Dominique Jordan Turner
A dynamic nonprofit helps teach kids the largely unwritten rules of success.
“I have seen the transformative power of education,” says Dominique Jordan Turner, president and CEO of Chicago Scholars. “Success is not just about the right education or the right grades. If you grow up poor, black or brown in this city, that is not enough.” Born to a teenage mother, Turner grew up in a Chicago housing project and is also the first member of her family to graduate from college. At her innovative nonprofit, she leads a team that works to ensure that students from under-resourced communities have a path to college and success, more broadly defined. Each student who enters the seven-year program is counseled, trained and mentored; even those who already have many of the skills they need learn the unwritten rules for success. “Poverty can be a superpower when you really look at it,” says Turner. “These students still persist despite many odds being against them. They are gritty, resilient and creative, they make good decisions, and those things help them excel and succeed later in life if they are given other tools.” Over the next three years, Turner plans to double the number of students that the nonprofit reaches—from 2,500 to 5,000. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Turner. “There are so many students who need these services. We’re just getting started.”
On Turner: Crepe de Chine flexible necklace ($27,500) and bracelet ($15,300) in yellow gold
Bolstering girls’ confidence with some expert advice
“Fashion is something—whether you are a fan or not—that everyone is faced with daily when they get dressed,” says Lindsay Siwiec, co-founder and president of new nonprofit Project Style, which works in low-income schools to empower young girls through fashion. “We really want to use fashion as a tool to empower and engage youth at a time when confidence is most critical.” Poor self-esteem, she notes, is one of the leading causes of low-attendance rates among adolescent girls. “Students who face issues with self-confidence are more at risk for low academic achievement,” Siwiec says. “Our ultimate goal is to make these girls feel great about themselves so they want to be in school and learning.” Style loving mentors engage with girls in the program throughout the school year, and participants have the ability to shop twice a year in a pop-up boutique of donated clothing. The nonprofit works in more than 20 schools in the Chicago area, and recently expanded out to four schools in Los Angeles thanks to a donation from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. While Siwiec, who attended grad school at the Fashion Institute of Technology, knows that the fashion industry is often thought of as a negative influence on young girls’ self-image, with Project Style, she’s attempting to flip the script. “We try to teach the girls that fashion is a way to express your uniqueness,” she says. “You can take it and make it whatever you want.”
On Siwiec: Opera necklace ($15,500), bracelet ($5,900) and earrings ($6,800) in yellow and white gold set with diamonds
Richard J Stephenson & Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson
With Gateway for Cancer Research, this dynamic couple forges new research paths.
Like so many philanthropic endeavors, Gateway for Cancer Research has an all-too-personal origin. Decades ago, when Richard J Stephenson’s mother succumbed to cancer, he wasn’t happy with the lack of urgency shown by those involved in fighting the disease. When he offered to bring in experts to share a new treatment approach, he was told, “We don’t do that here.” “I know,” he answered. “This is an opportunity to do better than what you are doing here. That woke me right up.” Since 1991, Gateway for Cancer Research, a nonprofit headquartered in Schaumburg, has funded researchers that have treated well over 3,000 patients. Last year, the group gave more than $6.1 million in grant funding, focusing on innovative clinical trials. “Trials are avant-garde, in reality,” says Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, Richard’s wife, who serves on the board. “They are on what I call the ‘bleeding’ edge of medicine. And there’s risk. But when you’re moving forward with someone who is month-by-month fighting for their life, they don’t have time for a five-year study.” Richard is the chairman of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, where Stacie is chairman of functional medicine, and it is not lost on the couple that they are, in a sense, working to put themselves out of business (the two entities operate separately). And, clearly, that would be fine with them.
Photo by Bob & Dawn Davis Photography
Bill and Lauren Smith
This couple, now a family, started small, and now they help children in Cambodia in a big way.
When Bill Smith, an official photographer for the Chicago Bulls, Blackhawks and Bears, first traveled to Cambodia in the 1990s, he felt drawn to something special about the people and the place. A few years later, while dating, Smith shared the experience with his now-wife, Lauren. And, according to Bill, “she fell in love as well.” The Smiths returned to the country often over the years, and on one of their trips, a driver took them to a Phnom Penh garbage dump where children were working. Bill recalls being bewildered and horrified at the conditions, and says, “We knew we had to do something.” They started by helping a few children pay to go to school—and then over the years they just kept helping. As support grew and the need continued, the couple started a nonprofit, A New Day Cambodia, to increase their impact and reach. To date, the nonprofit has served over 100 children in Phnom Penh, providing them with a safe place to live and learn. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get a text or message from someone,” Bill says, adding that the children they serve are a kind of extended family. The Smiths travel to the country often. “It really proves just a few people can make such a difference in the world,” he adds.
Channeling a love of action sports into an innovative mentoring program
Standing on his snowboard at the top of a mountain in Whistler, British Columbia, in 2004, adrenaline coursing through him, Steve Larosiliere felt an astonishing sense of clarity and purpose. He just wished that the teenager he had been mentoring back in New York City had been there to share that feeling with him. Propelled by that moment, Larosiliere partnered with Sal Masekela, former host of the X Games, to start STOKED: a mentoring program dedicated to empowering underserved youth through the values of action sports like snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding. “You have kids from low-income backgrounds who may not have the relationships or experiences or the skills that the middle class gets,” he says. “What we’re doing is hacking that. We’re putting them on a board or on top of a mountain to help accelerate the learning and growing.” Since then, he has brought the program to three cities and 21 schools, where mentors have taught over 4,000 kids everything from tricks to balancing on a surfboard to big ideas like goal-setting for the future—lessons he’s also eager to pass on to his own three young children. This past spring saw the launch of Chicago’s first STOKED programs. Larosiliere, who recently moved to Andersonville, has partnered with three Chicago Public Schools to develop after-school mentoring activities that will have participants snowboarding in Wisconsin during the winter, surfing in Michigan in the summer and skateboarding throughout the city—that is, once their homework is finished. “This work has completely changed my life,” he says. “The fact that I can skateboard is because I was given an opportunity. All we have to do is find a community in need and bring our talents there.”
Brian Black and Heiji Choy Black
One of the city’s power couples gives back through the arts.
Brian Black and Heiji Choy Black believe in the power of giving back and making Chicago a better city for all, and the couple’s philanthropic work is rooted in the idea that involvement in the arts is important for everyone. “We were both fortunate to have a lot of advantages growing up, and helping kids who haven’t had those advantages is what we’re passionate about,” says Brian. “For me it’s music, and for Heiji, the visual arts.” Brian is on the advisory committee for Invest for Kids, an organization that holds an annual conference in Chicago (this year on Nov. 2) and dedicates 100 percent of the funds raised—to date, more than $10 million—to charities focused on children. He is also a founding board member of Intonation Music, a nonprofit that makes music accessible to children across the city through year-round classes. “It scratches an itch that our family and work life doesn’t,” says Brian. “I know what music has done for me, and I’ve seen what it can do for kids across this city.” Heiji, who serves on the boards of the Architecture & Design Society of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Renaissance Society, says: “We want to have a bigger impact in communities across this city, and it’s important that youth have access to, and be exposed to, the power of art and design.”
Shot on location at Half Acre Balmoral Tap Room; On Choy Black: Macri hand-engraved bracelets in black gold set with diamonds ($16,500) and Macri hand-engraved bracelets in white gold set with diamonds ($14,500)