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Greetings Friends –

Prayers are offered. Sadness and grief are expressed. Frustration rises. Another school shooting and another conversation again starts in our country. We are all groping for answers.  

For my part, I found myself in a very dark place after hearing about the grade school in Uvalde. I have a lot of thoughts, but nothing new or compelling to add to what fills the airways and discussions happening in schools, at kitchen tables, in pubs, at businesses, and more. Most of all, I have a profound sense of sadness. Even more, against the backdrop of a world engrossed in challenges. Mass shootings. War. Violence. Baby formula. Inflation. Food insecurity. You know the list. We all do. 

Thankfully, in that time of darkness, I had a conversation with a great friend, mentor, boss, and one of my heroes. Jim O’Connor was the founding chairman of Big Shoulders Fund and, nearly 36 years since its founding, he remains as active in this mission as ever. When I talked to him, I bemoaned yet another mass shooting. Children, 19 of them, and two teachers. Given our mission, it hit particularly close to home. Likewise, Jim was devastated by the tragic news. But Jim quickly transitioned toward action. He said tragedies like the one in Texas is why organizations like Big Shoulders Fund are so important. They pull us, he said, toward something good. Toward relationships and activities that fly in the face of evil. In the case of Big Shoulders Fund, this organization is educating the next generation who will carry us further by solving issues we might deem impossible. Rather than joining me in listing the challenges we face, Jim, in a sentence or two reminded me that was not the solution. Getting to action, that is the answer. 

Jim’s message resonated in a particular way because only a week ago I attended an event that cut to the core of what he was saying. This past Saturday, I went to the graduation of our latest class of Big Shoulders Fund STEM Scholars, an incredible group of students. This is a program conceived some 15 years ago by David and Wendy Dury. The Durys provided the vision for this program and the lion share of the funding to support and cultivate hundreds of students’ interest in science. Others, like the Valenti family and the Grover Hermann Foundation, have joined to support this initiative. The program enlists fifth graders in Big Shoulders Fund schools who are interested in STEM. They receive a scholarship and are invited to attend Saturday school twice a month with a dedicated and recognized group of educators. The students are able to participate in this program until eighth grade and, for a few alumni in high school and college, they are invited back as paid interns, to help teach and mentor current scholars. The ultimate goal is to ensure talent from under-resourced communities are linked with opportunities to ensure they are best prepared to attend top high schools and colleges and, if they choose, pursue fields of study related to STEM which is typically less diverse. In simpler terms, we are working to support the next generation of critical thinkers and problem solvers who will also bring their diverse backgrounds and experiences to add value in making the world a better place for all of us to live.  As I spoke to the most recent graduating class, I marveled at their talent and the great high schools they will be attending. I talked about the STEM Scholars before them who are attending top universities and, in most cases, focusing in STEM fields – chemical engineering, chemistry, biomedical engineering, pre-med, and more. I told them we are all counting on them, because they have been blessed with tremendous talent, including problem solving. And, the world desperately needs them to keep showing us the way by solving the vexing issues that affect our lives.  If I were a betting man, I would bet on these students – and all of our students – every day...and twice on Sunday to do just that.

Some might chide me that Big Shoulders Fund cannot solve all the world issues. Perhaps not, but we can do our part.  For starters, it pulls us together and toward something positive like Jim O’Connor pointed out to me. And, even more important, it is linking more opportunities to communities too often left out. Like the Big Shoulders Fund STEM Scholarship program the Durys created, our mission is about supporting students on pathways to being leaders, problem solvers, and great citizens. Investing in the next generation of students to ensure they continue to carry us forward out of this darkness and into the light. 

Last night, I was with a community of our most ardent and long-term supporters who have newly committed to Big Shoulders Fund Plus. Being together lifted me up. Like always at Big Shoulders Fund, we dig into our mission, our work, the children, because they are the future and our greatest hope. 

I am grateful to have the Big Shoulders Fund mission and all of you. An organization that gets to action and pulls us toward a part of the solution.  A mission that lifts our souls and a group of people who never lose sight of keeping this mission vibrant and always focused on the children. The children and school communities we are supporting have in them the future leaders who will indeed bring us to a better place.  THAT is the hope today . . .and always. 

Have a peaceful and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend!

My very best,

Josh Hale
President & CEO
Big Shoulders Fund Plus
Big Shoulders Fund supports nearly 25,000 students at 92 schools in the Chicago region and Northwest Indiana. The impact can be felt across generations of scholars who go on to graduate college at 2x the national average with Black and Hispanic alumni achieving 3-4x that.

Big Shoulders Fund Plus builds on our existing relationship with schools and provides increased operational support to help best meet the needs of students, families, and the broader community at 30 of our highest-needs schools. Big Shoulders Fund Plus provides access to a network that shares best practices, attracts and retains talented teachers and principals, and provides support and resources that allow schools to serve more students and ensure long-term success.

Click here to learn more or reach out to Amy Drozda.
In Our Schools
Students from the Academy of St. Benedict the African enjoyed a trip to the Art Institute of Chicago earlier this month, thanks to the generosity of Susan and Bob Byrne. Thanks to Big Shoulders Fund Board of Director and longtime supporter of the school Loren Miller for coordinating this great experience for the students. Students were treated to a delicious lunch at Giardano's afterward. 
Congratulations to St. Ferdinand School, the winning team of the EY/Big Shoulders Fund Entrepreneurship Challenge! 

Pictured above: (Bottom Left) Olivia Oberdorf, mentor for the St. Ferdinand School team, (Bottom Center) Liam Rhatigan, leader of program from EY, (Center) Josh Hale, President and CEO, Big Shoulders Fund, and (Top Right) Freida Kokosioulis, St. Ferdinand School teacher. Dennis Choi and Matthew Kasper from Pritzker Private Capital also mentored the St. Ferdinand team.
This year, 22 teams from 18 Big Shoulders Fund schools participated in our annual Big Shoulders Fund and EY Entrepreneurship Program through which school teams developed innovative products or services that will help improve the Chicago community. The program culminated with school teams, with the help of their program mentors, presenting their ideas to a panel of judges who are leaders in the entrepreneurship space.

Students developed pitches, answered questions, and explained how their ideas were worth the investment. Congratulations to St. Ferdinand School on their winning business idea: SeeCharm is a social emotional learning (SEL) focused company that sells small charms that can be affixed to glasses and pencils to help students express themselves and project their interests, identity, and favorites in order to help make friends and/or start conversations. Thanks to all the mentors, teachers, and EY for their support of this program!
Earlier this month, Big Shoulders Fund hosted its virtual Stock Market Program Capstone with 68 eighth-grade classes representing nearly 1,000 students and 166 volunteer teachers. Students participated in a Mock Investor's Meeting led by Northern Trust's Chief Financial Officer Jason Tyler.  They also engaged in a Q&A about careers in the financial industry with our guest panelists: Servia Rindfleish from Mesirow Financial, Malik Murray from Ariel Investments, and Maurice Taylor from Alyeska Investment Group. Student questions were very thoughtful and showed the incredible knowledge volunteer teachers instilled in them over the past year. 

Congratulations to the winning team at St. Therese School (pictured above), their volunteer teachers Marty Morris from Northern Trust and Antonio Lugo from Smart Wealth Strategies, and to all the teams and teachers for their incredible efforts this year.
Making A Difference
Thank you to our friends at Charles Schwab for joining us for service days at three Big Shoulders Fund Schools - St. Francis de Sales High School, St. Matthias School, and St. Walter-St. Benedict School - as part of the 2022 Schwab Volunteer Week! Volunteers helped to clean and organize classrooms, landscape, and more. 
Thank you to volunteers from Baird who joined us for a service day at St. Procopius School! The group helped to clean the auditorium and organize the storage room and gym. Volunteers then joined students for recess and played soccer with them!
Save the Date
Registration is now open for the 22nd Annual Big Shoulders Fund Golf Classic taking place on Monday, August 1, at Olympia Fields Country Club. Hit the links with leading civic and corporate leaders and raise funds for the Friends of Big Shoulders Scholarship Fund to help students study for a brighter future.

View sponsorship opportunities. 
Join us on Saturday, June 11, from 9 am – 12 pm for our June Give Back Day, hosted by the Big Shoulders Fund Auxiliary Board.

Volunteers will help to clean, organize classrooms, and more at Queen of the Universe School (7130 S. Hamlin Ave).
Make a difference with only three hours of your time!
Purchase Foursome
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