top of page

Our Story

Increasing Student Earnings and Outcomes, at Scale

The class of 2022 is poised to miss out on $1T in earnings due to a lack of resources. That
unearned capital doesn’t just impact graduates it stifles economic growth and deprives
employers of talent that they need to evolve in the digital business landscape. To connect universities and employers with well-prepared, high-achieving students from diverse backgrounds, we need to address the inefficiencies in the talent pipeline by supporting students at scale.

Chicago Scholars has supported over 6,000 high-achieving first-generation college students in nearly 30 years by offering leadership & development programming for students. We’re changing the landscape of leadership for companies by developing educated, well-adjusted, and qualified leaders from every zip code.

Chicago Scholars’ success is tangible: 95% of our scholars go to college on time, and our
graduation rate is 3x the national average. Over 50% of Scholars go on to earn more than their parents did just a few years after graduation. With a proven track record of in person support, we're now building REACH, the community platform to connect students with these resources at scale. By connecting companies with top diverse talent, we’re building a mutually beneficial ecosystem for employers, colleges, students, and communities with a revenue model validated by McKinsey and PwC.

Recognizing a Chicago-based nonprofit isn’t the right mechanism for scale, Chicago Scholars launched and mission locked Reach Pathways L3C to translate proven local impact to college career outcome at national scale.

Now What?

REACH takes a student’s strong potential and helps them blossom into a high-earning, highly productive member of the workforce. We send 95% of our students to college (compared to the Chicago average of 42%), so we know that getting into college isn’t the end of the story.

While opening a college acceptance letter is the result of years of dedication, it’s often just the beginning of a first generation college student’s journey to career success. Once on campus, they encounter new and often intimidating environments like networking events. Compared to their peers from well-resourced communities and families of multi-generational graduates, our scholars were working 5x as hard to achieve the same levels of success.

Making the most of students’ enormous potential means meeting them where they are online. REACH is defining college and career pathways, serving
content and connections for each step of students’ journey. To scale to 10 million users over the next 10 years, we’ve built our curriculum into a digital space where students WANT to hang out. Through just a closed beta release, we're already generating 100+ engagements per week from 3,000 students and mentors.

Unifying Tech and Social Justice for the Next Generation

Screen Shot 2022-10-19 at 5.15.38 PM.png

Jeff Beckham

Jeff brings the startup mentality and tech prowess to take the important mission of Chicago Scholars and scale it way up. In addition to being the founder of BlackBox Creative, Jeff serves on multiple boards and sits on the Congressional Tech Advisory Council. He's excited about the potential of using technology to help a new generation of students succeed.

MicrosoftTeams-image (33).png

Brooke McKean

Coming from a small rural community, Brooke is all-too-familiar with the plight of under resourced students. Even as a high achiever, making it to college was harder than it needed to be. She has built an impactful career in social justice: building the infrastructure for an international NGO to expand annual revenue from $8M to $25M, and spearheading strategic growth initiatives like REACH so we can help millions of students nail their college experience.

Empowering Digital Natives 

Each new graduating class shifts further from Native Analog students who read magazines and played sports in their spare time. The new Native Digital students prefer TikToks to team sports and spend their spare time watching YouTubers stream video games they need something other than an hour with an overworked guidance counselor in an understaffed
career center to succeed.

Gen-Z students are ambitious and innovative, but if you hand them some bland pamphlet and send them on their way, you might as well offer them a Delorean to go with it, so they can travel back to 1985 when that method actually worked. REACH rewards students for engaging with bite-sized career content, interacting with mentors and alumni, even accomplishing real-world tasks. The in-app journey builds their skills in a way that feels more like Fortnite and less like homework.

From the Classroom to the Boardroom

 Authenticity Matters

Supporting students is just REACH 101. The value extends to the future employers of a new generation of skilled professionals. Companies benefit from access to diverse talent just as much as diverse talent benefits from pathways toward career readiness. With over 130 college partners and 150 corporate partners (and 1,500 Chicago Scholars alumni at those companies already), REACH helps employers discover and retain qualified young professionals.

Scholar alumni are reaching back, too. After experiencing the lift from the curated program,
they go on to create workplace environments that they wish they had when they first started. The result is a ripple effect that creates more dynamic workplaces and transforms generational poverty into prosperity. As more students leverage REACH to learn and connect, the boardroom of the future becomes more diverse, culturally competent, and effective.

Scaling up with a Mission

Unfortunately, nonprofits have failed to deliver solutions for students at scale. Simply throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it, and college acceptance alone is not enough to make meaningful change for underserved communities in the long run. REACH plays the long game. We’re building multi-generational networks of qualified, inspired, connected leaders. REACH out to help us help high-achieving students as they build a better future.

bottom of page