Academy for Global Citizenship

Photo courtesy of Liz Gilmore for Academy for Global Citizenship.

The Academy for Global Citizenship is a jewel nestled amid urban blight. A nonprofit Chicago public charter school, the Academy for Global Citizenship is making waves in elementary education, working to create a class of scholars that care about their community as much as their grades.

Founded in 2008 by Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, a Cambridge graduate and former vice president of education on the governing board of the United Nations, the Academy for Global Citizenship, the 4th Annual Philanthropy Awards winner in the Education category, prides itself on developing “mindful leaders who take action both now and in the future to positively impact their communities and the world beyond.”

The Academy is an International Baccalaureate school that serves 90 percent minority and 81 percent low-income students and focuses on a holistic style of learning that includes classes on everything from notable leaders to the global issue of food waste.

Just recently, the Academy started work on their forthcoming sustainable campus project (designed by Studio Gang, the group behind the new Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Aqua Tower in Chicago and the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo) and hopes to use the marketing package from their Philanthropy Award to inform people about the cause and engage potential partners.

“This is something we’ve been thinking about, dreaming about, planning since we were founded,” Katherine Elmer-DeWitt, the external initiatives manager, says. “This is really an extension of our mission to reimagine public education and to serve as a model of teaching and learning in the 21st century.”

The green campus is intended to be not only the most environmentally friendly of its kind in the Midwest but also replicable at the district level.

The Academy is set to graduate its first set of 8th graders this spring and the faculty and staff are excited to begin building an alumni base with which they can continue fostering a relationship.

“They’re now looking at high schools and many of them are interviewing for selective enrollment and very competitive scholarships,” Elmer-DeWitt says. “It’s made us so tremendously proud to watch them go through that process … and how it’s forced them to reflect on their education with us.”

That education is certainly unlike one you’d find at any other school on the southwest side, or even in an affluent suburb. Second graders just finished a unit on social advocacy and studied people from Malala Yousafzai to Cesar Chavez to “a GMO biodiversity advocate who I had never even heard of,” Elmer-DeWitt says with a laugh.

Looking forward, the Academy for Global Citizenship is focused on raising an additional $1,000 per student to cover the gap between what Chicago Public Schools provide and what is needed to continue the level of excellent education. They have also set the date for their next fundraiser, called Chefs’ Playground for May 19, 2016 that will bring them towards their 30 million dollar goal for the green campus.

But for now, the Academy is happy to simply focus on the nearly 500 children who have the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that encourages them to think beyond the confines of the playground.

“Our proudest accomplishments and moments have been the ways that our students really embody the mission of our school,” Elmer-DeWitt says. “Our students are a daily reminder of that mission and the power to positively impact communities and really make change.”

Academy for Global Citizenship By the Numbers:

  • 450 students
  • 851 Kilowatt hours (KwH) of energy produced each year through solar panels
  • 37.5 pounds of waste diverted from a landfill through composting and recycling each week
  • 160,000 organic meals served each year
  • A $5 contribution would yield a 100 percent organic breakfast, lunch and snack, for one student prepared from scratch by an in-house

Award Sponsor: The Morris and Dolores Kohl Kaplan Fund of the Dolores Kohl Education Foundation


This article is part of our 4th Annual Philanthropy Awards series. Find more of our winners here: