Chicago Scholars CEO empowers underserved teens with path to college

By Leslie Mann

Dominique Jordan Turner was born to a teenage mother from a Chicago housing project, and she had peers who struggled to avoid the crime that plagued their neighborhood. But Turner ("Mika" to her family) had an advantage — a mother with foresight. She moved Turner and her sister to Niles, Mich., where they thrived within the safety net of an everybody-knows-everybody small town.

"We were parented by all the parents there," said Turner. "We saw beyond a life of young pregnancies, hourly jobs and no education."

Turner went on to earn a bachelor's degree in business from Clark Atlanta University and an MBA from Marquette University, then became a management consultant for Deloitte Consulting. After serving in the Peace Corps in Panama (and becoming fluent in Spanish), Turner sought nonprofit work.

Since 2013, she has been the CEO of Chicago Scholars Foundation, which helps talented but underserved Chicago high-schoolers get into and stay in college.

"Friend-raising and fundraising" consume her day, said Turner, 38, who coaxes donors to give their time and money to the foundation, which receives no government support.

"She's a charismatic collaborator, tackling huge problems like inequality of education," said Sarah Berghorst, a nonprofit director who served with Turner in the Peace Corps. "She knows how to help underserved students because she's been there."

Turner's volunteer posts include serving on the IMPACT Leadership Development Program (emerging African-American professionals) in Chicago and on the Illinois Mentoring Partnership's Program Leadership Council. She founded Black Girls Lead (for female nonprofit directors in Chicago).

Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Turner to the Chicago Board of Education. She is one of four new members who will serve a four-year term beginning July 1.

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