IVCA Civic Engagement Profiles – Mark Achler of MATH Venture Partners tells IVCA about one of his favorite organizations EMBARC Chicago

IVCA Civic Engagement Profiles – Mark Achler of MATH Venture Partners tells IVCA about one of his favorite organizations EMBARC Chicago

April 13, 2016

The definition of civic engagement is the following: individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern.

Imagine you know a child who is growing up in Chicago but has never seen the lake, never been to a museum, has never event ridden the 'L'.  Unfortunately for some students in Chicago Public Schools this lack of experiences is a reality.  Enter Embarc Chicago.

Embarc is a three-year program that provides experience-based learning opportunities to low-income high school students to prepare them for college and career success. Embarc’s goal is to drive student success with long-term social and cultural exposure. By engaging school districts, community partners and students, Embarc triggers intrinsic motivation in students, transforms how schools educate, and creates a more aware and integrated society.

Embarc’s program pairs a three-year, in-school curriculum with journey immersion, providing approximately 210 hours of Embarc programming to each student each year. Embarc collaborates with more than 200 community partners to provide these experiential learning opportunities in the areas of team building, health and wellness, arts and culture, and college and career awareness.

Experiences include: journeys to businesses, nonprofits, university partners, and cultural institutions; curated, school-based workshops by community partners; and “speed networking” community socials with corporate partners. These diverse partners include: Leo Burnett, Spudnik Press, Brooklyn Boulders, Catholic Charities, Bucketfeet, Lookingglass Theater, TV One, kCura, Arrupe College of Loyola University, Boka Restaurant Group, Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, and the Joffrey Ballet.

The design of Embarc’s program ensures that all experiences are coupled with a curriculum that supports growth and drives the goal of increasing academic achievement and achieving post-secondary and life success. Their theory of change is simple: if low income students have more social and cultural exposure, life skills, career development, and models for success, they will build non-cognitive skills and achieve academically, have post-secondary success, and contribute to their communities and to our collective society.

I got involved with the organization three years ago when I first met their leader Imran Kahn.  I went down to Harper High School in the Englewood neighborhood and watched his program in action and began mentoring kids.

This program really resonates with me because I think the greatest gift we can give to any child is the gift of hope and what is possible.  Embarc provides both leadership and cultural literacy for our most at need kids.

The impact of Embarc’s program - affirmed by experience, evaluation, and research - is to not only transform student outcomes in the short term but to - in the long term - inspire shifts in the policy determining how urban education is done and strengthen our collective social fabric.

Embarc measures the effectiveness of their program by its success in turning students from potential drop-outs to high school graduates and post-secondary successes. By tracking leading indicators such as GPA, on-track rate, and attendance, they can see quickly where their program is having the highest impact. Research shows that these leading indicators are highly correlated with program goals.

As Embarc's program has grown, they have sustained important student outcomes, including a 98% high school graduation rate among Embarc students graduating in 2015. Since Embarc’s program launched in 2010, they have also maintained an average 89% student attendance rate, and 93% college enrollment. Furthermore, their program has a proven social return on investment of 7:1 due to the social savings of a high school graduate vs. a high school dropout. As a result of these evaluation systems and proven impact, they have won several competitive grant awards in the past three years, including: A Better Chicago’s Project Impact, Impact 100 Chicago, and Invest For Kids.

I continue to mentor individual students and support all their events and I encourage interested IVCA members to check out the website for volunteer opportunities.

Board Member List: www.embarcchicago.org/team/#/board-team

To learn more about how to get involved, contact:

Eleanor Perrone
Director of Strategic Partnerships
[email protected]