Kellogg World Alumni Magazine, Winter 2003Kellogg School of Management
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Making a difference for the majority
Midtown Educational Foundation, with help from Kellogg School volunteers, gives a boost to “average” students

By Kari Richardson

Unlike some of its counterpart nonprofit organizations that target children who need the most help in school, or conversely, the academic superstars, the Midtown Educational Foundation has always aimed to help those in the middle of the pack.

The Chicago nonprofit organization provides after-school and summer programs for children from ages 8 to 18 at its Metro Achievement Center for girls and its Midtown Center for boys, integrating academic aid with character-building exercises to instill virtues such as industriousness and teamwork. Children who participate are those who score somewhere in the 30th to 70th percentile range on standardized tests — in short, those of “average” ability.

But there’s nothing mediocre about the results MEF has managed to achieve since its founding in 1965. With the help of organization staff and a cadre of dedicated volunteers, including many with Kellogg School connections, nearly 100 percent of MEF “graduates” have gone on to college for the past several years running, says Executive Director Philip Brach.

Brach credits the organization’s success to this core of committed tutors, who at first are advised to worry more about befriending their charges than charting their academic progress.

“If you become the child’s friend they don’t want to let you down,” Brach says. “We tell volunteers, ‘If the family has invited you over for dinner, you’re succeeding.’”

While it’s difficult to say exactly how many Kellogg School students, professors, staff and friends have provided a helping hand to MEF over the years, it’s clear a special relationship exists between the two groups. Jim Palos ’89, who once attended the MEF program as a student, was its executive director from 1992 to 1999, building many of the links that remain between the Kellogg School and the organization to this day.

“It was a very natural thing,” Palos says. “The two organizations share a similar personality — they’re both focused on developing and nurturing people. And both operate on the basis of teamwork. At Kellogg, academics operate through teamwork. At Metro and Midtown, every child has team support — parents or parent figures, volunteers and staff.”

Over the years, many present and former Kellogg School students have volunteered as MEF tutors or served on its board or junior board. Kellogg professors such as Donald Haider and Mary Pearlman have lent a hand as board members or by advising MEF on everything from team building to marketing strategy.

Kellogg’s Business with a Heart club also has designated Midtown Educational Foundation as a recipient of some of the money raised at its charity events.

Paige Herren ’02, a MEF volunteer for the past seven years, began her service before enrolling at the Kellogg School and has continued it since graduation. Now a consultant with a heavy travel schedule, Herren finds time to sit on the junior board, tackling issues of tutor retention and recruitment, and planning a variety of events to thank those who dedicate their time to the cause.

“I’ve stuck with it because of the kids,” Herren says. “I just love giving back to them.”

Adds Kellogg professor of public management and director of the Program in Nonprofit Management Donald Haider, who’s served on MEF’s board since 1993: “You see results year after year. It works. You see dedicated volunteers and teachers and parents who aspire for their kids to do something else.”

But Palos is quick to point out that the Kellogg-MEF relationship works both ways, with volunteers benefiting equally from the relationship.

“Everyone who’s gotten involved will tell you that it’s a two-way street,” he says. “People from Kellogg are receiving every time they get involved.”

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University