New $1 Million Commitment from Citadel CEO Ken Griffin and COO Gerald Beeson Expands Access to Free High-Speed Internet for Thousands of Catholic School Students
(CHICAGO) November 17, 2020 – Big Shoulders Fund, an independent charitable organization that serves more than 70 under-resourced Catholic schools in Chicago, today announced a contribution from Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin and COO Gerald Beeson to fund participation in ‘Chicago Connected.’ Launched earlier this year by public, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, ‘Chicago Connected’ is one of the largest and longest-term efforts in the nation focused on providing free, high-speed internet service to qualifying students in their households.
With today’s announcement, nearly 3,000 additional K-12 students are eligible to participate in the program developed to dramatically increase internet access for students in need. The four-year broadband access initiative aims to address the digital equity gap and help build a permanent public support system for families in Chicago.
Ken Griffin, the lead convener and funder of ‘Chicago Connected,’ and Gerald Beeson, a board and executive committee member of Big Shoulders Fund, came together to provide the $1 million in funding required to extend the reach of the ‘Chicago Connected’ program. As a result of their commitment, qualifying families will receive access to high-speed internet at home enabling students to access online learning, submit college applications, build career skills, apply for jobs and stay up-to-date on current events.
“For more than three decades, Big Shoulders Fund has worked to ensure inner city students have access to quality education regardless of economic circumstance – and in today’s world, access to internet is integral to student success,” said Mr. Beeson. “Expanding the ‘Chicago Connected’ program will open opportunities for these students far beyond their studies.”
Josh Hale, President and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund, added, “While the digital divide has persisted for some time, the pandemic has brought it into sharp focus. We know that internet access improves the educational and economic outcomes for our students and I’m grateful that more of them will have the tools they need to succeed during the pandemic and beyond.”
The work of the Big Shoulders Fund to provide high-quality education to students has never been more important. Amid the pandemic, Big Shoulders Fund increased its efforts to support its nearly 20,000 students – nearly 80 percent of whom are Black and Latinx and 70 percent of whom are low-income – to ensure these students continue to have access to a high-quality academic experience. Its participation in the ‘Chicago Connected’ initiative represents the next step in providing students of all backgrounds equal access to high-quality education, regardless of socioeconomic circumstance.
According to a report released by education advocacy organization Kids First Chicago, an estimated 110,000 Chicago children under the age of 18 lack access to broadband. An estimated 3,000 of those students are served by Big Shoulders Fund.
Those students will now have access to this program, which will provide high-speed internet for households by directly paying for internet service for families that are most in need. The schools served by Big Shoulders Fund will use priority indicators including free and reduced lunch eligibility to identify qualifying students.
About Chicago Connected
Launched in June 2020 by Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, along with Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin and a variety of public, nonprofit and philanthropic leaders, Chicago Connected is a groundbreaking program that will provide free high-speed internet service to approximately 100,000 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students. This first-of-its-kind program will be one of the largest and longest-term efforts by any city to provide free, high-speed internet over the course of four years to increase internet access for students. For more information, visit www.cps.edu/strategic-initiatives/chicago-connected.