Mission: Umoja partners with Chicago’s most challenged public high schools to create positive, youth-centered environments that increase student attendance and engagement, reduce violence, promote academic success and increase graduation and college enrollment rates. Founded in 1997 at Manley High School – a school on the west side of Chicago with a 99.8% African-American and 97% low income student population – Umoja has supported driving a 67% increase in the graduation rate, a dramatic increase in the college enrollment rate from less than 10% to close to 60%, and a 45% decrease in out-of-school suspensions. By building a web of dynamic relationships where schools, families and communities partner to bridge the gap between the talents and ambitions of low-income youth and the resources they need to thrive, Umoja equips young people to succeed in college and confidently claim their future.
Results: • Nearly 100% of Manley’s 2012 seniors applied for college, collectively submitting almost 1,000 college applications and 87% received college acceptance letters.
• Manley’s Class of 2012 collectively earned more than $1 million in scholarships.
• More than 95% of the seniors in Manley’s Class of 2012 completed and submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), an integral step on the road to college for low-income students. This completion rate far exceeded the 57% FAFSA completion rate for seniors nationally in 2010.
• More than 120 teachers and administrators from 12 schools attended the Umoja University 2012 Summer Institute. Nearly 100% of participants reported that the week-long training was well-organized and a productive use of their time; 94% said the workshops would positively influence their teaching practice.
• Since implementing the Restorative Justice program at Manley, out-of-school suspensions have decreased by more than 40% and school attendance has increased by more than 18%.
Umoja is an amazing program where I was fortunate enough to get the chance to become apart of. A little over ten years ago, I can remember clearly, seeing our current CEO Ted Christians walking through the halls of Manley with boxes of pizza and me following the scent wondering how could I get a slice and Ted telling me to sit in on a conversation and you can have as many as you want, which was obviously a trick that saved my life of course, because all the conversations from that day forward were only to help me better myself and pursue my dreams, throughout our friendship I was able to travel the Mid-west and Down South colleges and become apart of great family, I really am grateful of finding Umoja/Ted and Him Leading me to the wonderful Lila Leff and to have that extended family support that they have given me for the past ten years and more to come thanks for everything UMOJA!!!!!!!
As a former board member, sometimes-consultant, and friend of Umoja, I highly recommend the incredible work they do with teachers and students. The Umoja team recognizes that school communities play a very important role in the lives of children, and they work to ensure that the whole community is equipped to support students in pursuing and reaching their goals. They contribute measurably to building the positive climate and college/career culture in the schools where they work, and they help teachers grow in their instructional and relational skills. Umoja's program evaluation team works hard to collect and study impact data and to enable the program team to make adjustments where they are needed. The most important champions of Umoja are their alumni - students who have graduated from some of the most competitive colleges nationally and who regularly return to support other high school students on that same path.