Author: chicagobeyond

Celebrating 5 Years



Happy Birthday, Chicago Beyond.   

Five years ago, I stood in a room with funders, researchers, and city leaders to introduce and launch Chicago Beyond into the world. One word silently clung to my every breath. Freedom. It was my North Star. I wanted to use this opportunity to fight for the freedom my father never had and to make sure every person had the opportunity to heal, prosper, and reach their full potential. As the former principal of Fenger High School, it was what I lived and breathed. In that room, I shared my vision for what Chicago Beyond would stand for, and how it would contribute to our collective liberation, a return to humanness — an opportunity to make our systems work for Chicago’s young people, and ultimately beyond.

In our early days, I remember entering meetings and rooms with some of our city’s and country’s largest funders. Our conversations were steeped in theory and far removed from people’s lived experiences and the issues they were facing. They were far removed from the lived experiences of my former students. Somehow, we had lost the humanness of this work within our dialogue.

When I took a step back early on to assess the progress Chicago Beyond was making against our aspirations, it was not hard to see that we, too, had fallen way short. Not only were we not making as much progress as I knew was possible, we were potentially creating more harm and widening inequities. Some examples included:   

  • Reinforcing particular narratives by using deficit language about our young people
  • Leaning into the “thunderdome” mentality of whoever tells us the best, worst story wins the money  
  • Participating in the power dynamics between funders, researchers, and community organizations, rather than disrupting them  

In order to have the type of impact I knew possible, we had to orient ourselves differently. It was then that we decided to take a human and holistic approach to investing, similar to how my school team and I invested in our students at Fenger High School: through trust. We put trust and empathy first, not a title or dollar amount.    

As a result, we started to shift what we invested in, and began to see a more significant impact on people and communities. From education to the safety of young people to community development and more, we take a holistic approach to investing — because there is no single barrier to equity.    

Our investments have ranged from early-stage ideas such as a Safe House for young people, and supports for young Black fathers through The Dovetail Project, to developing the first-of-its-kind blueprint for holistic trauma supports for over 350,000 students in Chicago Public Schools.    

In 2019, Chicago Beyond shared our learnings in Why Am I Always Being Researched?, a guidebook designed for funders, researchers, and community organizations to move from harmful power dynamics to more authentic truth. It has been used in all 50 states and more than 90 countries. It has informed the guiding principles at one of the largest funders globally, national and Chicago-based nonprofits, state government early childhood agencies, national research institutes, and youth development groups from South Africa to Northern Uganda, and beyond. 

Today, Chicago Beyond’s North Star, “Our Why,” remains the same: Chicago’s young people and their freedom. Our dedication to investing in Black and Brown people and communities has never wavered. It is critical, though, that we remain vigilant still to challenging ourselves on several fronts:

  • How we do the work: We are committed to shifting our orientation to the work. Being conscious and connected leads to us showing up with, and not for our partners, and the young people they serve. Read Whole Philanthropy, also known as “our approach,” here.
    • What we invest in: We are committed to supporting hyperlocal community-based initiatives as well as those that drive at systemic change. There are a few specific areas that we want to do better on. Specifically:
      • Support of Black-led organizations: To accelerate and sustain the efforts of community-driven solutions and innovationswe must make transformative investments in communities. These investments cannot be small grants. They must signal belief in the power of the people on the ground. Not only that, we must support our partners with the tools and resources they need to be successful, including time for themselves to rest and recharge.
      • Support of Holistic Healing: Holistic healing has driven Chicago Beyond’s work since our very founding. It was also core to our work at Fenger High School. Since launching Chicago Beyond, we’ve invested in organizations that center healing in young people, such as Storycatchers Theatre and Healing Hurt People-Chicago. Today the need for holistic healing is greater than ever and we are doubling down on our commitment.


      • Dismantling systems that have never served our young people well: We are committed to backing the fight against these systems and reduce the harm they have brought upon young people. This year, we launched Justice Initiativeswhich is our commitment to fighting for justice reform in Chicago and beyond.

As we celebrate our 5th anniversary, we also look forward to what we can accomplish in the next five years. We are committed to investing further in creating more space for all people to be free and reach their fullest potential.   

This is just the start, there is so much more to come. I didn’t start Chicago Beyond with an idea of radically reconceptualizing philanthropy, but instead stumbled upon the need for it based on our own missteps. As we continue on this journey, we know that as much as we strive to be doing differently, there will be more missteps and opportunities to learn from others. It’s an ongoing process to free ourselves from “how it’s always been done,” and, there is no arrival. While we remain steadfast to our North Star, we hope that you will remain with us: hold us accountable, challenge us, and walk with us in the fight.     

Here’s to the next five years, and beyond.  

Liz Signature Small@300x

Liz Dozier
Founder & CEO
Chicago Beyond

As a psychologist and a jail warden, my duty was to bring humanity to an inhumane system – USA Today op-ed

This op-ed by Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, Chicago Beyond’s Managing Director of Justice Initiatives, was published online on May 6, 2021 in USA Today.

When it comes to the American criminal justice system, much of the story has already been written for people trying to cope with mental illness, addiction and trauma. Approximately 40% of people who are incarcerated have a history of mental illness, two-thirds have an active substance use disorder and nearly all have a history of trauma.

Help for those conditions over-incarceration is especially hard to attain for Black and brown people. This story has been a big part of my life.

I was 8 when more than a dozen police officers pounded on every corner of my family’s North Carolina home, then burst inside and arrested my father for minor marijuana-related crimes.

During my freshman year in college, a psychology textbook instructed me that young Black people with risk factors like mine were “doomed.”

To read the full article click here.

Harm Reduction at the Center of Incarceration

In collaboration with The Square One Projecet, Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia published her executive session paper, “Harm Reduction at the Center of Incarceration” that acknowledges, “the American correctional system is not a system of accountability that rehabilitates
people as it purports to do.” In her report, she proposes solutions that’s she’s created alongside Chicago Beyond called the STAAC framework to guide necessary shifts in correctional system policy, procedure, and training to support the health of the people confined in the facility and their families, correctional staff and their families, and the broader community.

"Jails are often monuments to trauma, and their transformation into institutions of healing may indeed leave us with no more jails at all."

WVON 1690AM – Chicago Beyond raising awareness for Child Tax Credit

Perri Small interviews Liz Dozier and Pastor Chris Harris on WVON

Our Founder & CEO, Liz Dozier and Pastor Chris Harris spoke with Perri Small about Chicago Beyonds effort to raise awareness of the latest Child Tax Credit being offered by the federal government.

To learn more about the Child Tax Credit please click here.

“Through this tax credit, we have the opportunity to cut child poverty in half if everyone that is eligible files for it."

Child Tax Credit 2021

The new federal relief package, called the American Rescue Plan, includes funding to give parents monthly payments and has the potential to bring hundreds of millions of dollars to families and communities. Many people are not aware of the large cash benefit or the importance of filing 2021 taxes by May 17 – even if you do not have an income.

Under the new federal stimulus plan if you have children, you could be entitled up to $3,600 per child, depending on their age. To claim these dollars, file your taxes for free by May 17th at By claiming these dollars and keeping them with our families, we can support businesses within our own community.

How to qualify:

• Your income must be below $112,500 if you are filing as a head of household

• Your income must be below $150,000 if you are joint filers

• You must have provided at least half of the child’s support during last year

• Your child must have lived with you for at least half the year (6 months or more)

• Most importantly – you must file your taxes before May 17th!

• As long as a 2020 tax return has been filed and processed, no additional action is required. The IRS will use the information from that return to calculate and forward payments. It is important to include all of your dependents to get the money that is yours. Learn more here on the official website of the IRS.

What payments to expect:

• $3,600 total for each child under 6 years old, $3,000 total for each child under 18 years old

• The Federal Government will pay out these sums in monthly cash payments starting in July 2021

• List all of your children! Children aged 18 – 24 may also qualify for $500 if they are still claimed as dependents

How to claim:

• Use trusted sources to avoid scams. works with IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers who will help you prepare your taxes for free

• If you have no income, you can still get this cash for your family. Simply file your taxes by May 17th

• If you have not received a stimulus check, you can still file your taxes to claim this cash. Simply file your taxes by May 17th

Chicago Uses Federal Funds for School Mental Health – Legal Reader

This article ran online in March 26, 2021 on Legal Reader by Sara E. Teller.

Mental health professionals at North-Grand High School in Chicago, including school counselors, case managers, and a social worker, have been tasked with creating a behavioral health team to support students struggling with low attendance, poor adherence to discipline, and out of school issues.  The effort is part of a larger one that the city of Chicago has taken on with a a goal to start similar teams in every school within the next couple of years with the help of federal funds.  It is part of a district-wide initiative to train staff in trauma-informed approaches.

The $24 million mental health plan offers a sneak peek at Chicago’s plans to spend a portion of the $1.8 billion in federal stimulus funds over the next three years to expand behavioral support services currently available in 200 of its schools.  It seeks to expand to 500, asking for support from community partnerships through grants.  There is an identified need for “culturally relevant and trauma-supported approaches to helping Chicago students,” the announcement indicated.

Training support workers and educators already familiar with the school system is the city’s priority at this point.  “That work has only become more urgent since the pandemic,” Chief Education Officer, LaTanya McDade, said. “We want every single school to be able to coordinate wellness support for our students.  That should come from “the individuals that are already in the building, people who students already know and trust.”

The 2019 agreement between the district and teachers’ union also included the assignment of at least one full-time nurse and one full-time social worker in each building by 2023.  COVID-19 has left Black and Latino communities with higher rates of illness and death, and students are experiencing increased anxiety and grief.  As a result, there has been decreased classroom engagement in all environments, including in-person, hybrid, and virtual schooling.

Brooks College Prep in Chicago has nearly 1,000 students and only four counselors – that’s a 1:250 counselor-student ratio.  With the federal funds, however, a discipline dean might help by reaching out to students whenever a student appears disengaged or is engaging in problematic behaviors, and can direct the student to a community partner, which McDade said she “hopes all schools can develop, to provide extra help outside the classroom.”

The program is modeled on ‘care teams’ created by Liz Dozier, founder of Chicago Beyond. “By bringing together different staff to focus on students who were struggling with family issues or attendance,” Dozier said, she “was able to create a web of supports for her students, many of whom were struggling with a range of problems, from neighborhood violence to poverty.  You could see at an individual level that things had begun to shift.  You see a child showing up to school…and just living a whole and free life.”

There has been a heightened focus, in general, on health-related services amid the coronavirus, which has caused increased stress levels, substance use, and isolation.  As Chicago Public Schools indicates, “For many students, schools are places of psychological and physical safety.  During this time of uncertainty and disruption…students may feel a sense of loss, grief, anxiety, and depression; while students who are exposed to chronic stress and trauma are especially vulnerable.”  These programs are vital to offset the pandemic’s negative impact on mental health.

Chicago Public Schools releases multi-year plan to address trauma – WGN9

This segment aired on WGN 9 on March 22, 2021 by reporter Tonya Francisco.

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools unveiled a new plan Monday aimed at addressing trauma for its students, families and staff.

The district said the “Healing-Centered Framework,” which is funded by a $24 million investment over the next three years, will ensure every school has a behavioral health team and a trusted adult in the building to support students and more.

Hundreds of teachers, staff and students gave feedback and ideas for the initiative, CPS said.

“As we move into our post-COVID recovery, we must also focus on the social, emotional, and educational recovery of our students,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Thanks to this new framework, we will be able to create the spaces and resources our students need to heal from this tortuous year and thrive. I want to thank Chicago Beyond and the Children First Fund for investing in our students and building on our ongoing work to help them rise above the challenges this pandemic has presented to their social and emotional wellbeing.”

Chicago Public Schools said they have committed to the following as part of the plan.

In 2019, CPS, led by the Office of Social Emotional Learning, the Children First Fund and Chicago Beyond came together to lay the groundwork for the initiative.

Chicago Public Schools To Invest $24 Million In Student Trauma And Mental Health Programs – Block Club Chicago

This article ran on March 22, 2021 in Block Club Chicago  by Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat Chicago.

CPS plans to spend the money across three years to expand the number of behavioral support teams from 200 schools to closer to 500 and enlist more help from community groups through grants.

HERMOSA — At North-Grand High School in Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood, a team of school counselors, case managers and a social worker make up the behavioral health team charged with supporting students with low attendance, discipline issues or trouble at home. 

In a couple of years, every Chicago school could have a team just like it. That’s the goal of a new district initiative to train school staff in trauma-informed student support practices. 

Monday’s announcement of a $24 million mental health plan offers a first look at how Chicago plans to spend some of the $1.8 billion in federal stimulus funds coming its way. Officials plan to spend the money across three years to expand the number of behavioral support teams from 200 schools to closer to 500 and enlist more help from community groups through grants.

At the center of that work is a recognized need for a culturally relevant and trauma-supported approach to helping Chicago students. What it won’t do, however, is bring in new staff, instead training support workers and educators already in school buildings. 

That work has only become more urgent since the pandemic, the district’s No. 2, LaTanya McDade, said. “We want every single school to be able to coordinate wellness support for our students,” she said. That should come from “the individuals that are already in the building, people who students already know and trust.” 

From the pressure of living in poverty to street violence and the foreclosure crisis that tore through many of Chicago’s communities, many students in Chicago Public Schools were handling a lot before the pandemic. Now, one year into the COVID-19 crisis that has left Black and Latino communities with higher rates of illness and death, students are facing anxiety, grief and even deeper economic uncertainty. Thousands of students have disengaged from school altogether

Chicago Public Schools has deployed a series of programs over the years to support its students in addressing those issues, from the 2013 creation of its Office of Social and Emotional Learning to the growth of restorative justice programs and paid summer school programs. The 2019 collective bargaining agreement between the district and teachers union also included a commitment to have one full-time nurse and social worker in each school by 2023. 

Still, what those supports look like on the ground can change school-by-school. Brooks College Prep on Chicago’s Far South Side has nearly 1,000 students and four counselors to cover both mental health and career counseling. At a ratio of 1 counselor to 250 students, the odds of students getting help appears better than at a school that shares a mental health specialist with another campus, but, students say, still not enough to get an appointment when they need one. 

Under the program, students might not have to wait to see a counselor. A discipline dean who is part of a school’s behavioral support team might notice that a student hasn’t been attending classes or is acting out, and reach out to them. They may also direct them to a community partner, which McDade said she hopes all schools can develop, to provide extra help outside the classroom. 

The program is modeled on “care teams” started by Liz Dozier, founder of Chicago Beyond, a nonprofit organization, that works with community leaders and invests in organizing projects related to young people in Chicago. Dozier previously served as principal of Fenger High School on Chicago’s South Side. A Fenger student, Derrion Albert, was killed during a fight among students in 2009, and the event — captured on a cell phone video — brought worldwide attention to the issue of youth violence.

By bringing together different staff to focus on students who were struggling with family issues or attendance, Dozier said she was able to create a web of supports for her students, many of whom were struggling with a range of problems, from neighborhood violence to poverty. “You could see at an individual level that things had begun to shift,” said Dozier. “You see a child showing up to school… and just living a whole and free life.” 

Chicago has not yet laid out specific plans for spending its additional federal stimulus funds. District leaders have said they will soon roll out an “unfinished learning” plan that will include efforts to re-engage students who have spotty attendance or who have fallen out of communication entirely with schools.

CPS Announces $24M Plan to Address Student Trauma, Mental Health – WTTW

This article was published on WTTW on March 22, 2021 by reporter Matt Masterson.

Chicago Public Schools officials have announced a new $24 million plan to expand behavioral health services and address student trauma. The three-year initiative will be funded, in part, by the $1.8 billion CPS received in federal stimulus dollars.

The school district on Monday released a new “Healing-Centered Framework,” which it said is a first-of-its-kind effort that aims to expand behavioral health teams to every CPS school and offer trainings to existing staffers on how to address students’ trauma, anger and depression.

“I feel like our district is ready and prepared to support our students, and I just want to thank all of you for being partners in this work to help us achieve all of our goals,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said during a livestreamed announcement Monday morning. “Our goal is to be a healthy and safe district for all of our students, where they feel strong and they feel able to meet all of their full potential.”

CPS said it has already spent $1 million to expand existing trainings on a trauma-engaged curriculum. But the district is now committing to spend $8 million per year over the next three years with that money coming from grants, philanthropic donations and federal COVID-19 stimulus relief.

Beyond the additional support teams, those funds will also be used to add social-emotional learning or mental health supports through community partnerships; provide professional development opportunities for staff; and compile resources and supports for staff wellness.

The district said Monday’s announcement came as part of a partnership with the Children First Fund and Chicago Beyond, which invests in community organizations and research opportunities.

“As a former CPS principal, I’ve witnessed how traumatic experiences can disrupt a young person’s academic performance, personal relationships, and future opportunities in life,” Chicago Beyond Founder and CEO Liz Dozier said in a statement. “I’ve also seen how investing in healing can yield incredible results. Yes, increases in academic performance and attendance, but healing also allows kids to be kids and to feel empowered to show up in ways that are true and authentic to themselves. It’s been our privilege to help CPS articulate this bold vision for healing so that all CPS students can reach their full potential.”