New CROSO Board Member!

CROSO is fortunate to have a group of dedicated, engaged and passionate volunteers who serve on our Board of Directors. To learn more about the whole group, please click here.

Today, we welcome Meg McDermott as our newest CROSO Board Member!

Meg recently met CROSO’s executive director, Molly MacCready, and the two discovered that they both participated in the same study abroad program in East Africa! After reflecting on their shared love for Uganda and the entire SIT study abroad experience, Molly and Meg exchanged contact information to remain in touch and get Meg involved. Meg’s experience in Uganda was both educationally and personally formative. She left the country in tears, with a longing to stay and a respectful awareness of the resilience, culture, and need among the Uganda people that welcomed her into their lives.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a focus on mental health, Meg has recently started private practice in an outpatient mental health clinic in Wicker Park, Chicago. Prior to this new adventure, Meg worked as a residential therapist at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, with 17-20 year old males who engaged in individual, group, and family therapy. There was never a dull moment and it was a privilege to partner with such amazing young people and be part of an incredible agency of co-workers.

Meg has a wide range of experience partnering with youth and families who have endured hardships as well as progress over time. Meg has forever been drawn to the mission of non-profits like CROSO, Heartland Alliance, and Mercy Home. Meg tutored a refugee family from Burma, who was a connection through Heartland Alliance. As a graduate student at University of Chicago’s SSA, Meg had an opportunity to travel to India and partake in the first annual Human Rights research trip with University of Chicago Law School to explore the impact of forced migration on people of Northern India. Along with educational travel, Meg has always prioritized travel in her personal life. An occasional marathon runner, Meg has supported non-profits through fundraising and is eager to contribute to the board and learn more along the way.

Through travel, educational, professional, and personal experiences, Meg continues to foster her commitment to the field. As a strong believer in the power of human connection and community, Meg is delighted to be a part of CROSO and contribute to something in both meaningful and effective ways.

Meg joined the CROSO Board of Directors in April 2017 and currently serves on the Scholar Support Committee.

If you’d like to get more information about joining the CROSO Board of Directors, please email Molly@CROSO.org.

 

 

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.

A Thanksgiving Reflection

Today’s blog post is written by Elsa VanHove, one of CROSO’s Board Members.

Around this time each year, I – like many people – try to step back and reflect on the things I am thankful for. Especially this year, as our country reconciles with a divisive presidential election and as I face uncertainties in my own life, I recognize the need more than ever to reflect on blessings and focus forward.

One thing I am hugely thankful for is my civic life. The relationships I have developed with CROSO volunteers have become an unexpected place to find support and belonging. The larger CROSO community continues to grow as well, and as I think back to September’s annual benefit dinner, I am so taken by the open hearts and generous spirits of our attendees and donors. It is amazing to think about the impact this group of people has on our Scholars, many of whom have felt disenfranchised in their own communities. CROSO is one source of strength for our Scholars, and that reminds us of the value in continuing this project.

I am also thankful for my own education. My university experience allowed me to travel abroad and learn of the larger world and the ways in which people are similar. CROSO allows us to share the gift of higher education with our Scholars who also place the same value on learning and self-development, though they may not have access to the same financial resources many of us did.

Education does not end with school, however, and through interaction with our Scholars I have learned about new cultures, challenges, and opportunities. I have found common ground with Scholars who also hope to travel the world someday, who want to use their education to build successful businesses, and who love reading novels, playing sports and even volunteering in their hometowns. Our Scholars lead by example, and they set the pace with their perseverance, creativity, and determination to improve not only their own lives but the lives of those in their communities.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in CROSO this year through time, money, prayers, and all the myriad of other ways. This work provides purpose both to the Scholars it helps fund and to the people who support the organization. As you reflect on your year, I hope that CROSO – and the other organizations you support – can also be counted among the things for which you are thankful.

An Unexpected Gift

photoToday’s blog post is written by Christine Ng, one of CROSO’s newest committee members. Christine shares her experience of participating on CROSO’s Scholar Selection Committee.

Two months ago, I received a wonderful, most unexpected gift, wrapped in the form of an email. My dear friend Sally Ryan, a CROSO board member, invited me to join the scholar selection committee. The timing was perfect; I had closed the chapter on another school year and was looking forward to the possibilities of summer. With a simple “yes,” I unknowingly began a four-week journey of renewal.

I’m a teacher. I’ve been teaching for almost 25 years and I simply love my work. It’s more than my job, it’s my vocation. And yet, two months ago, I felt quite ready for summer. I had mismanaged the work/life balance during the last months of school. Tired to the bone aptly described my state of being.

Shortly after I said goodbye to my students, I sat down at my dining room table with a thick stack of CROSO scholarship applications. The quietness of my home at this early morning hour allowed for total immersion in each applicant’s story. I began to read the first application and was immediately moved by the young man’s narrative – the unfathomable hardship, injustice, and struggle, and yet the palpable faith, perseverance, and hope. The next application, submitted by a young woman,  painted a similar picture of steadfast determination despite lacking basic needs like food, shelter, and family. After reading the second story, I put the stack of applications away for the day and sat stunned as I reflected on these two students’ lives.

For the next two weeks, I started each morning by reading through one or two applications. Each voice stirred something in me. I spread the reading out, focusing on one or perhaps two young men or women each day to honor each story, to keep each person clearly defined in my head and in my heart. Tears welled up in my eyes. I could hear myself sighing for their struggles.

Civil war. Famine. Parents who died from AIDS. Children abandoned by parents. Picking food from the garbage. Sweeping floors to collect grains of rice to eat or to sell. Begging on the streets. Nowhere to sleep.

Yet the students also wrote about how their life experiences motivated them to pursue education at a university, college, or technical institution to change the situation for themselves and most especially for others in their communities. A vision and an optimism for a better future ran throughout each narrative. It was very hard to select my top five scholarship candidates, as I’d been assigned to do. Every single applicant gave evidence of courage and strength of character, demonstrated dedication to his or her community through volunteer work, and expressed a strong desire to continue education in order to give back to the community.

From the beginning of this process, these stories were gifts of hope that refreshed my tired spirit until it was overflowing with a new optimism and a resolve to do more. My simple “yes” allowed me to absorb these precious stories of restoration that, in turn, brought renewal to my soul.

 

 

Scholarships that Transform Lives

A reflection by Molly MacCready, CROSO Founder and Executive Director, after visiting Uganda in June 2016.

After spending time in Uganda last month with CROSO Board Member Sally Ryan, I am filled with stories and scenes that make my heart feel so full. Everything Sally and I witnessed affirmed the work CROSO has done for the past nine years and at the same time emphasized how much more work there still is to do. I could write pages and pages, but for now I’ll try to stick with one story.

At the end of our first day visiting our partner organization (C.R.O.), Sally and I were tired. It was the end of a full day after a VERY long weekend of travel and both Sally and I were ready to be back in our hotel where we could relax. Instead, we found ourselves in a long conversation with Stella and Carol, two of the C.R.O. social workers who I have known since my first trip to Uganda ten years ago! Sally and I sat in chairs along the wall of their small, poorly lit office which somehow managed to hold three full-size desks and seven chairs, with just barely enough room for anyone to walk in or out.

Near the beginning of the conversation, Stella made a comment about how the CROSO scholarship is a transformational opportunity that enables our Scholars to become self-reliant and productive citizens in Uganda. Carol then quickly jumped in to share examples of what our CROSO graduates are up to now. Carol shared that Lokorio Mary (CROSO Scholar from 2009-2012) continues to work as a health educator for an NGO in Moroto district. As Carol described Mary’s success in that field, her face glowed with pride. She said CROSO has really created “powerful people.”

Our feelings of exhaustion ebbed as Sally and I listened with rapt attention as Carol went on to list the successes of other CROSO graduates.

  • Okolis John Bosco (CROSO Scholar from 2010-2013) was promoted to branch manager for the micro-credit bank where he works in Pallisa town.
  • Namasobo Lydia (CROSO Scholar from 2010-2012) lives in Mbale, is married with a one year old child and works part-time for BRAC, a development organization with the goal of alleviating poverty by empowering the poor. (Lydia and Molly are pictured above.)
  • Nafuna Margaret (CROSO Scholar from 2012-2015) is a manager for a business based in Uganda’s capital city, Kampala.
  • Walufu Titus (CROSO Scholar from 2013-2015) is working as a civil engineer for a company based in Kampala that is involved in road construction.

With each story shared, Carol’s eyes grew brighter and brighter. Having worked at C.R.O. for over ten years, she’s known many of these young adults for nearly half their lives. She and Stella (and all the C.R.O. staff) were instrumental in their upbringing and now, just like proud parents, the C.R.O. staff tell these triumphant stories of realized potential. While we already knew some of those updates, some were completely new to us.

When there was a pause in Carol’s stories, I asked if either of them had heard about Edweo Sam’s success and they both shook their heads no. I was excited to contribute to their enthusiastic reports and shared that Sam (CROSO Scholar in 2009) has been working in Lira with a solar panel company for several years now. Last October, I received an email from him informing me that he’d been promoted to lead branch manager for the company! Carol and Stella were thrilled for him.

Thinking back on that meeting with Carol and Stella, I am struck by what a beautiful moment of camaraderie that was for all of us. Within the first day of being there, we were able to see that we all shared a common investment in these Scholars. I don’t just mean financial or even time invested, but genuine emotional investment and hope that these scholars will be able to work for a better future for themselves.

When we created CROSO, we believed that these young people had far greater potential and, with access to higher education, they would be able to have huge positive impacts on their communities. Nine years later, we can comfortably say that our Scholars have proven that ten-fold. Each time we invest in a new scholar, we are opening the door for them to have a brighter future. At the sight of that open door, our scholars are not merely walking through, they are sprinting! Through their hard work and commitment to their coursework, our Scholars have been able to break the cycle of poverty that has held them hostage for so many years. Their new freedom has had a ripple effect and improved the lives of their families and their communities, especially as they step into more and more leadership positions.

Stella was right—our CROSO scholarship program truly is transforming lives!