Astonishing Success from a Most Unlikely Place

 

Written by David Blumenthal, CROSO Board Member and Education Researcher
(Photos above are of CROSO graduates- Amos, Norah, Solomon, Titus and Lydia)

Let’s begin this blog with a sobering look at the rarity of success in higher education. It may be a shock to learn just how often students fail to earn their college degree here in the United States. The U.S. Department of Education reported last year that only 6 in 10 students beginning a 4-year college program in fall 2008 were able to earn their degree within 6 years. The dropout rates at 2-year programs was even higher and some have estimated that 2 in every 3 students at community colleges were required to take a remedial course in English or mathematics before they could begin their chosen program.

We know from research in the United States that dropping out comes with a big cost. American high school dropouts have problems getting a job, keeping a job, remaining in good health, staying out of jail, and even just staying alive.* For college students, dropping out has other negative consequences. Students that leave college without a degree fare worse than their graduate peers in the job market, but they often also face a double-whammy of carrying student loans without the economic advantage of a degree or certificate. In short, they get all the worst parts of college without the payoff at the end.

In Uganda, participation in secondary education, what we Americans call high school, is the exception, not the standard. The Education Policy Data Center reported that fewer than 20 percent of all youth ages 13 to 18 attended school in 2006.** While that number has been improving over time, only a small subset of youth go to secondary school and fewer still attend post-secondary education.

I think this helps to put the work of CROSO into perspective. Since CROSO began about 10 years ago, only a single scholar has ever dropped out of a post-secondary program. It would be understandable to expect the dropout rate for CROSO scholars, all of whom were former street children, to be much higher. These scholars did not enjoy the advantages of stable families and robust institutions that many in the United States enjoy. And yet, the scholars have far exceeded expectations of their peers in Uganda and even here in the United States.

CROSO is doing extraordinary work against the odds and is making a great difference. In coming years, the Board of Directors and Executive Director Molly MacCready will delve deeper into this success to understand its sources. We look forward to working with you, CROSO’s supporters and sponsors to share our results.

 

 

Notes
* Schoeneberger, J. A. (2012). Longitudinal attendance patterns: Developing high school dropouts. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 85(1), 7-14.
** To read more, visit the Uganda National Education Profile from 2014 at http://www.epdc.org/sites/default/files/documents/EPDC%20NEP_Uganda.pdf or a supplementary brief at http://www.epdc.org/sites/default/files/documents/Uganda_coreusaid.pdf

Celebrating another CROSO Graduate!

Written by Molly MacCready, CROSO’s Executive Director
(Photo above is from 2013 of CROSO Scholar Norah with CROSO representatives Beth and Molly)

Tomorrow, CROSO Scholar Nakyeyune Norah will graduate from Kampala University! I am so excited for her and couldn’t be more proud to have supported her in her pursuit of a bachelor’s degree. With the hopes that you’ll share in Norah’s joy of her graduation from university, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about Norah with you.
(For those of you who would prefer a video, just skip down to the bottom and watch!)

  1. Some of you may remember at our Annual Benefit in 2013 (the year that Norah was selected) that we shared a video of several Scholars discussing their plans for the future. Norah stood out as she passionately described her lifelong desire to become…wait for it… an accountant! While many in the room giggled at her enthusiasm for this career, Norah could not have been more serious. Norah loves math and enjoyed her entrepreneurship classes in high school. As she moved forward with her university courses, that love only grew. This week, Norah will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus in accounting.
  2. Norah is a “footballer” as she would say (American soccer player to those of us in the U.S.) and is so proud of that title! When I visited Uganda for the first time in 2006, I remember people laughing when I told them that I had played football for most of my life. Girls playing strenuous competitive sports was just not part of their culture. Seven years later, when I met Norah for the first time, I loved hearing her boast of her football successes and how it has helped make her feel like she belongs. Norah went on to play on her university’s women’s football team and found that it was a great way for her to make friends in a new environment. She also played on a local non-university affiliated team, so will continue to have football in her life even after she graduates this week.

    2016 Photo of Norah

  3. In addition to her physical strength, Norah has incredible emotional strength. Norah is the youngest child in her family, but will be the first to graduate from a university. Norah has overcome challenge after challenge in her life, but in talking to her, I have always been struck by her gratitude and the incredible perspective she maintains. In the video clip below, you’ll hear her talk about how lucky she was to only live on the streets for 3-4 months. Norah’s tenacity will continue to serve her well as she seeks employment and continues to navigate her career path.

Norah is an incredible young woman– articulate, thoughtful, focused and hard working. She has thrived at Kampala University, participating in sports, excelling in academics, volunteering at several different community organizations and completing internships in local finance offices. One aspect of the CROSO scholarship that I continue to be amazed by is how it allows for our Scholars to finally find that equal playing field with their peers. If you meet Norah, you too would be impressed by her and would not be able to tell that she ever had to live on the streets. In fact, that reminds me of something Norah said during my most recent visit to Uganda last June. Norah told me that some of her classmates thought she came from a wealthy background because her school fees were always paid on time and she never had to miss a semester. CROSO is grateful to have been able to provide that consistency to Norah’s academic experience and we can’t wait to see what she will do next!

2013 visit to Norah’s home in Namatala where she lived with her aunt.

If you have the time, please take a couple minutes and watch this unedited video from 2013. Norah shares her own story of what caused her to live on the streets and what amazing support she received from different organizations like World Vision and our partner organization, C.R.O. I love hearing her describe the love she received from the staff and other children at C.R.O.! She ends by talking about her next steps. Only days before this video was taken, she had learned that she’d been selected for the CROSO scholarship. You’ll pick up on some hints of disbelief still, but you’ll also see how very hopeful she was as she looked ahead to the possibility of university.

New Opportunities to Get Involved!

CROSO is excited to announce some new opportunities for people to get involved in the great work of supporting our CROSO Scholars! We are looking to grow our committees and we also have two openings on the CROSO Board of Directors that need to be filled. We encourage you to read through the descriptions below, share with friends and colleagues that might be interested and email us with any questions that arise.

CROSO Committees and Responsibilities:

We do not expect new committee members to possess ALL the skills/talents/experiences listed for a specific committee, but we hope that you would have at least 1-3 of those items.

Scholar Support Committee:

  • Responsibilities: It is the job of the Scholar Support Committee to create a plan that will guide communication with the current scholars, communication with our partner organization in Uganda regarding the scholars and oversee the Liaison program.
  • Frequency of Meetings: Once per month via conference call
  • Ideal skills/talents/experiences: Education, Counseling, Social Work, International Experience (preferably in developing countries), Policy Writing, etc
  • Needs to be based in Chicago? No

Marketing Committee

  • Responsibilities: The Marketing Committee develops and implements a marketing plan that will help promote CROSO’s mission. Current marketing tools include social media (Facebook and Instagram), annual report, annual newsletter, monthly e-blasts and videos.
  • Frequency of Meetings: 1-2 times per quarter via conference call
  • Ideal skills/talents/experiences: Marketing, Strategy Development, Branding, Social Media, Video Creation, etc.
  • Needs to be based in Chicago? No

Fund Development Committee

  • Responsibilities: It is the job of the fund development committee to create a plan that will guide the organization in seeking out and securing funding from an array of outside sources. The committee works with the E.D. to identify grant opportunities, potential donors and best practices for stewardship of current donors. 
  • Frequency of Meetings: Quarterly via conference call
  • Ideal skills/talents/experiences: Grant Writing, Donor Cultivation, Prospect Research, Stewardship, Relationship Management/Development, Networking Skills, Fundraising, Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, Law, etc.
  • Needs to be based in Chicago? No

Annual Benefit Committee: 

  • Responsibilities: The Annual Benefit Committee plans, organizes and executes CROSO’s largest fundraising event each year. The committee must arrange all the details with the venue, catering, entertainment (if applicable). Members are also responsible for soliciting sponsors, silent auction/raffle items and collaborate with the E.D. regarding advertising and marketing.
  • Frequency of Meetings: Once per month from March-July. More frequently meeting between August and the event which is at the beginning of October.
  • Ideal skills/talents/experiences: Event Planning, Corporate Sponsorship Solicitation, Auction Solicitation, Connections within the Chicago Arts/Sports Scenes, Willingness to Ask, Organized, Detail-oriented, etc.
  • Needs to be based in the Chicago area? Yes.

Scholar Selection Committee:

  • Responsibilities: The Scholar Selection Committee is responsible for reading, reviewing and evaluating all applications received by CROSO each year. With support from the E.D., committee members will ask clarification questions, rate applicants, discuss the applications as a group and then recommend to the CROSO Board of Directors the candidates that they believe are most prepared, show the best potential and are most likely to utilize the CROSO Scholarship well.
  • Frequency of Meetings: Meets via conference call/in person 3 or 4 times between May and July.
  • Ideal skills/talents/experiences: Educator, Social Worker, International Experience (preferably in developing countries), Willingness to Learn, Belief in the Potential for each Applicant, Attention to Detail, Critical Thinking, etc.
  • Needs to be based in Chicago? No, although there will be at least one in-person meeting for those who live in the Chicago-area.

Finance Committee:

  • Responsibilities: The finance committee is charged with overseeing the budget, financial controls, investments and grants. It is the responsibility of this committee to provide quarterly financial updates to the board and provide information necessary for the annual report.
  • Frequency of Meetings: Meets via conference call/in person 3 or 4 times between May and July.
  • Ideal skills/talents/experiences: Finance, Accounting, Investment Banking, Budget Analysis, Creating Projections, Financial Modeling, Attention to Detail, Experience in Organizational Scaling, Experience with Pivot Tables, Experience with QuickBooks, etc.
  • Needs to be based in Chicago? No

To Apply for a Committee Position:

Please email Molly MacCready (Molly@CROSO.org) with a brief explanation of which committee you are interested in, what skills, talents and experiences you would bring to that committee and why you’re interested in getting more involved in CROSO. Molly will follow up by email or phone.

 

CROSO Board of Directors Openings and Expectations:

CROSO has two openings for new board members. CROSO’s Board of Directors commit to 3 year terms, with the opportunity to renew based on a mutual decision between the board member and the Executive Committee. The CROSO Board meets quarterly as a full-board and also meets at varying intervals as committees. (See above for committee meeting schedule.)

Expectations for All CROSO Board of Directors:

  1. Be present (either in person or via phone) for all 4 annual board meetings.
    1. We understand that emergencies happen and important family functions (weddings, etc) get scheduled without checking everyone’s calendars.
    2. However, if more than one meeting is missed in a calendar year, that board member will talk with the board chair and the executive director about being removed from the board for the following year.
  2. Actively participate on at least one committee.
    1. Participate in at least 75% of those meetings either in person or via phone.
    2. If the board member cannot be present for the committee meeting, a conversation with the chair of that committee will need to be scheduled for it to count as participation.
  3. Act as an ambassador for CROSO in the community.
    1. Share with others that you are involved in this work. (This can include friends, family, colleagues, announcements to your alumni chapters, etc.)
    2. When opportunities arise, help network on behalf of CROSO.
  4. Contribute new names to our email and mailing lists.
  5. Fill at least one table at the annual benefit.
    1. This obligation can be met through the board member purchasing the table and inviting guests for free or getting nine individuals to purchase their own seats at your table.
    2. If it is not possible for the board member to fill a table, then he/she must be a member of the annual benefit event committee.

To Apply for a Board of Directors Position:

Step One: Please complete this brief CROSO Board of Directors Interest Form.

Step Two: Molly will follow up by email within one week to schedule a 20-30 minute phone conversation.

Step Three: If it seems like a good fit from both sides, candidates will have a phone call with a member of the Executive Committee.

Step Four: The CROSO Board of Directors will vote on potential new board members and Molly will notify you via email.

5 CROSO Highlights of 2016

2016 has been a big year for our CROSO Scholars and for our CROSO community in the U.S. Here are some of our top highlights:

5. CROSO donors are getting involved in new ways!

With a new cohort of CROSO advocates established in Cincinnati, CROSO will be having its first event outside of the Chicago region in the new year! We’re excited about the potential this can have to expand our donor base in a completely new area!

In addition to expanding geographically, we’re also expanding our reach within Chicago by encouraging existing donors to reach out to their networks. We ended the year with a CrowdRise campaign started by two Chicago-area donors to support one specific Scholar, Stella. This is a great way to help CROSO reach out to new networks of people. Please send Molly a message if you’d like to learn more about hosting your own CrowdRise campaign to support a Scholar!

4. CROSO Visit to Uganda!

Staff member, Molly MacCready, and Board member, Sally Ryan, visited Uganda in June of this year. Their visit was filled with gathering information, maintaining (and building) relationships, and continued opportunities for us to learn better ways to support our Scholars. Returning with videos, photos and so many stories, Sally and Molly have helped donors and board members feel more connected to our Scholars in Uganda. Sally wrote a beautiful blog about how the experience changed and challenged her.

3. CROSO Scholars are spreading out around Uganda!

In 2016, our CROSO Scholars were enrolled in 12 different universities! Each of our new Scholars in 2016 chose different institutions than their fellow Scholars. As CROSO’s scholarship program continues to grow, our scholars are pursuing more diverse academic studies and seeking out the best institutions in the country. To read more about each of our Scholars, click here.

2. CROSO hired our first employee this year!

In January, 2016, Molly MacCready was hired as a Part-time Executive Director. In this first year of having an employee, CROSO has created better structures internally and externally that allow us to operate more smoothly. Internally, our committees are more functional and we’ve been able to put better procedures in place for moving issues forward. Externally, we’ve identified policies for addressing Scholar issues, have been more consistent with our monthly communication with Scholars and have made progress on engaging our donors more effectively. We are so grateful for your support as we continue to grow!

1. CROSO is building a strong graduate community!

In 2016, two CROSO Scholars graduated and another two completed their studies with graduation ceremonies planned for 2017! As our graduate numbers increase, we’re seeing a beautifully diverse community of professionals growing in Uganda. We currently have graduates employed as a vice-principal of a high school, branch manager for a micro-credit bank, electrical engineer for a solar panel company, social worker and program officer at C.R.O., and public health educator, to name a few. This group is now able to help network for our younger Scholars as they seek internships and employment. We are so proud to see our graduates finding stability for themselves.

 

 

Looking ahead to 2017

The end of 2017 will mark CROSO’s TENTH anniversary as an organization and we are excited to find ways of celebrating that with all of you! Keep an eye on our Facebook page and our monthly emails to learn more!

9th Annual CROSO Benefit!

Join us on September 22nd for our 9th Annual CROSO Benefit!

This is a chance to celebrate the many achievements of our CROSO Scholars in Uganda and of our organization based in the Chicago-area. Over the past nine years, we have directly supported over 30 former street children as they have attended post-secondary institutions in Uganda! We have seen 14 of our Scholars graduate and are now getting to see the fruits of their labor as they find employment. It’s incredible to think that as a result of our scholarship program, there is a growing group of professionals who are leading their communities and are able to approach their jobs from the rare perspective of having lived on the streets as children.

As an organization, we are also proud to share our work here in the Chicago-area. This year, for the first time, we have a paid employee working part-time for CROSO! Having a dedicated staff member has allowed us to be organized, to communicate with our Scholars and partner organization more regularly and to share more stories with all of you, our donors!

We hope you will join us on the 22nd to hear stories, see photos, participate in our raffle, silent auction and paddle raise, and enjoy dinner with an amazing community of people who are supporting CROSO Scholars from afar.

Tickets must be purchased by Friday, September 16th! You can reserve them online and either pay online or pay by check. Purchase your tickets today: http://www.croso.org/events/9th-annual-croso-benefit-event/

Details:
Thursday, September 22, 2016
6:00 – 9:30pm

Monastero’s Ristorante
3935 W. Devon, Chicago

Tickets:
Ticket Price: $75
Host a Table of Ten: $700

Ticket price includes: hors d’oeurves, salad, dinner, dessert and coffee/tea.
Cash bar available.

Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Please book your tickets by September 16th.

If you have any questions about this event, please contact Molly at Molly@CROSO.org.