and Friends!

I have something SUPER EXCITING to tell you.

Tomorrow, the 2016 Education Exchange Corps Summer Leadership Academy starts up in North St. Louis City. We're going to have kids, instructors, construction paper, and even granola bars!

Now that's pretty exciting. But I have another exciting thing to share....

For the first time, most of our instructors are going to be late high school and college-aged kids.
And we are going to pay them. With money!

Let me tell you why that's pretty cool.

Poverty is a trap that does its best to keep people in it. Three huge areas of concern are education, access to opportunity, and employment. This summer, we are addressing all of those issues.


Our program lasts for three weeks in the summer. It's in the summer because oftentimes kids from families with less money can't afford to do summer stuff. Sometimes, those kids just have to sit at home, their mind-matter turning into a slushy fluff. Research has found that a lot of the academic achievement gap may be caused by the aptly named "summer learning loss."

We do academic activities with kids in the summer to fight summer learning loss. Like have kids launch rockets to another planet.

The K-1st graders boldly went where no kid had gone before.

We structure our program to put kids in charge of the world. Our Summer Leadership Academy is a deep simulation with a big board where our young leaders run governments. They trade with each other, rebuild after monsoons, construct roads, explore space, and, sometimes, go to war with other countries. Especially the 3rd graders. They will not hesitate to use force.

We also have a bunch of special guests who play a role in the game and help the kids make decisions.

The whole summer, we don't tell kids what to do. They make the decisions. They learn to lead. They learn how to be empowered in their own lives, they come up with ideas to make change in their communities, and we support them. They discover how to open up doors to opportunity.

Unemployment and underemployment is a big problem in areas affected by poverty. Teen unemployment is particularly high, especially among black youth. Every time I hang out with a high school kid, I get asked about jobs.

Well, let's make some jobs!

Many kids work to help out their families or to feel empowered. Sometimes, just having some spending money can go a long way. And acting as a national adviser at the coolest summer program ever looks awesome on a resume. Plus our paid staff will receive fun, not-at-all-boring financial training, and they'll be meeting some great special guests with some pretty cool jobs in the real world.

This summer, our special guests include: several Assistant Attorneys General, a federal judge, a public health expert, a news reporter, a communications specialist, elected government officials, nonprofit directors, a legal secretary, police officers, voter organizers, civic educators, and scientists!

The challenges our young leaders will face include: global climate change, human rights, Candy Pox (our version of Zika) and the Olympics, sugar terrorism, Catapultimate WMDs, Brexit, protests, and civil rights.

Blerch, the leader of the sugar terrorists.

You know what else is SUPER EXCITING? You can help us do all of this.

When you donate, you're doing some awesome things for St. Louis.

1) You're helping teens get job skills.
2) You're helping kids learn how to run the world.
3) You're giving kids a creative learning environment that purposefully empowers them.
4) You're enabling us to expand the program so we can reach more kids for more time, help teachers think of ways to empower their students in their classrooms, and bring kids of diverse backgrounds together so we can help end division and build a fairer home for everyone.
5) Granola bars. They are so good.

Press the button. Change the world.

Thanks for your support. Together, we are building a better future for all of our kids.

Sincerely Yours,

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 EEC Wish List

Our 2016 Summer Leadership Academy starts on July 11!

We are still looking for volunteers to work with our kids as they deal with global crises. This year's crises include Zika and the Olympics, Brocoland's Brexit, and Planet-Destroying Catapults!

We also have a Wish List of school supplies and books (check it out below).
If you're interested in volunteering or in donating, send me an email at or call 314-753-9033.

We'll update the Wish List as we get commitments. You can scroll down within the Wish List too!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Call for Volunteers: 2016 Summer Leadership Academy

What is a country to do when it has the least amount of money but the largest number of people in the world?
It invests in education because "if you can get your education, you can get a good job, get paid, and pay your taxes."
At least, that's what this country does when it's run by middle school students.

Last year, kids from kindergarten through high school spent three weeks running a world together at the Education Exchange Corps' Summer Leadership Academy. And we're back!

We will again hold this program in the Hyde Park neighborhood in North St. Louis City in July.
We run this program in the summer because, without it, many kids struggle to find academically engaging activities and a steady source of food. Our program is free for kids and families.

                             When: July 11-29; 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM, Monday - Friday
                             Where: Most Holy Trinity School and Academy
                                           1435 Mallinckrodt Street
                                           St. Louis, MO 63107
                             What: EEC 2016 Summer Leadership Academy

We need your help to run the program.

You can volunteer. 

Serve as a national adviser, working with a group of our young leaders to help them make decisions as they confront global crises like armageddon asteroids, trade markers for billions of dollars, and sign international treaties.
This is a great opportunity for those interested in expanding their teaching skills through a highly dynamic experience. We offer ongoing training in lesson-planning and managing an academic environment that empowers students.
We have both full- and part-time opportunities available, as well as longer term volunteer positions.

Serve as a special guest. We invite members of the community to spend time with our young leaders on at least a one-time basis, moving from country to country to answer questions that the leaders have about specific topics. We coordinate with our special guests so you can visit at a time and for a topic that would work best for you. Our young leaders love having members of the community visit, in large part because it shows the community cares.

You can spread the word.

Let your friends know about our efforts to give every child real opportunity. Ask if someone you know is available this summer to volunteer as a national adviser or a special guest. And send them our way!
If you would like one of us to speak to a group you are a part of, please let us know.

You can donate.

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We rely on donors to sustain our programming. Any amount counts. And we've made it easy to donate. We have a big donate button on this page and on our website, or you can click here!

To get involved, please visit our website at or email me at

We are very excited for this summer. Check out our preview video below.

Together, we can make St. Louis a better home for everyone.

Elad Gross

Monday, March 14, 2016

Teaching in the Unknown

I was supposed to command the spaceship to do something, but I had little idea how. It sat there, crashed through a huge spiked rock, and I was like Will Smith in Independence Day. Except my spaceship was pixelated and existed only on my computer screen, and, instead of pulling levers, I was supposed to pull code from the left side of the screen to the right side.

Yesterday, we had our March in-person meeting with our Hack4Hope kids. I have neglected posting here for a good long while because of all the projects we have going on. Hack4Hope is a project led by an awesome team of folks to introduce kids to coding, technology, and entrepreneurship through a Hackathon (a weekend full of kids coming up with awesome technology and business ideas to make the world better) and a follow-up academy teaching skills the kids can build on.

Each month, we meet with our kids to go over the assignment from the past month, help them start on the next one, and have a bit of fun along the way. The kids go online to see their assignments and access activities that introduce them to coding. Yesterday, we went over the programming language Java together. 

While I was preparing to help lead the class, I remembered reading about a program called Alice. It's an interactive program you can download that lets users drag-and-drop a whole bunch of scenery and characters to make a story, and the process familiarizes users to coding.

I know very little about coding. When I started teaching years ago, that would have been bad news for me. I always thought I had to know more than my students so I could teach them. I thought it was my job to pass on knowledge to them. I lecture, they learn. Duh!

Folks, it's a new world. There's a ton of information out there, and, especially when it comes to technology, kids are in a position to know a lot more than us older people. 

I don't know when it happened, but I realized I don't lead a class to impart information. I lead it to teach the kids how to lead it themselves, how to figure out solutions to their problems. I'm just there to set up the story. It's their job to tell it. And then, at the very end, I help them wrap it all up in a bow.

Yesterday, we were supposed to go over essay writing skills. I thought it was time to talk about the concept of story, and I did that by asking each kid to rethink the first sentence of the essays they had written. Then each kid posted a first sentence for an essay that we all talked about together.
We talked about dreams - crazy dreams! - and which dreams were the most memorable and why.
We talked about fiction.
We watched videos of the Pillsbury Doughboy.
We talked about how to hook a reader.

And then we moved on to Alice, that collection of coding gizmos and widgets that makes no sense without a story. We competed to see who could make the creepiest clip with Ms. Alice as the star. I competed along with them. We played the clips. I lost!
But we're coming back next time with more stories, stories on a screen and stories on paper, stories that draw emotion from the audience.

When you teach in the unknown, you'll naturally draw from that which you do know. And if you embrace your lack of knowledge and make your class a journey to find that knowledge, you'll find yourself teaching the most important lessons a kid can take home.