Chicago educational program founders included in Forbes ’30 Under 30 ‘| Chicago News


Marie Dandie, left, and Jacob Allen founded pilotED in 2013, an after-school program helping Chicago students improve their grades and develop personal identities. They will be looking to make it their own charter school in the years to come. (Courtesy of pilotED)

Brains from a local nonprofit offering after-school help to Chicago students were included this week on a list highlighting the work of some of the young emerging entrepreneurs across the country.

PilotED co-founders Jacob Allen, 28, and Marie Dandie, 27, were recognized for their inclusive work in the education section of Forbes annual “30 under 30” list, which features the work of innovators, celebrities and leaders in various fields across the country who are under the age of 30.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Allen told Chicago Tonight in a telephone interview. “First and foremost, as founders of schools of color, we’re constantly in places on both coasts here in Chicago (and) wherever we go geographically, we realize there is very little of founders of color for schools that serve students of color. “

Launched in 2013, pilotED’s after-school program uses a three-tier curriculum focused on academic achievement, civic engagement and social identity. Since then, the five-member team has provided tutoring and mentoring services to over 100 charter school students and their families in Chicago’s South and West neighborhoods.

This broad focus means students discuss a range of topics from neighborhood demographics and urban violence to racial and gender identities.

Dandie and Allen had no idea they would be included in the 30 List of under 30s – released on Tuesday and featuring industry leaders working in sports, entertainment, retail and more – until the end of last year, when their organization received an encrypted email from a Forbes editor asking if the two were still under 30.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Allen moved to the Midwest to start working with the NAACP in Wisconsin before moving to Teach For America in Chicago, and eventually joining Dandie to create pilotED.

“What we realized as educators before we started the program is that, whether it’s gun violence, incarceration rates, dropout rates – I mean really a lot of statistics that plague both the South Side and the West Side – we realized these things were happening around our students, ”Allen said.

“But very little has been done in the classroom to determine what it really means for a student’s future, what it means for their success or failure in school.”

On its website, pilotED claims that 88 percent of students involved in the program have seen a significant drop in academic discipline and that more than nine in ten are expected to graduate from high school. These same students also saw, on average, a 28% increase in attendance rate and a half point increase in grade point average.

Allen and Dandie are now looking to build on that success, shifting their organization away from after-school programs and instead focusing on starting their own charter school.

“What it will be is a K-8 school,” Allen said, “serving traditional subjects like English, math, and social studies, but making sure all those classes… are focused on this identity and this sociological context. “

They hope the school can accommodate up to 500 students and will be open in time for the 2018-19 school year.

But one of the many unanswered questions about this school is where it will be located. Although initially planned for Chicago, Allen believes that local perceptions of the charters have started to “deteriorate,” citing a reduction in funding and available structural resources.

A cap included in Chicago’s new public schools working agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union also limits the number of charters that can be approved over the next three years, although the district still has some leeway before reaching. this limit. At its meeting last month, the Board of Education authorized the renewal of 10 city-wide charters. But no request to open new charters has been made.

Allen said pilotED has been contacted by the Indianapolis and Oakland school districts and is considering moving outside of Chicago.

“So we’re doing a reorganization right now to look at our next five to ten year projection,” he said, “and see if it makes sense to be here or potentially serve students in another district. “

Follow Matt Masterson on Twitter: @byMattMasterson

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