Dominique Jordan Turner
Equipping under-resourced youth to get to and through college, find meaningful careers, and become the next generation of Chicago leaders
The United States is becoming increasingly diverse—however, these changing demographics are not reflected in positions of power, resulting in a gulf between those who hold leadership roles and the people they lead. Education serves as a key pipeline for leadership, but not all populations can fully access educational opportunities. Just 8% of under-resourced youth across the US currently graduate from college. In Chicago, only 18% of public school freshmen—and only 6% of African-American males—ultimately graduate from college by age 25. Without college degrees, these students are often cut off from upwardly mobile careers or positions of leadership in their communities.
Chicago Scholars works to change these realities through a seven-year education and mentorship program that serves the most under-resourced students in the city of Chicago. 86% of Chicago Scholars graduate from college within six years, becoming the first in their families to obtain college degrees and breaking generational cycles of poverty. Through leadership development, mentoring, college matching, and access to resources, the Scholars program empowers participants to attend college, supports them in successfully obtaining degrees, and connects them to career opportunities back home in Chicago. Universities around the country see the program’s participants as appealing members of their incoming student classes, and companies look to the program’s college graduates to find diverse talent. By working in collaboration with the entire community, Chicago Scholars is starting to change the narrative of what’s possible for young Chicago residents—and demonstrating the power of developing a new generation of local talent and leadership.
My civic hero:
Tosha Downey, of the Memphis Education Fund. She uses her voice to lift up other leaders and create change in her hometown community.