Chicago Beyond, an impact investor that works to ensure all young people have the opportunity to live a free and full life, today announced its partnership with TasselTurn. TasselTurn is an edtech nonprofit providing foster-involved and housing insecure youth with tailored plans, developed in consultation with high school and undergraduate school programs, to graduate from high school and attend college. Their virtual platform aims to fill in gaps for foster-involved youth, with a particular focus on long-term planning, cognitive and non-cognitive skills-building, and social-emotional support – areas not typically addressed through standard foster case management.

In 2018, one-third of all children entering foster care were young people of color, with 23 percent identifying as Black – almost twice the percentage of Black children in the total US population, according to data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Today, there are nearly 440,000 children in the foster care system nationwide, a disproportionate number of whom are children of color.

“There is a gap between the aspirations of young people and the support that is accessible to them. Today’s foster-care system is overburdened and falls short of sufficiently preparing our young people to thrive in college, career, and life,” said Liz Dozier, Founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond. “It is important to invest in ways that support our young people and fills those gaps.”  

This is the first investment Chicago Beyond has made in nonprofit-tech. Within tech spaces, accessing support from funders has been historically difficult. According to Crunchbase data, about 1.3 percent of U.S. venture capital dollars went to Black-founded businesses in 2021. Chicago Beyond’s investment in TasselTurn signals the importance of investing in organizations with deep proximity to human experiences and in products that are designed by, for, and with the communities most impacted by them.

Highlights of the partnership include:

  • $400K in unrestricted financial support for staffing, coaches and tutor stipends, and data certification; and

  • Strategic thought partnership in model iteration and impact assessment.

“Historically, interventions to support foster-involved youth have been delivered through traditional practices: residential programming and care packages to aid infrequent home placements. While no intervention is too small, it is time for innovation and intentionality in the foster care system.” said Shanté Elliott, Founder and CEO of TasselTurn. “Education remains the greatest weapon to avoid social ills like poverty, homelessness, and incarceration in America, which is why our focus on education attainment is intentional. This investment from Chicago Beyond affirms the need for our work to be delivered at scale. We look forward to providing youth experiencing housing insecurity and foster care an opportunity to create a better life for themselves and their families.”

Elliott, whose story intersects with foster care, was inspired on her journey to healing and launched TasselTurn to support other youth in care to realize their potential. TasselTurn started as an in-person educational support program for foster-involved youth in grades 9-12 at Curie High School on Chicago’s Southside. But, TasselTurn learned that due to the instability of the foster care system, young people’s housing and school locations could change, requiring them to leave the network of support. To address these issues, TasselTurn changed its approach so students could access the program and connect with a trusted adult wherever students were by launching an online version of their platform.

Since its founding, TasselTurn has expanded from meeting with 10 young people weekly in a school cafeteria to having 27 students in their first online cohort to supporting 245 users enrolled over the past two years. Today, TasselTurn works with youth in three states – Illinois, North Carolina, and Michigan. 163 students are located in Illinois.

TasselTurn works by building the ecosystems of support each young person needs.  Here’s how educational institutions, policymakers, foster care parents and funders can help:

  • High school counselors: Help connect foster-involved young people and their families with TasselTurn;

  • College admissions counselors: Connect with housing insecure and foster-involved youth who have college aspirations, early in the journey;

  • Elected officials and policymakers: Recognize the potential in foster-involved youth and make it easier for caseworkers to sign young people up;

  • Foster care parents: Get support, tools and answers to your most pressing questions through the new TasselTurn parent portal; and

  • Individuals and Institutional Funders: Invest in TasselTurn.

“We are proud to help Shanté grow a strong and sustainable team behind her vision and ultimately provide consistent support for all foster-involved and housing insecure youth to achieve their college and life aspirations,” said Dozier. “We look forward to making more partnerships like this in the future so that all young people have the tools to learn, grow, and thrive not only at the community level but across all systems.” 

To learn more about TasselTurn and to support housing insecure and foster-involved youth achieve their aspirations, click here.


About TasselTurn

TasselTurn is an edtech nonprofit working to provide foster-involved and housing insecure youth with tailored plans for a collective bright future. We create personalized and accessible post-secondary educational opportunities powered by 1:1 coaching and technology to ensure that the hand foster-involved youths are dealt with as children do not decide the future they get to create as adults.