5th Annual Philanthropy Awards: One Million Degrees

Photo courtesy of One Million Degrees.

Since its inception in 2006, One Million Degrees has served as the only organization in Illinois that empowers low-income, highly motivated college students to succeed in school, work and life.

CEO Paige Ponder leads a staff of 23 that works to help community college students — who make up more that 60 percent of all public college students in Illinois — graduate and flourish in the “real world.” One Million Degrees’ innovative Scholar Development Program aims to “transform academic and professional outcomes for community college students by providing layers of support that address students’ complex and diverse challenges.”

The program’s core components include personal support in the form of monthly coaching from a business professional and case management from trained program coordinators; professional support, which includes leadership development and monthly professional development sessions; academic support that includes free weekly tutoring; and financial support, specifically up to $1,000 a year in tuition assistance and stipends.

In OMD’s first 10 years, 66 percent of program participants have either received their associate’s degree and/or earned sufficient credits to transfer to a four-year university. As of spring 2016, 89 percent of those who have transferred have either received their bachelor’s degree or are still pursuing it currently.

As OMD rapidly expands, the organization is excited to be piloting a group coaching system that will provide both scholars and coaches “with a more robust experience.”

One Million Degrees By the Numbers: 

  • A $5 contribution provides one scholar toolkit, textbook and programming
  • $1,000 per year in financial support in the form of stipends, grants and tuition assistance
  • 700 scholars empowered for the 2016-2017 year
  • 1,000 scholars expected to be served by 2018

This article is part of our 5th Annual Philanthropy Awards series. Find more of our winners here: