Author: chicagobeyond

Op-Ed: Jail detainees need more consideration during coronavirus crisis

Photo by Isaac Joel Torres

This opinion piece was written by Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia and appeared in the Chicago Tribune on March 20, 2020. 

Our Illinois state and local officials have been leading the nation in their response to COVID-19 by decisively shutting down restaurants, theaters and everywhere else people congregate and spread this new contagion. Yet, there is deafening silence when it comes to one of the vulnerable venues for transmission – our jails and prisons.

According to the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff’s website, as of March 18, 2020 there were 5,593 men and women held within Cook County Jail, most of whom have not been found guilty of a crime. Yet they are in jail and at risk for coronavirus; for many, this is simply because they can’t afford bail. The mayors, county officials and governors who are leading the charge on public health must also address what’s happening in our correctional systems, where social distancing is not an option.

The risks are enormous. Preventive measures such as frequent handwashing with soap and use of hand sanitizer are difficult practices to implement given the high number of people in custody. Personal protective equipment is limited among the general population and   correctional facilities are no exception.

Many incarcerated people have chronic medical conditions, increasing their vulnerability. Any rapid spread of the virus within an institution poses a significant threat to communities as law enforcement and first responders return home to their families. And just as we have extended our compassion to families unable to visit older relatives, we should do the same for children with incarcerated parents. 

It is within the power and expertise of the Judiciary to expeditiously review the cases of all pre-trial detainees being held within jails on bonds they cannot afford to pay and determine if they can safely be released, as was done in Travis County, TX and being planned in Clark County, NV.

With this in mind, it is unclear why we can’t provide similar efforts to preserve the public welfare in this time of crisis. Further, it is in the best interest of the public to review the cases of men and women housed in the Illinois Department of Corrections to identify all who are eligible for early release. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with other County agencies, has already begun a similar process by releasing individuals housed within the jail who are eligible for release due to their extensive medical needs and low-level threat to community safety.

For the men and women who will continue to live and work in these facilities, personal protective equipment must be made available in critical areas. Soap, hand sanitizer and CDC-approved cleaning agents must also be made readily available throughout the institutions.

Officials at the state and local levels have demonstrated that they are thoughtful leaders who care about the people they serve, responding to the voices of millions. Let us not forget about the voices that are muffled by concrete walls. 

Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, a clinical psychologist, is the former warden of the Cook County Jail and the current Leader in Residence at Chicago Beyond.

Upcoming Events

POSTPONED: Breathe, Brunch, & Beyond - A Women's History Month Yoga Experience

*UPDATE, MARCH 11, 2020*

Due to the ongoing and evolving situation with COVID-19 and in line with the CDC’s prevention guidelines, we have decided to postpone our March 28th event. The safety of our attendees and your families is of the utmost importance to us!  We are grateful for your interest in our events, and we can’t wait to connect soon. Check back for updates. 

POSTPONED: Tech on the Block - Workforce Edition

*UPDATE, MARCH 11, 2020*

Due to the ongoing and evolving situation with COVID-19 and in line with the CDC’s prevention guidelines, we have decided to postpone our April 1st event. The safety of our attendees and your families is of the utmost importance to us! As we explore creative options for virtual convenings, we will keep you posted with updates. We are grateful for your interest in being a part of the conversation, and we can’t wait to connect soon.

In the meantime, please check out our recap from our previous Tech on the Block event geared towards inequities in education technology.  

Leveraging Tech for Social Justice: Workforce Edition

April 1, 2020
5:30 – 7pm

Technology has helped society achieve things we never thought possible – cars that are self-driving, money transfers with the tap of a finger, channel flipping with the sound of your voice – and each innovation has proven valuable for many diverse populations across the globe. At the same time, how has technology fallen short or even created harm, especially for some of Chicago’s young people and communities?

Tech on the Block: The Workforce Edition will examine the implications of inequitable access to and usage of workforce technology. Too often, our young people are unable to access work opportunities due to various barriers. How do we ensure that technology is utilized to help our young people find employment opportunities and grow their networks? How do we leverage technology to widen access to workforce initiatives and provide support systems for greater job success?

Hear from entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo for diverse populations – from creating more workforce access opportunities for Chicago’s youth and communities to helping students with professional readiness through hiring and job success. 


Recap: All-Star Weekend

Beyond the Court

The energy of the NBA All-Star Game recently descended upon Chicago, and Chicago Beyond showed up and out to highlight some of the incredible work happening around our city. We were especially grateful to host Beyond the Court alongside True Chicago and Leo Burnett, which turned into a dynamic afternoon focused on the intersection of creativity and athletics.

The interactive experience included a panel of Chicago creatives and those who work in sports entertainment to speak about how the game of basketball has driven their own passion in their respective fields. Panelists included ESPN analyst Brooke Weisbrod, Designer and Artist Brandon Breaux, Actor Wood Harris, former professional basketball player and current Head of Sport Specialty at Gatorade Tommy Adams, and Juan Woodbury EVP/Creative Director at Leo Burnett.

The sports mindset was spoken about throughout the afternoon, and when asked how sports in general has impacted their creativity Brandon Breaux said that his benchmark for high level of performance has been Michael Jordan. “His will to win, showing up at practice before everybody, and leaving after everybody. For me, it was adapting those lessons of that mentality to whatever I chose to adapt it to, to get results like Jordan in whatever sandbox I play in.”

Reflecting on his own life experiences, Wood Harris added “sports helped me develop my competitive nature. It gives you all these dreams – when you watch Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James – those unforgettable moments in sports no matter who the player was. They make you shoot hire.”

When speaking about who were their individual influencers in their careers Brooke Weisbrod gave us the story of her high school coach, Chris Mack whose impact on her gave her the thought that, “being a professional you never stop, you actually don’t take any practice plays off. So if I go hard in practice, then maybe the games will slow down, and that’s was what exactly happened.”

Thank you to all our sponsors for the afternoon including Seoul Taco and Triple Crown Chicago and our beverage sponsors Vital Proteins and GT’s Kombucha. 

Watch True Chicago’s recap video below! 

NBA Equality Lounge: When Women Lead

Our Founder & CEO, Liz Dozier, took part in a panel at The Equality Lounge, @ NBA All-Star 2020 – a space for leaders — in Chicago and beyond — to share where their strength comes from, what inspires them, and why it’s important to embrace risk (and occasionally fail). 

The panel, “When Women Lead – Why Success Begins with Service,” centered around how each speaker recognizes the ambitions of those around them and pours into their strengths. The conversation emphasized that by inviting others to the table and creating opportunities for those who are underrepresented, women leaders are creating a global impact and driving the inclusion revolution. Click here to see quotes from leaders at the Equality Loung throughout All-Star Weekend.  

Moderator: ● Carmita Semaan, Founder, Surge Institute 

Speakers ● Shawna Ryan, Director of Experiential Marketing, Gatorade ● Diahann Billings-Burford, CEO, RISE ● Janet Foutty, Chair of the Board, Deloitte ● Liz Dozier, CEO, Chicago Beyond ● Diana Taurasi, Phoenix Mercury, WNBA ● Kelsey Plum, Las Vegas Aces, WNBA

Recap: Tech on the Block – Education Edition

Thank you to our moderator, Britton Picciolini, and presenters Shanté Elliott and Brian Hill!
Check out more photos below. 

Chicago Beyond’s inaugural Tech on the Block Series event included a packed house of civic technologists, social entrepreneurs, funders, nonprofit professionals, and curious Chicagoans. The Education Edition examined the implications of inequitable access to and usage of education technology.

We heard from Shanté Elliott, the Founder of Tassleturn, and Brian Hill, the Founder of Edovo – both entrepreneurs who are challenging the status quo for diverse populations – from foster-involved youth to those who are incarcerated. The evening was moderated by Britton Picciolini, Regional Manager of Google for Education.

Below are a few quotes from the evening that captured ways you might think about getting involved or building your own knowledge base. 

  • Shanté Elliott, TassleTurn: “For us, it is always an educational session, growing the narrative of foster-involved youth. We know that these kids rise to the level of expectations that adults have for them. And I think that if we begin to expect more, we will receive more in return.” 
  • Brian Hill, Edovo“If you haven’t read anything or don’t have a base level knowledge of criminal justice in America, do that, try to learn. Connect with somebody who’s incarcerated and begin a conversation, and very quickly, you will find out what you should do.” 
  • Britton Picciolini, Google for Education: “Technology has the potential to be the great equalizer. But it is just a tool at its heart, and it is people like Brian and Shanté, who wrap their arms around that technology and build something amazing with it, that really makes it sing.”

What’s next? Come back for our next conversation on leveraging technology for social justice. Please save the date for Tech on the Block: Workforce Edition on Wednesday, April 1, 2020 from 5:30 – 7:30PM. Doors open at 5:30PM, and the program starts at 6PM.

Seth Green, Founding Director of the Baumhart Center at Loyola University Chicago will moderate the panel. Speakers include David Douglas, CEO of Yolobe, a LinkedIn for Chicago’s youth; and Amir Badr, CEO of Upkey, the world’s only student incubator. 

2019: A Look Back

A Year of Backing the Fight

Since day one, Chicago Beyond’s work has been rooted in backing the fight for Chicago’s youth – from investing in innovative ideas to tackling systemic injustices that affect young people nationwide. And 2019 was no different.

This year, we published Why Am I Always Being Researched? and challenged power dynamics that get in the way of true impact for young people. We invested in the mental wellness of youth experiencing parental incarceration, and young men experiencing trauma, and built a new space – Chicago’s Home for Social Innovation.

All of these examples and more would not be possible without supporters like you, who also back the fight for creating a more equitable city for all young people. Please take a glance at our past year in the video above.

Thank you for being a part of the fight for Chicago’s youth – here’s to 2020 and beyond.

We Are Here. Chicago’s Home for Social Innovation.

Chicago's Home for Social Innovation.

Chicago Beyond’s new space in the Fulton Market neighborhood was designed to serve the public in its openness to contemplation and conversation. It is a space that amplifies unlikely voices, radically reimagines individual participation in our collective liberation, and seeks to unabashedly stand for our youth. 

We hope what transpires in our space and beyond calls out injustice, calls in equity, and points the way toward a more fair and just future. A future that is embedded in the radical understanding that “I am not free until you are free.” And we all deserve to be free. 

In the bustling hub of the new development in the West Loop, our new space symbolize the idea that we are here and we all belong.

Watch the short video above to learn more about our new space!

Justice, not charity: Liz Dozier thinks philanthropy should be rooted in equity and solidarity

By Sabrina Vourvoulias 
This article ran in Generocity Philadelphia on October 29, 2019. 

Before she founded Chicago Beyond,  Liz Dozier was the principal of one of Chicago’s most violent and underperforming high schools.

Charged with turning the school around, Dozier and her team employed restorative justice, social and emotional learning and academic interventions to bring the school’s dropout rate from 19% to 2% and prompt  double-digit increases in attendance and the school’s state graduation rate.

Now, as CEO of the impact investment organization focused on youth equity she founded, Dozier is changing the way people think about philanthropy: justice, not charity, is how she sees the work of funding transformation.

Dozier will be the keynote speaker at Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia‘s Sparx Conference, taking place from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 31 at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing.

“I’ll be talking about a couple of things centered on how we can do philanthropy more equitably,” Dozier told Generocity. “I’ll be talking about our work, and our philosophy of ‘whole philanthropy,’ which is really grounded and rooted in the idea that if we really want to get to the answers and support people in communities, we have to show up in different ways.”

“We have to show up in an equitable way,” she added, “[understanding] the bias we bring to the table, the orientation we bring. We have to show up in a way that is rooted in solidarity, not rooted in compliance metrics or inauthentic things.”

Dozier gives the example of one of Chicago Beyond’s partner organizations that received a grant to serve 200 young people, but because of infrastructure limitations was only able to serve 150. “Working outside of solidarity [the funder] would penalize the organization for noncompliance,” Dozier said. “But showing up in solidarity, the thought is ‘how can we be of service?’ It sounds simplistic, but  … what undergirds all of this is humanness; we can’t lose sight that we are all on the same team, we need to be supportive of one another so that all young people have access to their full human potential regardless of zip code.”

Rethinking the power structure of traditional philanthropy and the ways that is expressed in practices is a significant part of Dozier’s work. Chicago Beyond produced a guidebook, “Why am I always being researched?“, that is premised on the idea that “if evidence matters, we must care how it gets made.”

The book unpacks the power dynamics between funders, researchers and community organizations, and according to Dozier, has been downloaded in “50 states, 75 countries, and has caught the eye of a lot of different folks.” Among those who have noticed the work are Bill and Melinda Gates, who found the principles for research of particular importance for the K-12 cohort the Gates Foundation serves. In fact, Dozier will be copresenting with the Foundation on the topic of the guidebook at an event next month.

This year’s iteration of the SPARX Conference has as its theme “Igniting the Power in Community“, and Dozier’s experience and work is particularly suited to it. Chicago Beyond recently opened a new space in the West Loop of Chicago, home to historical meat-packing and industrial factories which, according to Dozier, gave rise to Chicago’s labor movement and some of the first protests against police brutality took place in the 1800s.

“Twenty-five years ago people wouldn’t set foot in the West Loop,” Dozier said, “Then Oprah set her studio there and the neighborhood slowly began to change. Now it’s home to some of the best restaurants, Google, etc.”

In the process the neighborhood’s past was being erased, and Dozier sees Chicago Beyond’s move into the area as “literally and figuratively” holding space for community and community organizations that are heirs to the neighborhood’s reformist past. In the 10,000 square-foot-space, they’ve screened the “We are Witnesses” documentary videos on the criminal justice system, have trauma trained 100 frontline workers, and have become an active community hub.

Next year, Dozier will be releasing a book, Whole Philanthropy, based on Chicago Beyond’s  holistic philosophy of impact investing. Chicago Beyond may be the model, she said, but the story of holding space for people and ideals, its focus on equity and justice, of making investments in individuals, and organizations and  learning, is expansive.

It could be “the story across the country,” Dozier said. “Truly universal [in] how we, as philanthropists, engage.”

Chronicle of Philanthropy: A Bright Star in Chicago’s Racial Divide

“Over the last three to five years, there has been huge growth in this group,” says Unmi Song, president of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, at one of the meetings of women who run foundations in Chicago.

More Than 20 Women of Color Lead the City’s Foundations

This article ran in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on October 7, 2019. 
By Jim Rendon

Every two or three months, nearly two dozen women gather after work in one of their homes in Chicago. Over takeout and wine, they discuss one another’s challenges or questions, they offer advice and contacts, they talk about issues that are important to them.

It’s a kind of professional networking gathering, but for a unique group — 20 or so women of color who run foundations in Chicago.

“Over the last three to five years, there has been huge growth in this group,” says Unmi Song, president of the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, which has more than $189 million in assets.

Fifteen years ago, when she left her job as a program officer at the Joyce Foundation to take this position, Song didn’t think there would be so many other women of color in leadership positions in Chicago. “It’s a surprise, even to me,” she says.

Despite intensified concerns about the lack of diversity at nonprofits and foundations, Song is right to be surprised. People of color rarely rise to become leaders of philanthropic institutions. The Council on Foundations’ 2018 “Grantmaker Salary and Benefits Report” found that 90 percent of foundation CEOs are white.

Chicago has outpaced the nation in terms of people of color in leadership positions in philanthropy. Forefront, a membership group in Chicago for foundations, nonprofits, and government agencies, says that of its 18 foundation members with assets of more than $100 million, five (28 percent) are run by women of color. None of the large member foundations have men of color at the helm.

“We have a really interesting mix of places people are running, and asset sizes,” says Sharon Bush, executive director of the Grand Victoria Foundation, a $130-million organization that receives proceeds from a casino to finance charities in Illinois. “We’re not just running small places, which is typically how it works.”

For a person of color, taking up racial-equity issues presents challenges that are different than for a white person, says Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust.

Conversation Around Race and Equity

It’s unclear why trustees at Chicago foundations have promoted so many women of color into positions of leadership.

In part it may be a reaction to the city’s sharp increase in gun violence and to a number of high-profile police-brutality cases in recent years, issues that have brought the city’s historical and continuing racial inequities to the forefront. “The spike in gun violence was a wake-up call to a lot of people,” says Song.

Foundation board members have been an important part of the discussion about ways to curb racial bias in Chicago, says Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, with assets of $3.2 billion. She is a physician who worked for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 20 years, as well as at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She was CEO of CARE and of the McKinsey Social Initiative before she was recruited to the trust.

“It’s really palpable, this conversation in Chicago around race and equity,” Bush says, “and it is a hot conversation within the philanthropic sector.”

Because of such issues, foundation boards are likely to continue to focus on diversifying their ranks, says Na’ilah Suad Nasir. The scholar of race and education was on the board of the Spencer Foundation, which has assets of more than $530 million, before she was recruited as president in 2017. “There is a discourse about the need for boards to better reflect the populations the foundations serve,” she says. “That is really important.”

Another reason for the surge in leaders of color is a changing of the guard, which is coming about as baby boomers retire. Many have been deliberate in seeking successors who are not white.

Bush, for example, was a senior program officer at the Fry Foundation when she was recruited, in 2013. The director soon promoted her to managing director with the idea that Bush could move into the leadership position. “Her goal was to have a person of color replace her,” Bush says. She took over that role in 2018.

‘Try New Things’

Bush says her colleagues are making a real mark on their institutions.

Under Bush’s leadership, the Grand Victoria Foundation has begun a review of the entire organization, with a focus on what it is doing internally and through its grants do to promote racial equity. It now requires a diverse pool of applicants for job openings, and is seeking a firm owned by people of color to manage its investments. The board has been learning more about racial equity, and Bush is searching for diverse board candidates through her own networks.

The foundation is also reviewing its grant making to ensure that its grants tackle the areas of highest need.

Gayle, of the Chicago Community Trust, says her CEO peers are likely to have have a different perspectives on the world than would someone of a different gender or racial background. They may have closer connections to people living and working in neighborhoods with the greatest challenges, and they may prioritize funding in a different way.

“When you have organizations that are led by folks that have not traditionally been powerholders in their field, you get people willing to try new things, to think differently,” says Nasir, of the Spencer Foundation.

“To call it useful is an understatement,” says Liz Dozier, founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond, about conferring with other women of color who run foundations. “It helps influence the direction of the work we do.”

Safe Space for Questions

The group, which informally calls itself WOC (for women of color, pronounced “woke”) continues to grow. Four new people attended its July meeting, including one who recently started her job and another who will start in January. And it continues to be a source of support, advice, and connections for its members. They can find out whom their peers are contracting with for services, discuss challenging management issues, and have a safe space to ask questions.

They have discussed the challenges of taking up racial-equity issues, something that Gayle says can present different challenges for a person of color than a white person. They also discuss the intersection of race and gender, which carries its own challenges.

Bush says they discuss the expectations that come with being a person of color in leadership. Often these women are expected to be the ones in their organization leading discussions of race and equity, something that can pigeonhole them and leave them feeling like one-dimensional leaders, she says.

“It’s just a chance to meet with a group of colleagues over a meal and have frank and open conversation and get good advice,” says Song.

For Liz Dozier, founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond, which gave out $30 million in grants over the past three years, this group has been an important resource.

She was a high-school principal who left education to start the grant making organization. About six months ago, she was about to release a report but was unfamiliar with how to promote it.

The group spent an entire meeting working on a strategy with her. “To call it useful is an understatement,” says Dozier. “It helps influence the direction of the work we do.”

Having such a close-knit group of women of color in such positions of power makes Gayle feel optimistic about the future of philanthropy in Chicago. “It is high time that we have more diverse leadership,” she says. “I am very hopeful that Chicago can be a real beacon for how to address these issues of equity.”

Beyond Incarceration: Supporting the 37,000+ Silent Victims Impacted by Incarceration in Cook County

Our Steps to Support the 37,000 Silent Victims of Incarceration in Cook County: Children.

Chicago Beyond, The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, The Chicago Children’s Museum and The Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital Launch Program to Support Youth Whose Fathers are Incarcerated

“At the core of this initiative are the silent victims of incarceration: more than 37,000 children in Cook County alone who have been impacted by parental separation caused by incarceration in the last six months. This is the first program of its kind in the nation that applies a trauma-informed lens to promote healing from the shame and stigma associated with having an incarcerated parent and specifically focuses on fatherhood. Our hope is that with this groundbreaking pilot, we can support the children of incarcerated parents with safe visitation opportunities that are conducive to strengthening families and their relationships as the parents await trial.” 

– Chicago Beyond, The Cook County Sheriff’s Office, The Chicago Children’s Museum and The Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital

Nationally, more than five million children have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their childhood. In Cook County alone, more than 37,000 children in the past six months have experienced losing a parent to incarceration.

Black children and children from poverty-stricken families are more likely to experience parental incarceration, and the overwhelming majority of incarcerated parents are fathers. Losing a parent to incarceration can impact children’s mental health, social behavior and academic achievement, increasing their risk of future involvement with the criminal justice system. The emotional trauma that may result from parental incarceration is often exacerbated by the social stigma that youth may face. 

Research shows that the preservation of a child’s relationship with the incarcerated parent is beneficial to the child, the incarcerated parent, and society as a whole. This relationship can reduce the possibility of the child experiencing mental health issues, increase the likelihood of the successful reentry of the incarcerated parent to society and lower the odds of recidivism.

Very few programs exist to support these bonds and heal these relationships. Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart has been working to change this reality by exploring ways to improve safe visitation practices that are guided by the latest research and experts in this field.

That’s why, expanding on the work of other correctional institutions, such as Riker’s Island and Topeka Correctional Institution, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Chicago Beyond and the Chicago Children’s Museum to initiate family-friendly, child-centered visitation experiences for children whose parents are incarcerated, their incarcerated fathers and their caregivers

This initiative is the first-of-its-kind in the nation to focus on the father-child relationship, and with the support of the Center for Childhood Resilience at Lurie Children’s Hospital, apply a trauma-informed approach throughout the visit to support all participants and staff. Planning took place over the course of one year and included learnings from the Riker’s Island and Children’s Museum of Manhattan visitation program as well as the Topeka Correctional Facility and the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center program.

Additionally, extensive training, collaboration, and planning meetings occurred over the course of eight months to ensure the safety of all involved, particularly the children. On August 12, 2019 the partnership of the aforementioned organizations supported six children and their caregivers as they were allowed to reconnect with their fathers in a healthy environment and reduce the lasting impact of the trauma caused by family separation.

This program builds off of the work of Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Chicago Beyond’s inaugural Leader in Residence. Nneka is a psychologist and former warden of the Cook County Department of Corrections. Since Nneka joined the team at Chicago Beyond in 2018, she has been working to improve the mental health of young Chicagoans by developing initiatives to influence and support the development of a trauma-sensitive city for Chicago’s youth including those whose parents have been incarcerated. 

Parental incarceration is personal to Nneka, as she experienced it herself at a young age, losing her father for a number of years due to drug charges. 

“I was fortunate that both of my parents made sure I still had that bond with my dad,” Nneka told WTTW in an interview last year. “I recognize now as an adult, had it not been for the support system … that I could’ve very easily fallen prey to some of the risk factors that children with incarcerated parents often experience.”

You can read more about Nneka and Chicago Beyond’s Leadership Venture here. 

For more information, please contact 


Equity Series: OneGoal and The Privilege to Innovate

“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.