Big Shoulders Fund: supporting education since 1986

Have you ever heard people saying that crime does not pay or that if you want to be somebody in life you should study hard and work hard? Have you heard anybody saying that if you study and work hard life will eventually give you good things and will make it easier for you to be successful? Well, all those things are totally true. Studying gives people the understanding on how to deal with life and it is the best way to achieve happiness. Knowledge is power and if you used properly you can change the world.

For this post Yosef Meystel took the time to learn about a charity that does exactly that: they reward good grades and hardworking students with scholarships and aids so they can continue studying and pursuing their goals in life through education.

Big Shoulder Fund: supporting education since 1986

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Their name is Big Shoulders Fund and they have been benefiting the hardest working students for more than 30 years now by giving them scholarships, special academic programs, equipment, and access to school and academic facilities, support, special aids and grants and many things related to the academic world.

It was the year 1986 in the city of Chicago and there was a lack of support for schools that were working in areas that really needed help. There were many initiatives on how to help the poor or the hungry, or shelters to house people that were sleeping on the streets. But there weren’t any initiatives towards education and support for schools and students that wanted to pursue the academic path. Getting the inspiration from Joseph Cardinal Bernardin a group of business people and many leaders got together to build what is known as the Big Shoulders Fund. Their idea was simple. To help all and give support in any way possible to as much Catholic schools as possible in the areas of inner-city Chicago, areas that needed the most support and help to overcome many obstacles that were affecting their communities.

The idea was to give the following aids to outstanding students in the most affected areas:

  • Access to a quality and values-based education.
  • Investing as much money possible every year in scholarship support and academic enrichment
  • Operational improvements for schools where they would help build or offer financial aids to schools that lacked proper facilities.
  • Leadership development programs for students that show leadership skills.  
  • Academic programs and professional development for teachers that want to grow academically and are committed to students and their educational needs.

From the beginning, Big Shoulders Fund has worked with donations and has been able to reach more than 21,000 students in 64 elementary schools and 13 high schools. They always wanted to help schools on the basis that every time a school closes the area around the school experiences an increase in violence and its social cohesion is affected greatly.

Big Shoulders Fund has more than 80 schools that are part of their network. In each school, they offer the best education possible to students from many ethnic, economic, and religious backgrounds (80% of their students are minorities, 30% are not Catholic and 61% of their elementary students live in poverty).

And the results are evident because students at Big Shoulders Fund schools are outstanding in their academic outcomes. Students at their schools or at the schools where they have programs perform better than their peers around the country in math and in reading in seventh grade; the graduation rate at their schools is above 94%  which differs greatly from other schools in other cities in the country; the students that graduate from their schools continue to pursue college education in numbers that are higher than their  local and national peers with  88% of their students applying for college right after they graduate. What is more, their minority students and their African American students that graduated from college beat the national average at a rate more than twice the average for African-American students and three times the average for Hispanic students.

Big Shoulder Fund: supporting education since 1986

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At the moment Big Shoulders Fund has 88 schools located in areas where education has been long forgotten and where crime and poverty have replaced it. They also have presence in schools that are part of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Schools have to meet certain criteria to be part of the Big Shoulder Fund´s programs: they have to be located in the City of Chicago, they have to have a title I eligibility and participation and 20% or more of the school´s must be receiving free or reduced lunch.

Sometimes we don’t understand what an opportunity can do for people and that is what Big Shoulder Fund is doing with students in their schools: they are giving committed students the opportunity to grow academically and personally to become better persons.

Be sure to also read this post on how to start a non-profit in Illinois.