Brad Keywell, Co-Founder of Lightbank, and Kevin Willer, President & CEO, Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) today joined entrepreneurial forces as they announced the Future Founders Foundation, a new nonprofit organization that will expand entrepreneurship and career exploration programs for underserved students in the Chicagoland area.
The new partnership, the Future Founders Foundation, combines the missions of the CEC’s Future Founders program and the Connect to the Future program, which was started by Brad Keywell. The Foundation will inspire teenagers to explore new careers and connect them with successful mentors from various business professions. During the 2011-12 school year, the organization will work with a dozen middle schools and high schools in Chicago.
“Future Founders has been a shining success for the CEC over the last six years,” said Kevin Willer, President & CEO, CEC. “This partnership will unlock the full potential of the program – especially with all of the great momentum in Chicago’s startup community.”
“The Foundation will enable us to scale Connect to the Future and provide more resources to the people who need them: our students,” said Brad Keywell. “We are excited to expand our mission – inspiring students by showing them the doors that are opened up through education, and bringing professionals from the community into classrooms to share their expertise and their stories.”
Brad Keywell is the Chairman of the Future Founders Foundation and the new Board of Directors includes Kevin Willer; Jim O’Connor, Jr., Managing Director, MVC Capital, Inc. and Co-Chairman, CEC; Phyllis Lockett, President & CEO, New Schools for Chicago and Mark Hoyt, CFO, International, Groupon. Scott Issen, Managing Director, CEC, is the President & CEO of the new organization.
“Nurturing tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and business leaders is critical to the continued success of Chicago’s economy,” said Scott Issen, President & CEO, Future Founders Foundation. “Through this partnership, we can expand our efforts and help more students discover what opportunities are possible and how they can achieve them.”
Future Founders provides motivated high school students in Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods the opportunity to learn about and experience entrepreneurship during the school year from some of the city’s most successful entrepreneurs. The goal of Future Founders is to expose students to entrepreneurial careers and have them create complete business plans. Since the program’s inception in 2005, Future Founders has provided over 7,000 hours of mentoring to 700 high school students on Chicago’s South and West Sides.
Connect to the Future unites middle school and high school students with successful entrepreneurs and business professionals from a variety of fields. Connect gives students a chance to ask questions, explore possibilities, and engage with potential role models who can validate the importance of hard work and the relevance of education to career success. Since the program’s inception in 2006, Connect to the Future has connected hundreds of professionals with students and classrooms in Chicago area middle schools and high schools.
Future Founders was created through a partnership between the CEC, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. The program is sponsored by the Motorola Solutions Foundation, AT&T, BMO Harris Bank, CME Group Foundation, the Ford Motor Company Fund, Microsoft, the Motorola Mobility Foundation and Smart Bet Charity, in partnership with the SME Education Foundation, the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Business Administration and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Connect to the Future was created based on the experience of a local entrepreneur who adopted a classroom at Jenner School for the Arts, a Chicago Public School, for the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. This successful program involved the entrepreneur adopting a 5th and 6th grade classroom, and bringing over a dozen different professionals to enlighten the students about the possibilities that await them in the world. When word got out about this program, there was extensive interest from many entrepreneurs and professionals wanting to volunteer their time and get involved. The Connect program is a response to this interest, and provides an organized and professional format in which Resources can connect with students to share their success.
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