The Gateway Welcome Project is a not-for-profit organization that brings together St. Louisans from many disciplines for a single purpose: We want to let immigrant/refugee children know that they are welcome here. We want them to know that they are an important part of St. Louis' future, and that we want to be part of their future. 

Like many big ideas, the Gateway Welcome project began with one small concept. Nahed Chapman New American Academy (NCNAA) on South Grand near SLU Hospital is a St. Louis Public School that's a transition facility which helps immigrant and refugee children integrate into U.S. Society. In addition to the lack of formal education and language issues, many of these children have experienced things that should never happen to any child.

The 320 children at NCNAA (forecast grow to 400 soon) represent 24 countries and speak many languages. The one common "language" is global sport of soccer.

Architect Peter Tao of TAO + LEE Architects, whose parents are also immigrants to the U.S., is active in welcoming new Americans. He recognized that PLAY in general, and soccer specifically could smooth the traumatic past and pave a new future for these children. PLAY breaks down social barriers. Tao recognized that the playing services at NCNAA needed a lot of help for kids to be able to play safely. All kids should have a decent place to play.

But what began as an effort to pave a broken urban playground has morphed into much more — so much more that it incorporated this week as a Missouri not-for-profit corporation, which is filing for federal 501(c)3 status. 

The organization’s bylaws state its purpose as,“To make the St. Louis Metropolitan Area a welcoming place for foreign-born immigrants and refugees, and their families.” It is envisioned as having a life far beyond the initial project. Educators and other organizations in areas including STEM, sustainability, public health, and urban gardening are involved in the new organization.

Before and after images of the NCNAA playing field. 

Before and after images of the NCNAA playing field.