Project OneTen receives $150,000 from NewSchools Venture Fund
By Tia Carol Jones
Dirrick Butler founded Project OneTen in 2018 with the goal of helping young men of color coming out of eighth grade transitioning into high school. Project OneTen received the $150,000 in unrestricted funding from the NewSchools Venture Fund as part of its Racial Equity investment area. NewSchools Venture Fund Racial Equity investment aims to offer “dream capital” to leaders who are working to address racial inequities in education.
“This grant is amazing. It is really allowing us to dream bigger and envision bigger for our organization. These funds will allow us to expand our programming and support more students. This grant will allow us to have operation funds, to do things that will expand our reach and our impact, recruiting students, recruiting mentors, having programming in a larger number of schools,” Butler said. It is Project OneTen’s goal to double next year’s class size.
Butler taught U.S. History at an all Boys school in Chicago. Teaching mostly freshmen, he discovered there was a big gap between eighth grade and ninth grade. There is a different set of skills, higher level of thinking and rigor that is required for high school. Butler’s wheels started to turn for ways to support Black and Brown boys transitioning into high school. Butler was well aware the impact that freshmen year had on a students’ high school career. “It’s like building a house, you have to start with a really good foundation, that is what Freshman year of high school is like,” he said.
Since Project OneTen was founded in 2018, it has serviced 170 students through a mixture of out-of-school programming and in-school support programming, at the schools in the 12 target communities that are on the South and West sides. School leaders and counselors identify students they believe are in need of additional support. Project OneTen also leads workshops for a small group of students at a school once a month. The organization is working with the Chicago Bulls College Prep, UIC College Prep and Drake Elementary.
Project OneTen pairs students in the program, who start the summer of their freshman year, with a mentor and an academic coach.
With the funds that Project OneTen received from NewSchools Venture Fund, they will have the opportunity to deepen its impact in the community. The unrestricted grant allows Project OneTen as the people on the ground to direct the funds where they decide and where they know it will make the most impact, whether it is payroll, programming or internal infrastructure.
“All of these things go to make sure our organization is running, but also, will ensure our students are getting the quality experience and programming they deserve,” Butler said. He is very appreciative that NewSchools gave Project OneTen the grant, which he also believes is a vote of confidence in the work the organization is doing.
Butler acknowledges that the parents of the students participating in Project OneTen’s programming are entrusting their students to a young organization. The response from the parents has been overwhelming. They have been appreciative of Project OneTen’s level of attentiveness to the students and have asked if the program can continue into the sophomore year.
Students who began the program when it was first founded are now set to graduate from high school in June. Project OneTen has been checking in with them and continuing the relationship. The students have also expressed wanting the program to be longer.
For more information about Project OneTen, visit www.projectoneten.org.
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