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Dreams this Juneteenth from the CEO

Last week, I was asked to paint something to represent Juneteenth, a day that was supposed to be a dream come true for so many Black Americans. June 19, 1865 – 89 years after the United States declared independence, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Lincoln, only then came the declaration of freedom from slavery for Black men in Galveston, Texas. And even with this end to slavery, the road ahead for Black people in our country has been hard, full of pain, and we still are not equal in the eyes of many. It was just two days ago that the US government officially declared Juneteenth a federal holiday – 156 years after that first June 19th.

As a Black man, the first one in my family to graduate college, the first to serve in a CEO role, Juneteenth is an important day of reflection and remembrance of all who have come before me, fighting the good fight, getting into good trouble. When I became the CEO of Chicago Scholars two months ago, it was a real dream come true. I am so passionate about creating opportunity for our young people. I want to ensure that our Scholars, those who follow behind me, can show up and be their true, authentic selves. All of this success is because of those I followed, people like my parents and grandparents and mentors like Rev. Dr. Trunell D. Felder and Dr. William Towns.

So, what did I paint to represent Juneteenth? I painted people marching and fighting for change because that’s what we do. We fight. We must keep fighting and marching and speaking up and speaking out until every person feels safe and cared for, until every person can be their authentic self, to be seen, to lead. Our Scholars are the most impressive young people I know. I continue to be in awe of their resilience and drive. I am honored to serve them in their journeys, helping to unlock pathways toward their dreams.

Today, I am excited to share my dream for Chicago Scholars – a 10-year goal to serve our entire addressable market – all 4,000 of Chicago’s young people a year who have the academic ambition and the dream of attending a four-year college or university but lack resources, supports, and guidance along the way. Come on this journey with us! We don’t have all the answers yet about how to fully achieve it, but we know it’s the right path forward. Join us. Support us. Partner with us. Share in this dream. We will create a vibrant Chicago powered by diverse leaders from every neighborhood, together.

We will continue to fight for our dreams.

Jeffery Beckham, Jr.