July 28, 2017

Page 52

Renaissance Woman 

By Alice Handelman | Photos by Sarah Conroy

Across numerous vocations and avocations alike, this Town and Country powerhouse emphasizes “universal humanity.”


laire Applewhite believes that every voice matters. “Every voice deserves recognition, and every voice needs to be heard,” she says. An author, teacher, pianist, philanthropist and songwriter, Applewhite also puts her talents toward helping others through volunteering in the community. Standing at 5 feet 1 inch, the 61-year-old dynamo with bright red hair and green eyes embodies the cliché that “big things come in small packages.” As a volunteer judge for The Big Read, a statewide Missouri writing competition, Applewhite identified a widespread deficit in basic language and communication


july 28, 2017 | LadueNews.com

skills that prevented talented yet disadvantaged students from reaching the winner’s circle. “Despite a gripping voice, these students were disqualified in the first round,” she says. “I thought, ‘What if those students had mentors to provide the one-on-one attention they need to compete and win?’” Always an advocate for the underserved, Applewhite launched Voices of Excellence at Loyola Academy middle school in St. Louis in 2011 to address the problem. The program challenges each student to compose and present a five-paragraph essay to a panel of judges. At least three winners are chosen from grades six through eight each year. “There’s no reason that these bright, enthusiastic students cannot

excel,” Applewhite says. The tutors make sure the boys understand any punctuation, grammar and slang corrections and are taught to use reference books to look up words. The way students organize their essays can be useful when applying to high schools and colleges, which also readily highlights inconsistencies in logic or arrangement of thoughts. This past May, 12 young men from Loyola Academy presented their winning essays at the Missouri Athletic Club. As usual, Applewhite welcomed the students and their families. It’s one of Applewhite’s favorite events to attend “because the parents are so proud,” she says. “One parent arrived in his Home Depot work uniform and told me, ‘I told my boss I needed an extra hour