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2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Umoja Student Development Corporation

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Education, Educational Services, Vocational & Technical Schools

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%.

Geographic areas served: Chicago

Community Stories

3 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Rating: 5

My family and I have been donors to and volunteers at Umoja for the past 6 or 7 years. We've been around long enough to see the impact that our modest donation makes in the hands of Umoja' very capable, talented and dedicated staff and board members. Most of the people we've met eat, breathe and sleep Umoja. My donations have been money well spent by people who are able get a huge amount of bang for my buck. This organization meets a very real need in an underserved/non-served group of Chicago students...and they succeed, OH BOY do they succeed. Statistically and anecdotally I see them changing lives. The organization partners with communities, the school system, the students and other nonprofits make an unfair world a little more fair for the students they serve. I feel very lucky to have been a tiny part of their success stories.



Rating: 5

Umoja is an amazing organization that has dedicated tremendous effort to refine their model in order to remain sustainable, efficient and effective to the thousands of young people that they impact through their work. I worked there in the past and currently have the privilege of working for a foundation that funds their work. I have seen first hand the impact of their work on teachers, school culture and most importantly on the lives of minority youth who often don't have the chance to reach their potential due to numerous life adversities. Umoja in many ways addresses these barriers. I am proud to know them.


Rating: 5

I've been involved with Umoja for over a decade. I first became aware of the organization through my work at the McCormick Foundation. I was so impressed with Umoja's impact, I happily joined its board when asked. My tenure as a board member came to an end several years ago, but I'm still a supporter of the organization. Umoja's staff is incredibly skilled at working with youth from urban environments, inspiring them to dream big dreams, and helping them achieve those dreams. The organization has a very impressive track record in helping academically at-risk youth find their way to post-secondary opportunities. Umoja consistently accomplishes great things, and are certainly worthy of ongoing support.