Frame the Future with Big Shoulders

Frame the Future with Big Shoulders

This school year Big Shoulders Fund will embark upon a campaign that highlights people who have rolled up their sleeves to support our scholars and schools. Every day individuals from around the city and all walks of life frame the future of Chicago’s inner-city Catholic schools by participating in our programs and volunteering. With this support, Big Shoulders Fund invests more than $20 million annually in 77 schools, reaching nearly 20,000 students— 66 percent living in poverty and 80 percent minorities— through scholarships, academic programs, professional development, volunteer programs, and more.

What does it mean to frame the future? By believing in our students, teachers, principals and the city itself we are building the framework for success of Chicago’s future leaders. Big Shoulders supporters understand the value of a quality education, which makes access to Big Shoulders Fund schools so vital to the future of Chicago.

Follow Big Shoulders Fund starting today through December on social media and visit our website to meet the faces who are doing their part to frame a successful future for Big Shoulders Fund schools. We invite you to be inspired by their actions as agents of change and learn that anyone can make a difference; all you have to do is choose to participate.

Want to share your story on how you help frame the future of Chicago schools? Or know someone who is setting students up for success? Just upload your story to social media using the hashtag #FrameTheFuture and tag Big Shoulders Fund.

Join us as we celebrate the future of Big Shoulders Fund schools!

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Doubling Down on Mission

Doubling Down on Mission

Big Shoulders Fund President and CEO Josh Hale reflects on the struggles of Chicago and how they directly impact the schools Big Shoulders Fund supports. You can read the post in its entirety on HuffingtonPost.

Chicago is struggling to a heartbreaking degree.  The New York Times ran a series of articles on the violence in Chicago and sent a team of reporters to cover the violence over Memorial Day weekend.  The Chicago Tribune runs a summary every Monday of the number of shootings over the previous weekend. Alongside this violence come unprecedented fiscal challenges that are threatening our social service agencies and schools.  I am concerned as a parent, a CEO of a growing nonprofit that serves inner-city children, a property owner and taxpayer, and most of all as a human being who believes that every child deserves access to the opportunities and environment that will enable them to reach their potential.

Chicago saw the greatest population loss in 2015 of any urban area in the country.  It is the responsibility of city’s leaders and institutions to provide a reason to stay, and to eliminate reasons to leave.  Our future depends on all of us working together.

The conditions in Chicago and Illinois may make some of us want to pull the covers over our head.  And I am the first to admit that I read all the news coverage and often get bogged down questioning how we got here. But rather than shrink in fear, I think it’s time to double down on mission. Read more…

Meet the Schreibers: A Family on a Mission

Meet the Schreibers: A Family on a Mission

The pastor of St. John Berchmans in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood knew his school could expect financial help when John and Kathy Schreiber signed on as Patrons through Big Shoulders Fund. But early on, it became clear the Schreiber family would bring much more to the relationship, especially one Saturday when John appeared with several of the couple’s eight adult children to paint the school.Schrieber Children

“All of the children have supported the work we’re doing here,” said Father Wayne Watts, pastor of the church. “I pick up my phone and I say I need X, and I can pretty much believe X will be delivered by the Schreibers—whether that be their time, their treasure, or their advice.”

With his long record of success in commercial real estate, John Schreiber has offered business advice and served as a sounding board to help Father Watts make strategic decisions about how to turn around the school. While the family didn’t finish all the painting work that first Saturday, one son later sent a crew to finish it up. Another daughter organized her alumni group to clean the school. One son helped with marketing; another became a mentor to a struggling student. Daughter Heather Sannes became head of St. John Berchmans’ school board, which also counted sons Michael and Nicholas Schreiber as members at one time or another.

In 2005, a year before the Schreibers became Patrons, St. John Berchmans made headlines—and not in a good way. It landed on the short list of schools slated for closure. Parishioners at the time rallied and convinced the Archdiocese to give the school a second chance. Father Watts and his newly hired principal, Peggy Roketenetz, knew they needed to hit the reset button to combat the negative buzz. But with a shoestring budget, they had few resources to improve the school grounds or add programming that would attract young families.

Kathy and John Schreiber

“The Schreibers came in and we did all of those things,” Father Watts said. After making physical improvements to the building and grounds, the family funded a part-time marketing person, who helped to change the school’s image. St. John Berchmans also was able to hire a full-time art teacher and a gym teacher.

“We couldn’t have dreamed of hiring an art teacher or putting new technology in the school,” remarked Roketenetz, whom Father Watts plucked from the congregation to help lead the school turnaround. “They allowed us to really enrich our academic and physical environment to attract new families and build who we were—and are.”

Enrollment nearly doubled, from 137 students to about 260. Though their official patron term is now over, the Schreibers maintain a close connection with the school and with Father Watts, who officiates at family weddings.

After seeing the impact they were able to make at St. John Berchmans, the Schreibers asked to extend the Big Shoulders Fund Patrons Program to a school closer to their home in Lake County, Most Blessed Trinity in Waukegan. Heather is now chairing the board there.

For John Schreiber, the reward for these efforts comes when he hears success stories like that of one scholar from Most Blessed Trinity, who then went on to Loyola Academy, which the family also supports. She seized the opportunities given her, emerging as a leader on both campuses. She earned a full scholarship to Saint Louis University. “She’s going to be a success at SLU like she was at Loyola, and like she was at Most Blessed Trinity. That’s hugely satisfying,” John said. “You open the first door, and there’s a chance to open a second, and a chance to open a third, which is awesome when you think of where the children came from.”

Daughter Heather agreed: “Big Shoulders Fund is helping open those doors.”

A Mentor Can Make All the Difference

A Mentor Can Make All the Difference

Every few weeks, Chicago attorney and entrepreneur Curtis Tarver has an important, can’t-miss meeting. The busy father of two young children picks up food and prepares for an agenda that might include anything from popular songs to favorite teachers or academic obstacles.

Tarver is a mentor to four middle school students through Big Shoulders Fund. Knowing some of the children in the program may lack a connection with an African-American male role model, he is committed to consistency. “If I say I’m going to show up, I show up,” he said. “Even without a specific script, it matters just that you’re there.”

Tarver is a big supporter of efforts to diversify the Big Shoulders organization, so when Big Shoulders President and CEO Joshua Hale mentioned the need to recruit more African-American men as mentors, Tarver organized an event at his South Loop brewery, Vice District Brewing. He invited a couple dozen friends with whom he regularly breakfasts to meet with Hale and Co-Chairman John Canning.

Curtis Tarver and mentoring group at Vice District Brewing“He has put his foot on the gas pedal for this,” said Hale, adding that many of the men Tarver invited to the event are now involved in Big Shoulders. “They’re doing it because they’re nice and civic-minded individuals, but also because a guy like Curtis is so well thought of, they thought, ‘If Curtis is involved, I should be involved as well.’”

Tarver said Big Shoulders Fund’s programming and purpose made it an easy sell to the group. They agreed, “It’s important for [the students] to see someone who looks like them and who can say to them, ‘I came from the same neighborhood you come from,’” Tarver explained. “It makes it a little more real for them.”

His own connection to Catholic schools goes back to childhood. “I’ve always been passionate about Catholic education. It had a big impact on my life,” said Tarver, who grew up in Morgan Park and attended Marian Catholic High School until his parents could no longer afford it. The transition he had to make after leaving Catholic school reinforced his desire to be involved with an organization that makes it possible for financially struggling families to keep their kids in a Catholic school.

After high school, Tarver graduated from Iowa State University and earned a law degree from the University of Iowa. He worked for a midsize law firm and in former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s office before starting his own law firm. Two years ago, he followed another passion and opened Vice District Brewing with a neighbor.

He started mentoring students through Big Shoulders at St. Elizabeth in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, the school his uncles and father also attended. He said the importance of a faith-based education was clear to his family even during times of hardship. “They were in housing projects, but they knew what they had to do to send their kids to St. Elizabeth,” he said.

For Tarver, mentoring is a way for him to repay those who saw something in him. “I always had someone who took me aside and said, ‘Hey, you’re a smart kid with a bad attitude’ and then helped keep me on the right path,” said Tarver, who lives in North Kenwood with his wife and children. “But these kids are far brighter than I was at their age. I’d be doing the entire world a disservice if I didn’t help out these kids, who are going to do really great things.”