Evanston Scholars Mentors Help Low-Income Teens Thrive in College

In 2015, I want to use my blog to re-iterate and re-print important pieces like this one that are running in Make It Better magazine. Please read and share this fascinating story.

Jonathan Martinez, 18, is a senior at Evanston Township High School who hopes to study business or engineering next year at college. He is still deciding whether he wants to stay close to home and attend Lake Forest College or travel further away and attend one of his top choices, Western Michigan University. But a year and a half ago, Martinez wasn’t sure he’d ever have the chance to make that decision.

“The first college I looked up was Lake Forest College. I saw the price and I thought how in the world am I going to get this money?” Martinez says.

Evanston Scholars is a program working to help first generation, high-achieving students at ETHS like Martinez get into and prosper at “good-fit” colleges.

“They don’t give out money but they help you find it,” Martinez says. “I had no idea where to start, and they narrowed it down with me.”

Program founder Steve Newman is a teacher at ETHS. He says he started the program because he saw so many ambitious students drop out of college.

“That was so hard to see and I still see it—they go for a semester and then they come back and then they’re working, and then they’re still working,” Newman says. These students don’t make long-term plans and, therefore, limit their possibilities for the future, he says.

Only 8 percent of high-achieving, low-income students are “achievement typical” in their application patterns, meaning they applied to institutions that closely matched their abilities, according to a 2013 study called “The Missing One-Offs: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving Low-Income Students.”

Newman says he thinks the biggest problem for his organization’s target population is the lack of support once they arrive on campus. Evanston Scholars combats this issue with a dedicated staff and long-term mentorship. Once students are accepted to competitive programs, they are matched with a mentor who provides support for the next six years. Mentors assist with everything from writing college essays to scheduling school visits to understanding scholarship/financial information.


“I remember when we were working on my college essay statement, my mentor and I started around 7 p.m. and the next thing you know, we are working on polishing it up and trying to gather my ideas, and it’s three in the morning,” says Martinez. “He told me it’s worth it to him because all of this is going to pay off later.”

Becoming a Mentor

The only qualification for applying to be a mentor: you must be a college graduate.

“It’s a big time commitment if you’re going to do it well,” says mentor Jennifer Steans.

Steans, who owns private equity firm in Chicago, says the program provides mentors with structure and helpful tools, but every mentor goes about the process their own way. Steans says that she would meet with her mentee on Sunday afternoons. They would go over materials, do work and then she would invite her mentee to stay for family dinner. One of the most rewarding things for Steans was seeing where her mentee ended up going to school.

“She has told me under no certain terms that she believes she really would have been at Oakton Community College,” Steans says. “Instead, she’s on almost a full ride to Lake Forest College, where she is studying to be an elementary teacher, which is what her dream has been.”

Evidence of Success

Newman estimates it costs $15,000 per student to come through the program for six years. For the organization’s most recent class, each student was granted an average of $126,000 of scholarship money for four years.

“So if you look monetarily at return on investment, that’s a nice rate of return,” Newman says.

Evanston Scholars participants apply to 10 schools on average. The national average is three. The program currently accepts 30 students, but Newman would like to increase enrollment to 40. Newman says the toughest part is turning down qualified students, but he’s pleased to see program participants helping classmates.

“Right now I know a couple of students who have actually asked me for help on their college applications,” Martinez says. “I finished six applications before I even started the school year, so I offered my help.”

A college degree nearly quadruples the chances for children born into the bottom fifth of the income distribution to make it to the top, according to a 2008 report titled “Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America.”

Martinez says his parents often tell him, “We have a good life, but we want you to have a better life.”

“I want to make sure I get there,” Martinez says. “And if other people need help, I want to make sure I get them there with me.”

For more information on Evanston Scholars or to apply to become a mentor, visitevanstonscholars.org.

Other college prep programs similar to Evanston Scholars include:


Please also view this article on our website, along with additional content. Thanks for the support. http://makeitbetter.net/philanthropy/evanston-scholars-mentors-help-low-income-teens-thrive-in-college/

How can you be a hero too?

CNN Ten Heroes of  2014

Tis the season that we are reminded that everyone can be a hero when they give of their time, talents and treasure.Heroes come in all sizes, abilities and social economic strata. They aren’t just royalty, celebrities or the uber wealthy, talented, or athletic. Authentic heroes are human beings just like you and me who do their best with the gifts that life bestowed on them.Inspiring examples of this abound:

Time magazine’s Persons Of The Year – The Ebola Fighters.

The Week magazine “It Wasn’t All Bad” column recognizing  Hells Angels in Fresno, California who stood in line for 5 hours to buy bikes for needy kids. “You ain’t got enough money in this station to make me feel the way I feel when I give these kids these bikes,” says Hells angels fresno ca in a local tv interview.

CNN named their Ten Heroes of 2014.  These are folks who protect lions, teach music to injured soldiers, open new worlds to autistic youth, and  help children who are fighting cancer, poverty and a lack of opportunity.

cnn heroes 2014

Watch Anderson Cooper in this video and take a look at each of these heroes below.

Here are CNN’s 10 Heroes of 2014, in alphabetical order:

CNN Hero: Arthur Bloom

Arthur Bloom

Arthur Bloom has used the healing power of music to help hundreds of injured soldiers recover their lives. His program, MusiCorps, pairs professional musicians with troops recovering at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, helping them play instruments and write and record music. “By injecting music into this space, we can inject life,” Bloom said. “There’s nothing injured about the way they do it. It’s just good music.”

CNN Hero: Jon Burns

Jon Burns

Jon Burns is rallying fellow soccer fans to help children from poor communities in cities hosting the World Cup and other major tournaments. Since 2006, his nonprofit, Lionsraw, has engaged more than 500 volunteers in construction projects and educational programs that have benefitted nearly 6,000 children. “We’re trying to harness the passion of football fans to make a difference,” he said.

CNN Hero: Pen Farthing

Pen Farthing

Pen Farthing, a former Royal Marine Sergeant, is reuniting soldiers with the stray dogs they befriend while serving in Afghanistan. His nonprofit, Nowzad Dogs — named for the stray Farthing rescued during his tour — has helped more than 700 soldiers from eight countries. “My connection with Afghanistan stayed alive because of Nowzad,” Farthing said. “To be able to get that animal home to them, it closes the loop.”

Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg

CNN Hero: Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg

Rabbi Elimelech Goldberg lost his 2-year-old daughter to leukemia in 1981. Today, his nonprofit, Kids Kicking Cancer, uses martial arts to help children battling serious illnesses manage pain during medical treatments. The group has provided free lessons and support for 5,000 children and their families. “They’re often so afraid,” Goldberg said. “We teach kids how to control their pain and make them feel powerful.”

CNN Hero: Leela Hazzah

Leela Hazzah

Leela Hazzah has dedicated her life to lion conservation. In 2007, she started Lion Guardians, a nonprofit that works with African Maasai warriors to protect lions. The group now employs more than 70 Lion Guardians throughout East Africa and has helped the lion population grow. “I know we’re making a difference,” Hazzah said. “When I first moved here, I never heard lions roaring. But now I hear lions roaring all the time.”

CNN Hero: Patricia Kelly

Patricia Kelly

Patricia Kelly is using horses to motivate at-risk children in Hartford, Connecticut. Her nonprofit, Ebony Horsewomen, provides horseback riding lessons and teaches animal science to more than 300 young people a year. “We use horses as a hook to create pride, esteem and healing,” said Kelly. “They learn that they have ability. They just have to unlock it.”

CNN Hero: Annette March-Grier

Annette March-Grier

Annette March-Grier grew up in her family’s funeral home. After her mother’s death, she created Roberta’s House, a nonprofit in Baltimore that helps children and their families cope with grief. Since 2008, more than 1,000 children have benefited from the group’s free programs. “We’re giving families in this city a sense of hope,” she said. “We’re helping to heal wounds and bring families back together again.”

CNN Hero: Ned Norton

Ned Norton

For the last 25 years, Ned Norton has provided strength and conditioning training to people living with a variety of disabilities. He now trains more than 120 people every week through his nonprofit, Warriors on Wheels. “I’m building them up, building them stronger, so they can go out and live life like they’re supposed to.” Norton said.

CNN Hero: Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes

Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes

Amid the violence in his native Guatemala, Juan Pablo Romero Fuentes turned his family’s home into a haven for young people. Since 2006, his nonprofit, Los Patojos (the Little Ones), has provided educational opportunities and support to more than 1,000 children. I want to inspire these kids,” he said. “They are the ones in charge of writing the new history in Guatemala.”

CNN Hero: Dr. Wendy Ross

Dr. Wendy Ross

Dr. Wendy Ross is opening new worlds to autistic children and their families. Since 2010, her nonprofit, Autism Inclusion Resources, has helped hundreds of families navigate challenging social situations, such as sporting events and airport travel. “If you start taking steps outside of your door, your world gets bigger and bigger,” said Ross. “We just want people to have opportunities.”

As part of their award package, each top 10 Hero will also receive free organizational training from the Annenberg Foundation, a leading supporter of nonprofits worldwide. The Heroes will participate in a customized version of the Annenberg Alchemy program, which offers practical guidance to help strengthen organizations for long-term success.

The Power of One: American Red Cross Study Proves Social Connections Influence Online Donations

“The Power Of One, The Strength Of Many” – T-shirt on man doing a Santa Monica Stairs work-out

a Friend's referralNothing beats word of mouth from a trusted friend to raise money for a good cause.  Nothing. That is why a good word online is increasingly powerful for nonprofits.

The internet quickly shares a positive comment or donation recommendation across social networks, connecting to others who know the recommender or care about the cause too. One good person can generate a crowd of supporters from the comfort of his or her home.American REd Cross

The power of one social entrepreneur becomes the strength of many for savvy nonprofits who embrace online to amplify their fundraising efforts. A recent report published by the American Red Cross How Your Friends Affect Your Donations This Holiday Season confirms this. See the infographic here.

“This survey shows how social networks and charitable giving are intersecting and building on one another,” Gail J. McGovern, President and CEO of the Red Cross explains. “These social philanthropists are giving online to charities and sharing the news on social networks, which then often leads to more social activity and more giving by their friends. I believe this trend will only grow in the future.”

The study also corroborates what we see at Make It Better with our media sponsorships of nonprofit fundraisers.  Put online a short, heart-felt story that brings to life the organization’s mission, along with information about the event, and encourage supporters to share.  Interest grows, donations flow, tickets sell. It’s almost like magic.  Nonprofits that we help this way routinely report back that events sell out early and more money is raised than ever.

Digital word of mouth still isn’t as powerful as an in person recommendation though. As the ARC study explains, even though online social users are giving in larger numbers than ever, they still say face-to-face interaction is the best way to solicit donations. Isn’t this just common sense too?  It’s harder to say no to someone in person than online.

Nonetheless, savvy social entrepreneurs, nonprofits and our publishing company understand that most people like to help – particularly when it’s easy or they have a personal connection. Using the internet is the easiest fastest way to share information about the opportunity to donate time, talent or treasure and turn the power of one into the strength of many.

Please also read my recent blog post on the research showing that young women are the biggest givers.

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium Names Baby Sea Otter!

The name is in: Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium named its sea otter pup Luna! Welcome Luna to Chicagoland!

Here’s one more adorable reason to love Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium – Pup 681, a rescued sea otter pup. Watch This 

We are big supporters of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago and here’s a simple way you can help our iconic institution– Vote to name their new sea otter pup. The Shedd is partnering with ABC’s Good Morning America to help pick out the perfect name for sea otter Pup 681. Voting on the GMA website begins today through Dec. 11. Please chime in and take a look at these adorable pics and the video of the cute ball of fuzz!

Here’s the schoop one the Shedd on the darling pup:

Pup 681 came to Shedd on October 28 through it’s collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  She’s been swimming past significant milestones over the last few weeks and has already doubled in size – now weighing a little over 10 pounds, Because Shedd has a history of naming animals that are rescued affiliated with the locations of which they were found, the names under consideration were: 

  • Cali – To honor the California otter
  • Ellie – Año Nuevo State Park is well known for its elephant seals, also Elkhorn Slough – an area that is right up the coast from Monterey that is home to many sea otters
  • Luna – Derived from nearby Half Moon Bay
  • Poppy – California State Flower
  • Aña or Anya  – Derived from Año Nuevo State Park

And Luna was the winner!

Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Institute Study shows that Women Give!

We’ve long known that older women control the majority of philanthropic giving, probably because they live longer than men, but also because husbands often defer to their wives’ opinions.

Interestingly, the recent Women Give 2014 report by the Indiana University Women’s Philanthropy Institute of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy proves that younger women give more generously than we previously believed.  In fact, younger women who are not affiliated with a specific religion donate twice as much as younger men and older women.

It’s an interesting conclusion and stems from the reality that fewer young Americans are affiliating with organized religion; in fact, one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation. While religiosity has frequently been tied to giving, the report argues that there’s no reason for concern.  Women Give 2014 encouraging results include:

In an important shift in patterns, the standard religiosity-giving story does not apply to younger single women who are religiously unaffiliated – the “Nones.” Younger single women who are Nones give roughly two times larger amounts to charitable organizations than women who are affiliated but who infrequently attend religious services.

The study also shows additional finding regarding these younger single women “Nones”:

  • give roughly two times larger amounts to Not-religiously identified organizations (NRIOs) than they do to religiously identified organizations.
  • give roughly two times larger amounts to charitable organizations than do young men.
  • give more than two and a half times larger amounts to charity than middle-age and older women who are Nones.

The Women Give 2014 report affirms again, as it did in past years, that gender and age do indeed matter in charitable giving. It suggests that nuanced fundraising strategies which build strong relationships with both men and women and demonstrate that their goals and approaches are relevant to those different audiences will help assure that resources continue to be available to meet society’s challenges.

Have you observed this in your organizations or among friends and family? Please share your thoughts. Please also read my past blog on The 5 P’s of Effective Philanthropy.

Shop For Good Is Good Business

Shop For Good at Make It Better

Most people want to be connected to a community they trust help and to help others as much as possible.  Just like you – right?

Unfortunately though, most people also are busier than ever, making it harder than ever to connect and help.

Happily, these facts presented Make It Better with a good opportunity to further our mission to be the most trusted, easiest to use community resource that helps you make your life and the lives of others better. So we created the ultimate online shopping virtuous circle – connecting our valuable audience to trusted community businesses and paying it forward to carefully vetted nonprofits.Shop for Good at Make it Better.net
Shop For Good.

Best of all, Shop For Good links to our trusted online editorial. In other words, with only a few clicks, you learn up to the minute tips, trends and recommendations, act on them while supporting an outstanding community businesses and help others through the most impactful nonprofits.

Win for you, win for your community, win for the world. Between now and December 31st, the 8 nonprofits which just won our 2014 Philanthropy Awards will receive the 10% donation from Shop For Good proceeds. They are:crushers club

Crushers Club

Phelan Leadership Academies

Refugee One

Refugee One


Skin of Steel

Sit Stay ReadSolidarity Bridge

Trees That Feed

Also, we proudly announce that the following businesses are participating in our Shop For Good launch:

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa Services

Silver Gemstone Chakra Bracelet by Full Bloomed Lotus

Signature Suede Cape by Mountain Hides

Holiday Candle & Gift by Juniper Boutique

Your Life in Books by Books of Life

Teddie Kossof Bonus Gift by Teddie Kossof Salon Spa

Brighton Pocket Mirror by Mattie M

Shop for Good at Make it Better.netPlease note that we take our mission so seriously that Shop For Good items can include photos of the people who own or run the businesses and other information that will help you feel more connected to and enthusiastic about the business.

You learn that capes are a wearable trend in our article “6 Wearable Fall Trends” http://makeitbetter.net/better-you/6-most-wearable-trends-for-fall-2014/

Shop for Good at Make it Better.net





Every Child Deserves Arts in Schools : Lindblum Math & Science Academy “Be Creative Program”

Be Creative Campaign“If this available for some children, it needs to be available for all children!” Susie Kiphart, CoChair Be Creative: The Campaign For Creative Schools
Thanks to lion-hearted philanthropist and former Director of Christian Education Susie Kiphart for taking Make It Better to the Lindblum Math and Science Academy, to see its unique blend of arts education with core STEM subjects.  It works!  Lindblum is a vibrant school where students graduate with impressive scholarships – even though it’s located one of Chicago’s worst neighborhood. It’t an amazing program and you can see more about it here.
Suburban as well as other Chicago Public Schools can benefit from the Lindblum model too. Be Creative!  Please watch our Be Creative video to experience our visit.


Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Windfall Benefits All

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is receiving a windfall $3.3 billion – that’s right, $3.3 billion – on its investment of $150 million with a small biotechnology company about 15 years ago to entice the firm to research and develop drugs to help patients of this horrible inherited orphan disease.

That windfall is great news for Cystic Fibrosis patients, their families and the Foundation. Not only has the life expectancy of CF patients now doubled – from 20 to 40 years old – there is greater hope for the future, because the $3.3 billion will be reinvested to accelerate additional help for patients. Perhaps it will eventually help eradicate the disease.Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Unfortunately though, as covered by the New York Times recently, controversy and complaints swirl around the Foundation.  Some complain that it should have done more to encourage a lower cost for the drug.  Others claim that disease nonprofits never should be investors in research, but rather just donate money for academic research. But really, this type of venture philanthropy seems the most expeditious route to helping cure patients.

National Multiple Sclerosis Society Everyone should celebrate this success and encourage creation of additional “virtuous circles” that connect the people most knowledgeable about a disease and passionate to find a cure with those who can help the fastest. Experts agree. “If we want to get therapies to patients faster, we need to be partnering with the industry that actually brings those drugs to patients,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, chief executive of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Other organizations pursuing similar venture philanthropy strategies include JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), the the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and other groups involved in muscular dystrophy.

Juvenile Diabetes Research FoundationPlease stop the bickering and focus on the fastest routes forward to find cures.  Instead, please pause and be grateful to the CF Foundation for leading the way by example 15 years ago and join the families of CF patients celebrating with their loved ones.



Misa 4 Love Art Therapy for Kids in Need

Misa for Love Foundation

Please join me to thank and celebrate the wonderful Misa Art for honoring her gifts and founding the Misa 4 Love Foundation, which brings art therapy and education to as many children as possible. Almost losing her life in a serious hit-and-run car accident inspired Art to listen to her internal calling. She now focuses on using her creative and intuitive gifts to help in-need youth express themselves.Love United from Boys and Girls club with Misa for Love

Today, the Misa For Love Foundation provides at-risk children with a form of art therapy, facilitating emotional and physical healing through painting. Launched in 2013, Misa for Love has worked with children at the Boys & Girls ClubCenter for Independence and Conductive Education and the Sinai Community Institute.

To support her Foundation and others that help the kids,  Art frames and sells the children’s work. Last year, she partnered with children attending the Chicago and Countryside locations of the Center for Independence’s program to create a painting inspired by the organization’s logo. It was auctioned at the organization’s annual fundraiser and all the proceeds went to support intensive motor training for children with physical disabilities.

“Art is a great way to help children naturally, whether it’s with anxiety or other issues,” she says. SeeMisa 4 Love this video montage about Misa and watch Misa with the kids she works with at this beautiful video of her 2013 Dream Project here, too.

The world needs more Misa Arts. We need people who use their gifts, act on their calling and make a difference for others as much as we need to grow art therapy opportunities for every child and every struggling adult.

Thank you Misa!

Boys and Girls Club with Misa 4 Love


Make It Better Publisher Note on our Guide to Giving


‘TIS THE TIME OF YEAR that most people’s thoughts turn to gifts for those they love— and charitable gifts for those who need extra love and support. ‘Tis the time of year we love at Make It Better, too, because we make your giving easier. Are you feeling the warmth, too?

Walgreens, our generous Guide To Giving sponsor, is adept at creating win/win oppor-tunities to help you and others, like its vaccination partnership with the United Nations Foundation and its great shopping experiences in the new zero-carbon-footprint stores. Similarly, Make It Better thrives by giving you content, connections and opportunities, which make it easy for you to help others while also helping you and your family. We publish this annual Guide To Giving to showcase this.


We’ve worked closely with every nonprofit included and highly recommend them to you. We carefully vet every Give Time, Give Things, Give Support recommendation and assure you that your gifts will be well used. We’ve proudly built a network with our “Warming Hearts & Hands” program that makes it easy for you to give the gift of new winter outerwear to people in need and feel more connected to a caring community in the process.

Just as importantly, this Guide also shares our fundraising expertise and explains how you can help your favorite nonprofit grow. Please learn more by contacting me any time.

Welcome. Enjoy. Happy giving Season!! Beautiful giving

Make It Better:  $$ RAISED FOR NOT-FOR-PROFITS : $3,653,706