Wildcat Tracks: Steve Douglass ’95
Steve Douglass had a high school experience like many of us, full of ups and downs. “My time at Westminster, during the early 90s, was most noticeably impacted by my friends. Attending a small, private school had both advantages and challenges during adolescence. Little did I realize how unique it was to be surrounded by quality kids from good families that loved the Lord,” he said. “At times, we all felt the bubble and many pushed against it! I know at the time, I certainly didn’t appreciate how special certain teachers were, like Mr. Baldwin. We all could recognize that he was a great teacher, but what we really experienced was someone using the unique gifts he was given to glorify God in the classroom through his intellect, his emotions and his soul. That is special. It’s motivating. He changed lives because he embodied what we as Christians are called to do. I certainly didn’t recognize my gifts at that point, but I felt inspired to raise my game every time I walked into his classroom.”
While at WCA, Douglass played goalie on the soccer team, which ultimately led him to his current career path. “I specifically remember teammate Jimmy Beckemeier ’95. I will never forget his voice screaming at an opposing player while I was blacked out, lying on our old soccer field on the Ladue Road campus. I had been intentionally leveled in their attempt to even the score. Then I heard Chris Polski, our assistant coach, along with a chorus of other teammates, sticking up for me while I was concussed. All this during the final minutes of that biggest game of the year! It signified a new sense of community that I had previously only heard and read about,” he said. “I leaned in to that my senior year, figuring I would never see these people again, so why not learn more about them, ask about their perspectives, their hopes and dreams, knowing each had an interesting story that needed to be heard. I can now see that this is where my love for storytelling began. Little did I know social media would try to capitalize on this innate desire in all of us years later, but it can’t replicate the foundation we all experienced uniquely at Westminster.” After finishing for the Wildcats as a senior goalie, Douglass was gifted an All-State nomination and the chance to play soccer in college. “Wheaton College’s top goalie recruit bailed at the last minute which opened up an opportunity for me to get in to a school I otherwise had no real chance of getting in to! It was a massive break that pushed me to refine my gifts and talents. I learned that I can glorify God through that refining process. It also taught me how to work hard, step up and make things happen.”
While at Wheaton, Douglass began planning for a career in video production, including landing an internship at KSDK Channel 5 with Mike Bush in St. Louis. It was there that he met a co-worker who later connected Douglass with an interview at ESPN. “Two hours of sports questions later, I was given a temporary job making nine bucks an hour with no benefits, in the highest cost of living state in the US (Connecticut), a month before I got married. It was my dream job and one that challenged me relentlessly from 6pm-4am six days a week. I created highlights for SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight and ESPNews.” he said. All that hard work paid off when Douglass was soon promoted. “After six months, I was ‘kept’ and paid $12 per hour, plus I got benefits! But my highlight each week was teaching a Bible study to college kids at our church. That time flew by as I was able to see my gifts of storytelling and teaching connect. All my teachers at WCA would agree, I never saw myself becoming a teacher, unless it was one like Mr. Baldwin.”
Eventually, Douglass and his wife Amy moved back to St. Louis to attend graduate school together. The couple also helped get The Journey Church off the ground and out of the Clayton rec center. Eventually, they ended up moving further north. “Chicago has the best network of media educators in the country and that’s why I came to this sports wasteland of a city, while properly raising my boys as Cardinals and Blues fans! I’m blessed to be able to teach New Media at Lake Forest High School which is video storytelling through a media literate lens so that students can identify and share their unique voice to their specific audience.” he said.
One project that is close to Douglass’ heart is Summer Stories. “I became an Apple Distinguished Educator in 2015 and have partnered with them to share the power of authentic personal video reflections around the world. We are about to start year three here in Chicago with the Kerry Wood Family Foundation to help capture, showcase and amplify the work they are doing in the most challenging neighborhoods in the city.” he explained. ‘They have 4th through 8th graders that commit to a mentoring program in an effort to make sure they make it to high school. Think of that. He told me 8,000 school-age kids are not in school in Chicago. They’re doing great work and we will walk their recent alums of the program through the personal story process to reflect on their unique value, their goals and the people around them that they are leaning in to to change the data in their neighborhood. We have rising seniors from high schools around Chicagoland selected to be mentors through the production process while also serving non-profits in their communities with dynamic videos created with the iPhone in their pocket. They get to learn how to plan, produce and edit professional level social media content in just a few weeks and this year we’re going to do it all remotely. I believe everyone can do this, and we are showcasing it through this program.”
This summer Douglass plans to return to his hometown to create St. Louis Summer Stories. He will be working with local high school seniors including a few from Westminster and he could use some assistance from fellow alumni. “We are looking for partners in this great adventure, both in St. Louis and around the country as we build this out with Apple and other significant sponsors. So, if you have a non-profit doing amazing things and need more video to help share their story on social media, please reach out. We already have Westminster students admitted for this summer’s program, so I’m sure you can see how cool this will be to share in connecting the next generation to relevant, meaningful work using their unique gifts during this time.”