Tag: fight

Chicago Tribune: ‘I’m going to kill someone, or someone will kill me’: How a Southwest Side bungalow became a refuge from violent street life

This article appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune on August 8, 2019.

Mustafa Hawthorne tosses a spare house key into the air. “Please don’t lose it. You need to get it on a keychain.”

Talib Garner snatches it and stuffs it into one of the socks he wears with sandals. “It won’t get lost.”

The men have an easy rapport, despite the difference in their ages. Hawthorne, born Steven Hawthorne, is 52, and Garner is 25. Both lived intensely hard lives before winding up at this red brick bungalow on a quiet Southwest Side street that serves as a unique refuge for those seeking shelter from street violence.

Their housemates include a young man from Englewood whose mentor was shot and killed and a 24-year-old man from Roseland whose former principal found him this place after his best friend was slain in 2017.

“This is a safe house,” explains Hawthorne, who manages the home. “The house is designed to give them time to breathe.”

And maybe the break they need, something Hawthorne didn’t get when he was young. At 16, Hawthorne shot and killed two men and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. He was released in 2017, after serving 33 years, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such sentences for juveniles was unconstitutional.

Hawthorne’s job at the house is to enforce curfews, generally keep the peace and offer any advice he can to people like Garner.

Garner was born and raised in Little Village. He says he saw two people shot dead outside his house when he was 4, could load a gun by the time he was 6 and was pulled into gang activity when he was around 14. He joined the Latin Kings street gang after losing his brother to gang violence.

“If I stay in the ‘hood, I’m going to kill someone,” Garner says. “Or someone will kill me.”

The men live together through a pilot program that houses young men in need of emergency lodging, a safe place to land, somewhere they can plan a future and maybe line up a job.

In other circumstances, they would have little to do with one another. But together under one roof, there is some sense of stability. Some slip back to their old lives but return after an arrest.

The house is furnished with leather couches, a dark wood dining table and a coffee table adorned with a vase of flowers. The men watch Hulu and Netflix on a large flat-screen television. They play “Call of Duty” on an Xbox console in the basement. They sometimes squabble about small messes around the house.

The young men are referred by outreach and caseworkers. They fill out an application and undergo an interview to see if they are a good fit. A bed or two is kept open for emergencies.

There is a constant waitlist.

‘You’re up next’

The idea for this safe house took hold with a chance encounter at a funeral.

Early in 2017, Jason Barrett was gunned down on the Far South Side by someone who stepped out of a silver SUV. The 24-year-old had been featured in the CNN series “Chicagoland” a few years earlier as someone who was hoping for a second chance and got help from his former principal at Fenger High School, Liz Dozier.

At Barrett’s wake, Dozier saw a young man lingering by the door of the funeral home. He was a former student and one of Barrett’s best friends. He had not yet made it inside the room where his friend’s body lay.

He was there when Barrett was killed. He knew he might be next. Dozier reconnected with him that day and they exchanged numbers.

“There were a couple of other people that had gotten killed up to Jason,” Dozier said. “You’re up next, let’s just keep this real,” she told him.

Dozier said she had helped other teenagers and young men escape the streets. Sometimes it meant helping parents send them out of town to stay with family members.

But in this case, the young man needed to get out of Roseland but had nowhere to go.

After leaving Fenger, Dozier had founded Chicago Beyond, a nonprofit that invests in organizations that “are fighting for all youth to achieve their fullest human potential,” according to its website.

Searching for housing opportunities for men like Barrett’s friend, the nonprofit teamed up with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network that works on the South and Southwest sides.

IMAN already provided housing for men reentering society after serving a prison term, but it did not supply shelter for high-risk youth. Together, the two groups bought a small bungalow on the Southwest Side. It opened two years ago.

The house is funded by Chicago CRED, an organization founded by former Education Secretary and Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan, and Chicago Beyond, which uses funding from private backers.

The groups are now working on the next phase of the pilot program: a safe home for a whole family so the men don’t have to leave children and other loved ones behind.

‘Certain things stick with you’

Rami Nashashibi, executive director of IMAN, remembers one of the first young men who lived in the home. He had barely survived a shooting on the West Side.

“For the first two to three months in the house, he was literally recovering his health,” Nashashibi said.

Earlier this year, the organization took on a young man after a man he looked up to as a mentor was killed. The young man had been a high-ranking gang member in Englewood but was a recent graduate of IMAN’s job program and was working to broker peace in the neighborhood, Nashashibi said.

The young man’s father pleaded with him to get him away from the block. “It was only a matter of time that he was drawn into the retaliatory circle,” Nashashibi said.

Now, living in the house, the man is working toward his GRE and participating in a weekend program that offers credits at City Colleges of Chicago.

One of his housemates is the man Dozier spotted at the funeral. He has lived in the house on and off since it was established. He recently returned after spending time in Cook County Jail for a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction.

On a recent evening at the house, the man tossed a basketball at a hoop as the sun sunk in the sky. He still struggles with memories of the day Barrett died.

“Certain things stick with you,” he said.

He has some goals, like learning a trade. But mostly he is thinking in the short term, like saving some money so he can live on his own. He hopes to build a life away from the streets.

“I kind of feel like I ain’t going to give up on that,” he said. He still worries about his safety and did not want to be named.

‘I was tired of watching people die’

Garner was born with the name Gregory but changed it to Talib when he converted to Islam. He is using his time at the house to plot his way forward.

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office recently dropped a felony cocaine possession charge against him, giving him a fresh start. He visits his 4-year-old son and hopes to someday have shared custody.

His life now is markedly different than three years ago when he was at his lowest. He had spent the Memorial Day weekend in jail and had sunk into a depression after years of trauma.

When he was 4, his son’s age, he saw two men get shot and killed outside of his house. The men had been at a gang meeting at his father’s house. They were friendly with him, sometimes watching television with him. He remembers his uncle grabbing him from the window and his father dragging the bodies out of his view.

“It plays in my head,” he said. “Sometimes I dream about it.”

He recalls learning how to cook crack cocaine and load a gun at 6 years old and remembers spending days only eating small caramel candies. “I had four rotted teeth after that.”

He has good memories from school. He loved social studies, especially the story of Paul Revere’s ride. He gravitates toward learning about civil rights and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.

Garner’s aunt eventually gained custody of him and moved him and a sister to Aurora. But as a teen, he would tell his aunt he was going to a party in the suburbs, and instead, drive back to the Little Village neighborhood where he was comfortable.

After his brother was shot and killed by his own gang, Garner joined the rival Latin Kings. He attended what seemed like a long string of funerals.

Then one day, it was too much. He was sitting on a swing at a Southwest Side park after being released from jail and saw a man with a kufi, a cap worn by some Muslim men. He asked where the nearest mosque was and encountered IMAN.

Eventually, he secured a spot in the house. “I was tired of watching people die,” he said.

Now, he is focused on building a better life for his son, who lives in Villa Park. He’s glad his son lives outside the city, though he wants the boy to someday know how he is privileged to be raised differently than he was.

He has rough patches, days when the old neighborhood seems to call him back, and days when pent-up anger builds. He feels he wasn’t protected as a child.

But he feels hopeful, too, finding peace in his relationship with his son. “I always wanted a family.”

Investing in Fatherhood: The Dovetail Project

“1 in 3 black men will go to prison in his lifetime. 67% of black children grow up in a single parent home. 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes.”

These statistics appear in rotation on the homepage of Chicago Beyond’s partner The Dovetail Project, and they tell the story of the cycle that plagues fatherhood nationwide; when a child, particularly a black child, grows up with an absent father, they are lacking stability in the home, a consistent male role model, and are often times at high risk of incarceration.

In 2016, Dovetail was one of three winners of Chicago Beyond’s inaugural Innovation Challenge, which sought innovative, early-stage ideas from nonprofits backing the fight for youth equity. In the past three years Chicago Beyond has watched Dovetail double its reach and impact the lives of hundreds of young fathers. Chicago Beyond invested in Dovetail for its triple bottom line: impacting young fathers economically changes the trajectory of their lives, their children’s lives, and ultimately strengthens the entire community ecosystem. 

Dovetail is an organization that gives young black fathers the skills and resources they need to fortify relationships with their children. Throughout its 12-week program, designed by founder and Executive Director Sheldon Smith, Dovetail’s curriculum teaches its participants how to be present, through felony street law education which helps them avoid incarceration and stay in their children’s lives; how to be a provider, through financial literacy and job interview preparation; and how to be a parent, through basic and individualized parenting skills. Beyond the curriculum, the fathers receive holistic support from Dovetail’s case managers. 

Each class of Dovetail participants is called a “cohort,” with each cohort made up of about 50 fathers. Dovetail recruits its participants by sending a team consisting mostly of Dovetail alumni go into communities around Chicago, clad in bright orange shirts. They strike up conversations with young men on the street, asking if they’re fathers and inviting them to Dovetail.

“They’re meeting these young men where they are. They’re bringing together men from different cliques, different blocks, but when they’re together as a cohort, they’re all Dovetail dads,” said Chicago Beyond’s Director of Growth Nichole Wilson. “They’re coming together to be there for their kids, and they’re realizing for the first time that they’re not alone.”

Sheldon’s goals for Dovetail transcend race, class and neighborhood; according to him, the problems that fathers face are universal.

“Fatherhood is not just a black issue,” he said. “It’s not a white issue, it’s not a brown issue, it’s not an orange issue. It’s a people issue. It’s a global issue. It’s a national issue. It’s an issue that we all need to pay attention to. It doesn’t matter what color you are, what background you come from, we all have those issues within our family, and family is everything.”

On June 13, the Spring 2019 Dovetail cohort graduated, which marks the fourth cohort since the Dovetail Project and Chicago Beyond partnership started

“You see this room?” said Sheldon at the graduation ceremony. “We call these young men mythbusters. [The Dovetail Project has] been in existence now for 10 years. This is our 20th graduation. We’ve graduated 476 young men. And it’s a major accomplishment. I never thought at the age of 21 when I launched the Dovetail Project that we would be here today at this moment.”

Sheldon also surprised Chicago Beyond with an award to show his appreciation for Chicago Beyond’s investment in fatherhood, and for the approximately $1 million investment made into Dovetail.

“This philanthropic organization believed in the mission and vision of [Dovetail],” he said about Chicago Beyond. “We would not be able to serve as many fathers as we serve, we wouldn’t have the three campuses across the city, we wouldn’t have been able to scale up to 18 staff across the board– none of these things would have happened without that initial investment into our infrastructure.”

In its three years of working with Dovetail, Chicago Beyond has supported four cohorts of young fathers through the program, and partnered with them on strategic initiatives. As Dovetail works to disrupt and change those rotating statistics on its website, Chicago Beyond is excited to enter a new chapter of our partnership with them and find new ways to continue working together to empower young fathers to reach their fullest potential.   

WBEZ: Chicago Beyond Creates Toolkit To Address Research Bias

This interview aired on WBEZ on June 12, 2019

Chicago Beyond has unveiled a new guidebook they say will help make research “more authentic” and equitable by breaking down the power dynamic between funders, researchers and community organizations.

Morning Shift talks to Liz Dozier, founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond, for more on how the toolkit could shape the future of urban research.

GUEST: Liz Dozier, founder and CEO of Chicago Beyond

LEARN MORE: Why Am I Always Being Researched? (Chicago Beyond guidebook)

More from the Morning Shift Podcast


Undoing The Bias Of People Studying Bias
Morning Shift Podcast

When people say there are “two Chicagos”, they’re talking about inequities: the way resources are distributed among schools, the way neighborhoods are policed, grants and other monies given to help small businesses flourish, a difference in city services. A new study documenting many of those inequities, and offering some solutions, has just arrived from the Chicago Urban League. Plus, the researchers and the money people looking to identify and erase inequity are often subject to the very biases they’re trying to eliminate. We’ll talk to one woman who’s recognized it, and is doing something about it.


Chronicle of Philanthropy: 5 Steps Nonprofits Can Take to Make Research More Equitable

This article appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on May 16, 2019 

In the report “Why Am I Always Being Researched?” published by Chicago Beyond, the authors call for an “equity-based approach to research.” Since its founding in 2016, Chicago Beyond has given more than $30 million to mostly small Chicago-area charities. 

Here are five steps, adapted from that report, to help nonprofit researchers incorporate the views and experiences of those being studied, whose firsthand experience can often lead to better solutions.

The guidance is written for researchers but also applies to big grant makers, grant recipients, and nonprofits involved in the research.

The way a nonprofit approaches a problem depends on the institution, the kinds of research it uses, and the experience of the researchers.

It’s important to reflect individually or as a group on how biases can flow into the research but it’s also helpful to get the perspective of community members to help you shape the study and come up with the research questions.

Construct timelines with room to build trust among community members, solicit their input, and test the survey.

When the research is complete, think carefully about which numbers and stories you highlight.

Changing your approach to research requires a willingness to break old habits and an openness to new perspectives. Humanizing the research process enables you to find the right fit between purpose and research design.

Here are five ways to make research more equitable.

Build trust. Spend time in the community you will study. Share what motivates your research and what you hope to accomplish. Be willing to share your data as much as possible during the study and after it is published. For many nonprofit managers, the instinct, based on previous experience, is “never give data to someone I don’t really know.”

If you skip this step in the rush to meet a deadline, your results could be flawed.

Share your agenda. Explain how the work fits into your research agenda and discuss the other types of research you conduct. Talk about your intentions for the work and your research institution’s priorities.

Share your previous experiences. Stories from past research can help illustrate how you will work with members of the community and the nonprofits that serve them.

Set goals for the research. Determine a few statements to help your organization “fill in the blanks” at the end of the work, and outline what you hope to achieve in doing so. Not all programs have immediate benefits. Establish methods for determining the benefits your study may have over the long term.

Identify the target audience. Determine whom the study is intended for and which type of data and research design serve your purpose, while placing the least burden on the organization or its participants.

This checklist is adapted from “Why Am I Always Being Researched?” published by Chicago Beyond. Download the full report.

Watch: Moving From Charity to Justice at the Collective Impact Convening

On May 16, 2019, Chicago Beyond’s Founder & CEO Liz Dozier joined the Collective Impact Convening to share a keynote on “Moving from Charity to Justice.” So often, individuals and organizations aiming to do good fall into a trap of doing charity work where the social change work is happening to a community rather than with the community. When collaborations for impact approach the work with that traditional mindset, it can uphold existing power dynamics, structural barriers, and inequities. At the convening, Liz, a former high school principal, shared “how” to shift mindsets and actions from charity to justice work in our communities and introduced “Why Am I Always Being Researched?” as a tool to help guide action. Watch below! 

Who Do You Really See?

Chicago Beyond believes in the importance of mental wellness for young Chicagoans and so much more needs to be done to ensure equitable access to supports for all of Chicago’s youth. Join us at events across Chicago to learn and discuss how trauma & mental health supports are crucial for our city and our youth. Come out and back the fight, learn, and engage with us in conversations throughout the month of May. #WhoDoYouReallySee

MAY 8 Standing Together: A Conversation About Equity Hosted by The Heartland Alliance

7:45AM – 9:45AM  – Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph Street, Claudia Cassidy Theater

Hear a panel of women leaders discuss how gender shapes people’s life opportunities and outcomes and what more we can do to bring about equity and opportunity for all. Chicago Beyond’s Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia will talk specifically about incarcerated women and the trauma that led them to incarceration and the additional trauma they experience while detained. Click here to register.

MAY 14 JPA Premiere Screening of Broken Places, A New Film About Equity

6:30PM – 8:30PM  – Davis Theater, 4614 N. Lincoln Avenue

Watch Broken Places, a film that poses questions about the complex impact of trauma on children and how it effects their lives as adults. Stay for a community discussion with Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia and Karen G. Foley, CEO of Juvenile Protection Agency, as they talk about how everyone can get involved in helping children who experience trauma, abuse and neglect so they can heal and go on to lead productive lives. Click here to register.

MAY 17 UNICEF Unite for Children Summit

10:30AM – TechNexus, 20 N. Upper Wacker Dr #1200

The summit aims to educate and empower anyone who wants to make the world a better place for our children. Join Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia in a panel discussion about how gang violence is claiming children’s lives and causing irreparable trauma in Chicago and worldwide. Find out how you can get involved with what UNICEF and its partners are doing to stop the spread of violence. Click here to register.

MAY 20 Who Do You Really See? A Conversation with Alex Kotlowitz and Liz Dozier

6:00PM – 8:00PM – You Are Beautiful HQ, 3368 N. Elston Avenue

Join Liz Dozier, Founder of Chicago Beyond in conversation with award-winning journalist Alex Kotlowitz about his latest book, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago. They will discuss the other side of a Chicago summer for youth living in some of the city’s turbulent neighborhoods, what inspired Kotlowitz to write the book, and stories of the young people he profiled throughout. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Also tour You Are Beautiful’s new space. Click here to register.

Chicago Magazine: The New Do-Gooders

Chicago Magazine: The innovators at these five upstart nonprofits are bringing out-of-the-box thinking to tough problems. And they’re getting results.

This article was featured in the November 2018 issue of Chicago Magazine. By Kim Bellware and Joel Reese. Photo by Ross Feighery.

THE PROBLEM: The do-more-with-less financial reality at many local nonprofits

THE FIX: A startup-style incubator fund

THE BACKSTORY: There’s one word that Liz Dozier wants to banish from descriptions of the nonprofit she started in 2016: charity. “What charities do is set this really unhealthy system of how you’re giving people fish,” Dozier says, alluding to the adage about teaching someone to care for themselves. Rather, she characterizes Chicago Beyond as an incubator-meets-venture-capital fund for community- and justice-focused groups that nurtures them with holistic support including professional development, guidance on strategic planning, and, most important, meaningful financial resources.

The former principal of Christian Fenger Academy High School and a star of CNN’s 2014 docuseries Chicagoland, Dozier knows the impact that deep coffers can have. At Fenger, she injected new life into one of the city’s poorly performing schools with the help of a federal grant totaling $4 million over four years. “Not that I didn’t appreciate a $500 grant,” Dozier says, “but in the grand scheme of things, that’s just a Band-Aid.”

In two years, Chicago Beyond has given $30 million raised by a small group of private donors to 13 local groups that target at-risk youth and young adults. Among them: the Dovetail Project, which provides young black fathers with life-skills training and parenting resources, and Storycatchers Theatre, a musical theater program for kids involved with the court system.

This summer, Chicago Beyond launched an 18-month fellowship for individuals whose research or projects are youth oriented and address community, justice, health, or education issues. The inaugural recipient, Nneka Tapia, the former executive director of the Cook County Department of Corrections, will focus on developing strategies for supporting the mental health needs of kids whose parents are in prison.

WHERE YOU COME IN: Volunteer your professional services (such as legal, consulting, communications) to help Chicago Beyond partners by emailing info@chicagobeyond.org.

Chicago Sun-Times: Initiative seeks to interrupt prison pipeline, help kids of incarcerated parents

“Without those supports, we start to see our young people go into these cycles, which makes what we’re doing so critical and imperative.”

This article and video appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on July 9, 2018. 

Ask those fighting intractable violence in some South and West Side Chicago neighborhoods, and they’ll tell you. With resources — education, jobs, mentoring or trauma counseling — youth can transcend any dysfunction.

It’s what activists like the Rev. Michael Pfleger, whose decades-long crusade against violence led to the weekend shut-down of the Dan Ryan, have long hammered.

Two women launching a new volley in that crusade are saying that as well.

But while naysayers might argue with solutions demanded by others, there’s no arguing with Liz Dozier, former principal of Fenger High School, and Nneka Jones Tapia, former executive director of the Cook County Department of Corrections, who have walked the path of the youth they are now targeting and climbed to professional peaks.

“Our primary focus is on children with incarcerated parents. That comes from my personal experience, as well as what I saw day in and day out at that jail,” Jones Tapia said.

The clinical psychologist was recently selected to head the inaugural “Leadership Venture” program of Dozier’s two-year-old organization, Chicago Beyond. It involves research and implementation of best practices supporting mental health of children of the incarcerated.

Statistically, some 2.7 million children nationally are separated from parents in prison, with one in nine African-American children separated from incarcerated parents, vs. one in 17 white children.

“The demand is so great,” said Jones Tapia, who as a child was separated from a father who did several prison stints for drugs.

“Those numbers are just the prison population. A lot of work is being done in prisons, but little is being done in jails. We don’t really know how many children are impacted by jail incarceration.”

Jones Tapia, who was warden at Cook County Jail until resigning in March for field work, is charged over the next 18 months with investigating the programs and capacity of organizations serving such youth, to help expand successful models and develop new ones to fill unmet need.

“It’s essentially a fellowship on steroids,” said Dozier, who left the Chicago Public Schools in 2015 to lead the organization supported by private investors, which funds organizations focused on youth education and safety, then partners with them to help them grow.

“Our Leadership Venture is an opportunity for an incredible leader to have not just monetary resources, but the full resources of Chicago Beyond behind them, to work on a problem that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention,” she said.

Chicago Beyond has invested $30 million in 12 community groups to date, partnering with the University of Chicago Urban Labs and other research organizations to measure impact, and share and expand best practices.

The Leadership Venture will now also fund the youth work of innovative individuals.

This first project is personal. Until the age of 5, Dozier too was separated from a father in prison, and drug addiction would take him out of her life again at age 13.

“My first memory of him is driving down with my mom to Joliet on weekends to see him. It wasn’t until he was released that I got to experience what it was like to have two parents in the home. Before that, I thought everybody visited a family member in prison on weekends,” she said.

“But I had my mom, my grandmother and my uncle, who provided this like wrap-around support,” added the educator who was thrust into the national spotlight in 2009 with the fatal beating of 16-year-old Derrion Albert outside Fenger, a video that went viral and brought the city and its school district international notoriety.

But it also brought a four-year federal grant that helped the new, young principal turn the school around — the drop-out rate going from 19 percent to 2 percent, and the graduation rate from 30 percent to 80 percent — in her six-year tenure.

“A lot of my students had parents who were incarcerated, but not every child had that family support. I saw firsthand the sense of loss that can be coupled with depression, sense of shame. There’s all these things that can be residuals,” she said.

“Without those supports, we start to see our young people go into these cycles, which makes what we’re doing so critical and imperative,” Dozier added.

And it’s those cycles that feed the school-to-prison pipeline, said Jones Tapia, who spent 11 1/2 years in the county corrections division. Sheriff Tom Dart drew national attention in appointing her warden in 2015, underscoring his complaint the jail had become “the largest mental hospital in the country.”

“The very people Liz was helping in their younger years, I saw matriculating into the criminal justice system,” Jones Tapia said.

“Any time we separate children from families, it’s traumatic to say the least. So building a strong support system for those youth is critically important, as is maintaining an ongoing bond with the incarcerated parent,” she said.

“While my father was incarcerated, my mother had to work two and three jobs. But I had the support of that village, and thankfully, my mom made sure we maintained that connection with my dad. With those two things, you can overcome many obstacles. So today, we’re saying to those youth, ‘You’re not alone. Many people want to see you succeed. We’re here. And we’re coming.’ ”

Crain’s Chicago Business: Chicago Beyond Awards $1.66 Million to Lawndale Christian Legal Center

This article appeared in Chicago Business on December 5, 2017. 

Chicago Beyond, the venture philanthropy fund launched by former Fenger Academy High School principal Liz Dozier, will invest $1.66 million in Lawndale Christian Legal Center, a nonprofit that provides high-quality legal defense and social services to young people facing legal charges. The investment, to be made over three years, will help the center serve more young people a year and align Chicago Beyond as a strategic partner. The center, founded in 2010, has helped 650 young people in the North Lawndale neighborhood.

The legal center is the winner of Chicago Beyond’s second Go Innovate Challenge, the winners of which receive funding and operational support from Chicago Beyond.

“Chicago Beyond recognizes the disproportionate burden of arrest and incarceration faced by youth of color and is driven by the need for more intervention and diversion opportunities in Chicago and nationwide,” Dozier, CEO of Chicago Beyond, said in today’s press release announcing the investment.

“This partnership with Chicago Beyond is a game-changer,” Cliff Nellis, founder, executive director and lead attorney of Lawndale Christian Legal Center, said in the release. “With their investment, we will not only be able to provide more youth with community-based holistic legal services, we will also be able to more deeply evaluate and expand our unique program model.”

Chicago Beyond uses nonprofit professions as well as people from the communities it serves to help select challenge winners. This year, Zach Strother, a Chicago police officer and Beverly resident, served on the 19-person committee. Strother met Dozier at Fenger, when he was a counselor for the Becoming a Man mentoring program, and accepted her invitation to serve on the selection committee.

Strother attended four or five committee meetings and read material submitted by the 200-plus nonprofits that entered the Go Innovate Challenge. Strother says his experience led the group to include in its recommendations an Englewood-based community center. “I know if you can reach a child at a young age, at 10 or 11, that’s huge,” says Strother, noting that he was speaking as a private citizen, not as a police officer. “You can change their thinking process.”

People like Strother add a measure of reality to the process, says Dozier. “If we are trying to impact young people, we have to have people from the community at the table, with a real voice,” she says. The committee also includes executives from last year’s Go Innovate winners, educators and local elected officials.

The selection committee makes recommendations, and Dozier and Chicago Beyond executives pick the winner. “I’m OK with that,” says Strother, adding that “it would be great to be part of” the voting process.

During her six years at Fenger, Dozier raised private money to support the school and improved the graduation rate to 80 percent from 30 percent. She left in June 2015 and launched Chicago Beyond in April 2016. She declines to name the private philanthropists who support the fund.

In addition to investing in nonprofit organizations, Chicago Beyond works with University of Chicago Urban Labs to study the organizations’ effectiveness.