Obama Foundation Continues To Engage The Community As the Obama Presidential Center Construction Presses On

Johsua Harris is the Vice President of Public Engagement at The Obama Foundation. PHOTO BY THE OBAMA FOUNDATION.
Johsua Harris is the Vice President of Public Engagement at The Obama Foundation. PHOTO BY THE OBAMA FOUNDATION.

Obama Foundation Continues To Engage The Community As the Obama Presidential Center Construction Presses On

By Tia Carol Jones

The Obama Presidential Center is set to open in 2025-2026. Phase one of the opening will take place in Fall 2025, with Home Court, the Programs and Athletic Center. Phase two will be the big grand opening of the full campus in Spring 2026.

Joshua Harris has been the Vice President of Public Engagement at the Obama Foundation for two years. Harris oversees community engagement, alumni affairs and economic development. In his role, he has been putting together the pieces to get the Foundation to a successful opening of the Obama Presidential Center.

“President and Mrs. Obama chose to put the center on the South side to give back to a community that has given so much to them. But, for the South side and Chicago, they would not be where they are today. That’s why they chose to put the center in Woodlawn,” Harris said.

Harris said that construction of the Obama Presidential Center campus is going well. There is a diverse workforce building the center and that workforce is reflective of the South and West sides of the city. He added that having the grand opening of the full campus in Spring 2026 gives the foundation the opportunity to have people from the city and all over the world celebrate the opening.

Harris said the part the Obama Foundation is most looking forward to in regards of the opening of the Obama Presidential Center are the programs. Currently, the foundation has a partnership with Hyde Park Academy High School for the Future Series. With that program, experts and professionals share their career paths and give advice on success to the high school students.

“Our CEO Valerie Jarrett always says, ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.’  We want to expose young people to these opportunities early on,” Harris said. He added the hope is to expand programs like the Future Series and give more young people access and exposure.

The Museum Tower will have the journey of the Obamas and how they rose to the White House, the accomplishments of the administration, their life post-presidency. There will be a replica of the Oval Office and Mrs. Obama’s dresses. At the top of the tower, people will have an opportunity to look out at the South and West sides and reflect how they bring about change in their own neighborhoods. The Home Court is a community space that will have community programming.

There will be a restaurant and café, as well as a 300-seat auditorium. The auditorium will be able to accommodate guest lectures and community forums. There will also be a first-of-its-kind Chicago Public Library branch on the campus. A fruit and vegetable garden and teaching kitchen will be on the campus. The goal is to bring healthy eating and nutrition programming to young people and intergenerational people across the city.

Most of the space on the 19.3-acre campus is free to access. The only exception is the Museum Tower, which will have timed entry. There will be free high-speed WIFI throughout the campus.

My Brother’s Keeper Alliance celebrated its 10th year anniversary. Young people in the program went on a trip to Phoenix, Ariz. to get behind the scenes access to the Final Four. It gave those students an opportunity to see career paths in sports. The Girl Opportunity Alliance launched a fund where $500,000 was distributed to 14 local organizations. For more information about the Obama Foundation, visit www.obama.org.

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