“Chicago Scholars is a nonprofit organization that works to support under-resourced students through college and into their careers. While there are 4,000 students who are eligible to complete the Chicago Scholars’ program every year, the nonprofit can only currently accept 550 into every class. The organization recently launched Reach Pathways as a way to serve more students by using technology. The startup developed REACH, a virtual metaverse platform that digitizes Chicago Scholars’ curriculum,” writes Ashley Bowden of BuiltIn Chicago.
For over two decades, Chicago Scholars has empowered nearly 6,000 high-performing, under-resourced students to overcome systemic barriers to success in college. In addition to its wraparound support for Chicago-based students, Chicago Scholars has created REACH, a first-of-its-kind app designed to connect top talent with professional opportunities in ways that feel less like homework and more like a video game.
REACH connects students, employers, colleges, and community partners in the virtual world, driving awareness and closing the gap between talent and opportunity. Students will earn badges and rewards for completing real-life tasks related to college and career success, such as applying for jobs and connecting with mentors. In addition, they will have access to community, support, and insider knowledge that often needs to be added for high-performing, under-resourced students whose families and friends may not have experience with college and the careers students would like to pursue.
Chicago Scholars CEO and REACH Pathways co-CEO Jeffery Beckham, Jr. presented this innovative opportunity as a finalist in the SXSW Pitch 2023, a competition showcasing innovative new technology to a panel of industry experts, high-profile media professionals, venture capital investors, and angel investors. REACH Pathways was the only Chicago-based startup to be recognized as a finalist in the 2023 pitch competition. REACH Pathways received an award in the Future of Work category, which focuses on technologies that enable, empower, change, and expand capabilities in the future of work and the working experience.
“We’re honored to receive SXSW’s Future of Work award for REACH,” said Beckham. “It is important that our mission bridges the gap between talent and opportunity for students to succeed. REACH Pathways will achieve this through its access to community, support, and insider knowledge – this award is a testament to that mission.”
Chicago Scholars is the largest education nonprofit in Chicago, welcoming 500-600 of the city’s most ambitious and driven underrepresented students into its class each year. Following the seven-year program, students have a 95% college enrollment rate, graduate at twice the rate of their peers, and 50% earn more than their parents did or are in management roles just a few years after college graduation. But the remaining 88% of eligible Chicago students – not to mention the millions of high-performing, under-resourced students nationwide – also deserve support.
“To achieve our vision of a vibrant Chicago powered by diverse leaders from every neighborhood, we need to serve those students,” said Brooke McKean, co-CEO of REACH and President of Chicago Scholars. “We’re proud of the intimate and individualized approach we provide our Scholars. Pairing that with the REACH app, we can spread our impact and take a major step forward in developing the leaders of tomorrow.”
“REACH Pathways is grounded in the belief that a student’s zip code shouldn’t determine their life outcomes. Success looks like diverse young adults accessing better careers, increasing their lifetime earnings, and creating multi-generational wealth – in Chicago and beyond,” said Beckham.
For more information on REACH and to get involved as a college or corporate partner, volunteer, or bring REACH to a specific community, visit www.reachpathways.com.