“Inequities have existed for so long that sometimes we believe that innovation is impossible. That’s not true. We only limit ourselves by our imagination.” – Liz Dozier, Founder & CEO of Chicago Beyond

In the fight for youth equity, it is important to challenge institutions and systems that perpetuate inequities. To not take the status quo for granted, but to question it and find creative ways to deconstruct it. When Chicago Beyond’s Founder & CEO Liz Dozier encountered OneGoal during her time as Principal of Fenger High School, she saw its program doing exactly that.

OneGoal’s mission has always been clear: close the college degree divide and ensure all young people can achieve their postsecondary dreams. Its model moves students through a three-year program that begins their junior year of high school. Participating high schools have a teacher, called a Program Director, who teaches one credit-bearing OneGoal class a day. Fellows take this class through their senior year, developing skills to increase their GPA, study for the SATs, apply to colleges, and develop skills and mindsets to support their success after high school. The program continues through their first year of college, where they receive remote coaching from their Program Director who supported them during high school.

Through this model, OneGoal helps about 25 Fellows in each class, and the results are staggering; the average Fellow at the beginning of the program has a 2.7 GPA and an 840 on the SAT. 

Fellows who have completed the program, 81% enroll in postsecondary education, and 86% of those who enroll persist one year later.

But what always struck OneGoal leadership—and Liz– was an urge to make OneGoal available to more students. What if breaking the inequity barrier to accessing college meant giving all students access to the type of supports that OneGoal offers?

That’s why Chicago Beyond invested in a partnership with OneGoal in 2016: to impact more students. Since our partnership began, OneGoal has innovated on its traditional model and piloted a Full Release model, which “releases” Program Directors at participating high schools to teach a full day of OneGoal classes.

Innovation requires imagination—so in our partnership, we challenged ourselves to be imaginative. We started thinking outside the box: Imagine if a school put supports in place to give students their best shot at success. Imagine if a school cleared as many obstacles as it could from its students’ paths so they don’t need to jump through more hoops than necessary on their way to higher education. Imagine if schools had programs like OneGoal built into their curriculum, so college is within reach for every single student.

Those hypothetical thoughts led to tangible changes in OneGoal’s program. It instituted new ways for the Program Directors to support students in their third year, offered students college visits and simulated college assignments and discussions to ease their transition after graduation.

Imaginative approaches to equity are crucial to seeing quality of life improvements in not only Chicago, but beyond. How far does your imagination go? What inequities in your day-to-day life do you take for granted, and how can you creatively challenge them?

To learn more about our partnership with OneGoal, watch the video above. To learn more about OneGoal’s programming, go here.