Today is my 100th day as A Better Chicago’s CEO. I’ve spent the last three months embarking on a listening tour. I’ve connected with our dedicated staff, board, leadership council and impact council. I’ve sat down with our loyal and generous supporters, our impressive grantees and our strategic partners. I’ve heard from leaders in Chicago—from government, business and social sectors. I’ve gathered with nonprofit organizations from around the country to share best practices. The common thread is that, while we all recognize the significant progress we’ve been able to make, we also know there is much more work to be done.
1 in 4 kids in Chicago still live in poverty. And only 15 percent of Chicago ninth graders are currently on track to achieve a family-sustaining wage (an annual household income of nearly $36,000, which is 250 percent above the poverty line). That means far too many families are struggling to make ends meet, making it that much harder for all our city’s children to break the cycle of poverty and fulfill their greatest ambitions. I believe that we can change these outcomes. I believe that, together, we can ensure that every child can thrive.
As A Better Chicago enters our tenth year of investing in life-changing opportunity for Chicago’s youth, we are seizing this pivotal moment of transition to chart the path for what comes next. Moving forward, we aim to leverage the best parts of our unique model and expand our impact to ensure that all young people in our city—from early childhood to career—have access to the support they need to achieve their dreams. We want to foster collaboration and empower the many extraordinary nonprofits and leaders in our city to join forces to break the cycle of poverty for this generation and generations to come.
Our city is changing. Philanthropy is changing. And, while change can be uncomfortable at times, this moment of change gives us all a unique chance to reflect on the progress we’ve made and be courageous about the role we can play in propelling the next phase of that progress forward. There is so much we can do together when we align our goals and our resources to invest in our communities, local leaders and the bold ideas we know can transform the futures of millions of families and children.
I’m excited to lead A Better Chicago as we embark on this ambitious path forward. I have been privileged, over the course of my career, to work with community, faith, nonprofit, business and policy leaders as we’ve tackled poverty and inequity in Chicago. I know firsthand that progress takes time but, when real access to opportunity is created, we not only see the impact on our children, but on families and communities for generations to come.
I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to build a better Chicago for everyone.
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