How Natalie Johnson became the first Black female brewing director at the

Inroads was founded in Chicago a half century ago, in the wake of the civil rights movement. Frank Carr, a white publishing executive, had attended the March on Washington in 1963. He came home inspired and spent the next several years figuring out how young people of color could make “inroads” into corporate America without the advantages that social connections and an Ivy League education had brought him.

By 1973, the program had expanded to other cities, including St. Louis. Reginald Dickson, who had been teaching elementary school, organized the first group of 25 students here.

“These students who were really high potential — we call them a talent pool — we would expose them to what an engineer was, what a CPA was,” said Dickson, who lives in Pasadena Hills.

Randy Sanderson, now 65, was a student at Beaumont High School at the time and on the fence about attending college. His father had a third-grade education; his mother, eighth grade.

The invitation from Inroads was the push he needed. Sanderson studied accounting at the University of Missouri-St. Louis while interning at Pet Inc. and later, at May Co., where he landed a full-time position, eventually becoming a vice president.

Sanderson, who lives in the Central West End, compares Inroads with the minor leagues in baseball.

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