Superheroes Have Big Shoulders

When we think about superheroes, we often picture capes, masks, and individuals who are strong beyond physical belief–those who defeat the bad guys and save the day time after time. Superheroes, to me, are more than that. They are the individuals who show up day in and day out even when the going gets tough. They lend a hand and sometimes a shoulder to those in need of a little bit of hope and guidance. I have been lucky to meet many heroes through my time at Big Shoulders Fund. Their superpowers may not be flashy but I believe they have the same, or dare I say an even bigger, impact on the fate of our City.

These heroes are principals, teachers, families, mentors, volunteers, community leaders, and students themselves who work hard to create a better tomorrow for all. The mission of Big Shoulders Fund calls loudly to many true, everyday heroes who work to summon the forces of good. Together, we form an unstoppable team that lifts schools and elevates entire communities thus, strengthening our City as a whole.

The Big Shoulders Fund 2018 year-end review highlights some of the superheroes who are helping to spread the mission of Big Shoulders Fund across the City’s limits such as:

Students like Luis and Alex who chose to spend their summer “free time” giving back. Big Shoulders Fund Beeson Scholar Luis ran a summer basketball camp for six-to-nine-year-olds from Saint Gall School. Dr. Scholl’s Scholar Alex helped lead the Boys and Girls Summer Basketball Camp at De La Salle Institute.

Big Shoulders Fund’s very own Senior Director of Academic Programs and External Affairs Rebecca Lindsay-Ryan is an Erikson Institute Barbara Bowman Leadership Fellow advocating for racial equity through early childhood policy and is part of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs Emerging Leaders program, which is helping to influence Chicago’s role as a global city.  

Principals Christine Boyd and Denise Spells lead by example. Boyd received Loyola University’s Justina Coffey Award presented at the Loyola Founders’ Award Night, which recognized her impact as principal at two Big Shoulders Fund schools, St. Mary of the Lake and St. Thomas of Canterbury. Her high expectations for all students leads them to success at some of Chicago’s top high schools and beyond. Spells received the NCEA Learn.Lead.Proclaim Award, in recognition of her work building the enrollment and academic rigor of St. Ethelreda School, which is also one of the top performers in our Covered Schools Initiative.

Holy Trinity High School rising Junior Susi is a Chicago Ideas Youth Ambassador. Susi is also a Junior Counselor at Big Shoulders Fund’s Staddle Camp in Wyoming, where she is sharing her knowledge as a former Big Shoulders Fund Staddle Camp participant to help ensure our campers this summer have the most positive experience possible.

It sometimes takes a team effort for superheroes’ dreams to take flight. At Big Shoulders Fund, we are thrilled to offer a variety of programs to students, teachers, and administrators that challenge them to take the next step into their future. 

The Big Shoulders Fund Stock Market Program exposes teams of inner-city eighth graders in our schools to the world of finance. Teaching them the basic skills of investing, managing stock portfolios, and financial career opportunities.  

The Early Elementary School Project (E2SP) opens the minds of students to the world of science through innovative teaching and focused field trips made possible by Rita and John Canning and in collaboration with The Field Museum, the Chicago Academy of Sciences / Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and 10 schools within the Big Shoulders Fund network. E2SP is supported in Big Shoulders Fund schools by a grant from PNC.  The Big Shoulders Fund All Are Welcome Program encourages students to embrace and use their superpowers to achieve their full potential. The Program provides critical services such as occupational and physical therapy to students at 22 Big Shoulders Fund schools and is made possible through founding and continuing support from Bill and Kathleen Lynch, with thanks also to P. Jay and Jenny Fortner.

The Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which was not repealed or amended in the recent state budget negotiations, is creating colossal opportunities for families while shrinking donors’ taxes. More than 1,200 students received crucial support through this program last year and, this year, we are hoping to create a greater impact. This new Program along with our traditional scholarship programs are helping more students prepare for lifelong success by receiving a quality education.

These are just some of the superheroes Big Shoulders Fund is lucky to have on its side. Click here to read our full annual report for more. As you can see, there are superheroes all around us. They don’t wear capes or masks. They come in all shapes and sizes and their deeds are both big and small, but their impact…their impact is BIG. I am lucky to share in this mission with these individuals and am excited to continue to use our superpowers #paralosniños. 

Written by: Big Shoulders Fund President and CEO Josh Hale