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.



* 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 or a supplementary brief at

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 ( 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.