"Our kids, their potential is boundless." - Liz Dozier

This article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on April 5, 2016
by Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz 

Chicago Beyond, a new foundation targeting the twin goals of youth safety and educational attainment, launched Tuesday with an innovation challenge for nonprofits that will award winners up to $2 million each and measure their impact along the way.

Liz Dozier, who served as principal at Fenger High School in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood for six years before stepping down last summer, is managing director of Chicago Beyond, which has partnered with University of Chicago Urban Labs to evaluate the impact of its investments to better understand what works.

“This partnership aims to function in a way that not only moves the needle in Chicago, but well beyond our city limits,” Timothy Knowles, director of the Urban Labs and chairman of the Urban Education Institute, said in a statement.

As Chicago braces for a tough summer after a violent start to the year, how young people will be spending their time is top of mind.

Calling education and violence “flip sides of the same coin,” Dozier said the foundation does not intend to “reinvent the wheel” but rather support ideas and existing programs with the best potential to expand.

“Our kids, their potential is boundless,” said Dozier, who was at the helm of Fenger when it was thrust into the spotlight, first after the fatal beating of student Derrion Albert in 2009 and later when she featured prominently in the CNN documentary series “Chicagoland.”

“It’s not that they lack potential, it’s that they lack opportunities and access,” said Dozier, who said she left Fenger because she “wanted to have a larger impact.”

Chicago Beyond initially will focus on two investment initiatives.

One is the GO Innovate challenge, which will award up to $2 million to each winner to test innovative and scalable programming in two areas: getting high school students on a path to two- and four-year colleges; and re-engaging so-called “opportunity youth” — 16- to 24-year-olds neither in school nor working — through paid employment, workforce skill development or education. Applications opened Tuesday at http://www.chicagobeyond.org.

The other initiative is GO Together, which focuses on expanding existing programs so they can serve more people. The foundation is already moving $12 million to three programs: OneGoal, which provides students with college support; SAGA Innovations, which offers math tutoring; and After School Matters, which provides after-school and summer programming. It also will fund Youth Advocate Programs, which provides high-risk youth and their families with intensive support, though the funding amount hasn’t been finalized, Dozier said.

Dozier declined to disclose the amount of Chicago Beyond’s investment funds but said it is supported by a consortium of private investors, each with a unique connection to Chicago.