Chicago Beyond Increases Opportunities for Youth Programs

lizdozierpicWhen you feed a child’s mind, you feed their curiosity for limitless opportunities. Former principal and educator Liz Dozier understands this clearly as she’s tackled the challenges of the Chicago Public School system and helped high school students meet their academic goals.

As the principal of Fenger High School, she was depicted on CNN’s eight-part series “Chicagoland” as the tough but caring principal guiding her faculty and students to an 85 percent decrease in the dropout rate  and a 45 percent increase of freshman on track to graduate.

Her tenure at Fenger since 2009 was also featured her in Paul Tough’s New York Times Best Selling book, “How Children Succeed.”

Dozier has now taken on a new chapter in her professional career after resigning her post as principal and joining Chicago Beyond as the managing director.

She’s instrumental in delivering and creating opportunities that help young people access what they deserve in school, career and life.

“I’m just excited. I spent these last five months really building it,” Dozier says. “It’s designed to amplify the impact of other organizations because we don’t need to re-invent the wheel. There’s already people in our communities doing really good work, so why not support those organizations?

“What I found in my experience as a principal is if you don’t have research behind you in this day and age, it’s hard for organizations to get further funding.”

The new, privately held organization will focus on two kinds of investment initiatives – the GO Innovate challenge and GO Together investments.

Chicago Beyond is seeking new ideas from existing non-profit organizations and programs that serve a greater number of youth. They will invest and test these new ideas and over time, aim to leverage the findings to further engage public and philanthropic funding to enrich Chicago’s youth.

The organizations selected will be awarded up to $2 million for their winning program proposal.

“I would encourage people to go the website: chicagobeyond.org where we have information on our first Innovation Challenge,” said Dozier. “There are two challenges that we’re looking at right now.

“The first one is on the college matriculation piece – not just getting kids graduated from high school, but how do you get them through college, what supports do they need.”

She says the second component of the challenge is targeting 16-20-year-olds that are not working and haven’t graduated from high school.

Chicago Beyond wants to develop a support system that not only provide jobs, but helps them with skill development that will eliminate roadblocks such as lack of childcare, lack of transportation and other holistic support.

As a former educational administrator, Dozier has worked with many students from all walks of life and feels it’s just as important to focus on the teenage demographic that often gets overlooked in favor of younger grade school students.

“We’re specifically geared towards the teenagers. I’ve seen firsthand as a principal that teenagers are in need as well,” Dozier explains.

“There are two points in a child’s trajectory when their brain is forming. There’s the three to five-year-old that everyone talks about and finds cute, but the second point is the 14-16-year-olds. The possibilities are endless and their brains are still developing. I think it’s critical that we focus on them as well.”

Currently, Chicago Beyond’s four initial GO Together partners are After School Matters, OneGoal, Youth Advocate Programs and SAGA Innovations. The goal is to encourage non-profit organizations that serve hundreds of Chicago area youth to apply by April 29.

Dozier wants to avoid having too many stringent guidelines, but the main requirement is to be an established 5013c organization with three years or more of service. She is taking time to spread the word through various platforms to collaborate with a diverse mix of groups across the city.

“You have to have the capacity to serve hundreds of kids, at least two hundred or more,” Dozier says. “That’s because we can actually learn from what folks are doing. We really want to get ideas from not only programs in Chicago but beyond as well.”

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