By Tony Thompson, President
We are honored to be named a Top Corporate Philanthropist by St. Louis Business Journal. Giving back has been a central value of the leadership at Kwame Building Group since the beginning.
Education and excellence are the best deterrents to racism. Therefore, we made it our mission to provide as many first-generation and minorities as possible with opportunities to access a great education. The Kwame Building Group created the Kwame Foundation in 2003 after I served several years as a mentor in the St. Louis public schools.
Education has always been an important part of my personal commitment to our community. This commitment was developed through my mother’s philosophy of giving, which was instilled in me from a very early age.
Our programs evolved throughout the years based on personal experiences and needs within the African American community to be exposed to various opportunities. For instance, we began offering scholarships and college tours after parents expressed a need and interest. Music scholarships evolved after recognizing the enormous talent that exists in public schools but there was no outlet or ways for creative and artistic students to expand their skills.
To date, we have awarded approximately $1.6 million and the market value of the endowments has grown almost 30%. Money is raised through an annual golf tournament.
Each Kwame Foundation endowed scholarship addresses the growing need in one of the key areas of S.T.E.A.M (science, technology, engineering, art and music.) Graduates have gone on to become everything from medical doctors to professional artists, including a St Louis Public School graduate who competed on American Idol.
Gentleman’s Club at Carnahan High School
In addition to providing the opportunity to access education, we must prepare young people at the earliest levels and also continue impacting them throughout their educational journey. We do this through programs like the Gentleman’s Club at Carnahan High School.
The Gentleman’s Club gives African American students role models to engage with. Approximately 25 young adults meet on a weekly basis and receive financial literacy and entrepreneurship training. Each student learns to create a business plan and is taught the fundamentals of cash flow, budgeting, company evaluations, and financial statements. The program culminates with an annual competition and students who have mastered the business project are awarded a prize.
Annual HBCU College Tours
We want to help increase the number of African-American students who enroll in and graduate from a college or university. Our annual tour of Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) exposes students to college campuses across the United States and has provided college applications and scholarships. In 2019, 128 students visited seven HBCUs. Several students received one or more college offers on-site at the college visits.
KWAME has been recognized by US Black Engineer and Information Technology (USBE) magazine as one of the top supporters of HBCU engineering programs.
Kwame Foundation provides scholarships to summer music camps at TBeats studios.
Kwame is a proud supporter of the University of Missouri–St. Louis Opportunity Scholar Program, which provides scholarships to select first-generation college students and/or students who are underrepresented in the workforce.
Carnahan High School Attendance Incentive Program helped encourage students to attend school. Tony Thompson gave $100 each to 89 students who had perfect attendance.
Learn more about Kwame Foundation: kwamefoundation.org/about-us/