The Innovator

The Innovator

Sally Grimes, ’97, built her career on pushing the innovation envelope. Now a leader at Tyson Foods, she’s changing the paradigm around what it means to be a big food company.

Discover Lawyers Return to Midtown, Inspiring Law Apprentices for the Fourth Consecutive Year

Discover Lawyers Return to Midtown, Inspiring Law Apprentices  for the Fourth Consecutive Year

A contingent from Discover Financial’s law team recently made their annual trip to Midtown Center for boys to conduct a mock trial with the high school Law Apprenticeship program. Students in the apprenticeship spend their summer learning about the law through hands on projects, as well as immersive field trips and interactive career talks from center visitors.

Potbelly Shares Culture, Values with MEF Business Apprentices

Potbelly Shares Culture, Values with MEF Business Apprentices

Midtown & Metro Business Apprenticeship students spent a day at Potbelly's Support Center learning about the company's culture and values—many of which align strongly with MEF's Character Education model! CEO Aylwin Lewis also presented a check to six student CEOs for Potbelly's contribution to MEF programs from the 6-week long milkshake fundraiser.

Astellas Employees Scrap Spreadsheets for Chicago Youth

Chicago — Fifty-five members of the finance department at Astellas US are setting numbers and budgets aside today to roll up their sleeves and dig into a variety of service projects that will make the environment brighter and cheerier for over 800 Chicago area school children this summer. 

Stephen Knowles, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Northbrook-based Astellas, is leading the day's activities from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Metro Achievement Center for girls in the West Loop and Midtown Center for boys in Bucktown. His team will be gardening, painting and generally sprucing up the two centers as they prepare to welcome students in mid-June for a seven-week summer enrichment program that combines academics with sports and character education classes with other extra-curricular activities for kids ages eight to eighteen. 

"We're pleased to partner with Midtown and Metro on this very special volunteer service day in recognition of their decades-long commitment to the educational advancement of Chicago's urban youth," said Knowles. 

Glenn Wilke, Executive Director of Midtown Educational Foundation, which funds and manages both centers, expressed sincere appreciation to Astellas for committing the resources of its entire finance department, to improving the look and feel of its facilities. "Metro and Midtown offer a safe, clean and nurturing environment for kids coming from tough city neighborhoods and low-income households," he said. "Their efforts will help put broad smiles on hundreds of faces this summer." 


About Midtown Educational Foundation 

Midtown Educational Foundation, through its Midtown Center for boys and Metro Achievement Center for girls, is dedicated to closing the achievement gap for Chicago's urban youth. Founded in 1965, it integrates academics with virtues and individual attention with parental involvement to develop students of strong character with a desire for academic excellence, a college education, and service to others. ( 

About Astellas US

Astellas US, located in Northbrook, Illinois, serves as the headquarters for the Americas and employs nearly 3,000 people. In addition to staging a global, annual Changing Tomorrow Day, Astellas provides up to five days paid time off to full-time employees to provide volunteer support to charitable organizations. (


MEF receives grant from William Blair & Company

Two-year Partnership Will Support College Orientation Program for At-Risk Youth

Isabel Hernandez, one of 153 high school students currently participating in the College Orientation Program sponsored by Chicago's Midtown Educational Foundation, examines a new Kindle eReader donated by investment banking firm William Blair & Company. Molly Barz, a William Blair employee and volunteer tutor at MEF's Metro Achievement Center for girls, joined several colleagues at an event heralding the start of a new two-year partnership that will help close the academic achievement gap for Chicago's urban youth and put them on a path toward college. 

A Valentine's Gift that will Keep on Giving

Chicago — Midtown Educational Foundation (MEF) today announced a major gift from William Blair & Company, a global investment banking and assets management firm, that will help close the achievement gap for 300 Chicago high school students and prepare them for college and career. 

The two-year philanthropic partnership, which extends through December 2015, will provide multiple levels of support, including new computer labs at the Metro Achievement Center for girls and Midtown Center for boys, a professional apprenticeship in finance, mentoring relationships and numerous additional volunteer opportunities for William Blair associates. 

"William Blair's decision to fund MEF's College Orientation Program represents a significant investment in the future of Chicago urban youth, enabling success in high school, college and beyond," said Glenn Wilke, MEF's executive director. "The firm's commitment of time and resources will greatly enhance a program that is already producing positive results-100 percent high school graduation and college enrollment for the past 14 consecutive years." 

John R. Ettelson, president and chief executive officer of William Blair & Company, added that there is no better time than now to invest in the future of Chicago's at-risk high school students. "Chicago's success-our success-is dependent on a highly educated and motivated work force. The philanthropic partnership with Midtown Educational Foundation will give students the tools, advice and exposure they need to bridge the achievement gap and envision the world of opportunities that lies ahead." 

To launch the new partnership, William Blair executives and employees presented 75 new Kindle eReaders to high school students at Metro and Midtown. 

Other key elements of the William Blair Bridge Program include college prep academics, technology upgrades, curriculum enhancements, college visits, and cultural tours and performances.


About Midtown Educational Foundation

MEF, through its Midtown Center for boys in Bucktown and Metro Achievement Center for girls in the West Loop, helps close the achievement gap for Chicago's urban youth ages eight through eighteen. The College Orientation Program helps high school students prepare for college entrance exams and explore college options. Students also engage in enrichment activities including cultural field trips, extracurricular clubs in fields such as business and architecture, and service projects. 

About William Blair & Company

William Blair & Company is a global investment banking and asset management firm based in Chicago, with office locations in 12 cities including London, New York, Shanghai, and Zurich. A core value is the firm's commitment to making a difference in the communities where its associates live and work. Philanthropy has always been an important part of its heritage. 

More Information: 
Jody Madler, MEF, (312) 738-8302
Maria Gemskie, William Blair, (312) 236-1600 

SOURCE Midtown Educational Foundation 

Jon Zindel, chief financial officer at William Blair & Company, presents Kindle eReaders to Angel Roman, a senior at Northridge Prep in Niles, and Nayelin Avila, a sophomore at Trinity High School in River Forest. The investment banking firm donated 75 eReaders to Metro and Midtown to kick off its two-year partnership with MEF in support of the College Orientation Programs at Midtown and Metro. 

Representatives from William Blair & Company joined four high school sophomores from Metro, four high school seniors from Midtown, and members of MEF's staff at an informal event on Wednesday, February 13 commencing the start of a two-year partnership. 

Walgreens' Chief Diversity Officer Steve Pemberton Inspires Chicago boys

Steve Pemberton, author of A Chance in the World and Fortune's Top 20 Chief Diversity Officer (Walgreens), inspired Chicago boys at Midtown Center on Monday, July 8th, candidly sharing about his rough past and journey through life's obstacles. 

Christian Alferez, a student from Midtown's Summer Journalism Apprenticeship, also reflected on the engaging visit, through their newspaper and blog, The Midtown Voice.  

"None of us look like our story," opened Steve Pemberton, Divisional Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer for Walgreens, speaking to an auditorium filled with over 300 7th-12th Midtown boys from across Chicago. You cannot tell by virtue of his job, where he lives, or by everything he has accomplished, where he comes from--but his message to the boys at Midtown Center on Tuesday morning was, "Born into circumstances that I didn't create, it was my responsibility to overcome them."

Reading Saved Pemberton as a Child

Pemberton did not know his father, his mother, or even his own last name. He did not know where he came from, but growing up he knew one thing: he wanted to go to college. He overcame a traumatic and violent childhood in abusive foster homes to find success and liberation through a good education. He began by giving the boys of Midtown a piece of advice: read everyday. Steve listed Watership Down, Tolkien, and Moby Dick among his list of life changing books. He read so much as a child that when the time came to write his autobiography, A Chance in the World, the ability to write was naturally present. 

Overcoming Obstacles with Perseverance

He told the boys, "By being here, you've chosen to be something; to end a cycle of depression. The question is, will you?" Steve's message was fitting for Midtown in Chicago, as every day a team of a two dozen college advisors and sports coaches work with at-risk boys to help them overcome their own obstacles to achieve transformational success. 

Steve heroically lives out many of the virtues that the staff and volunteers at Midtown instill in the students at Midtown. He shared examples of his own perseverance in getting into college. He applied for every scholarship that he could find, only to face many rejections. He even applied for a Daughters of the American Revolution scholarship. When he was turned down because it is only for girls, his response was, "Are you sure??" Needless to say, his tireless efforts paid off, and he entered Boston College with a full scholarship. 

His Book is for the Midtown Boys in Chicago

Professionally accomplished with a family of his own and well on the path to healing, why did Steve Pemberton feel the need to write his book and relive the brokenness he experienced as a child? "Even though I just met you," he told the boys at Midtown, "I did it for you." 

He wants kids and people who are down, despairing, or doubting to realize they too have a chance in the world. "Don't make the mistake to think I have a talent or ability that you don't," he explained, "I see in you not what you can be, but what you already are."

He parted encouraging the boys to "take advantage of all the wonderful people at Midtown, and recognize that one day, they are going to ask you to be that for someone else." Hopefully all of the boys at the Midtown Center will be as courageous, hard working and giving with their time as Steve Pemberton. 

Steve lives with his wife, daughter, and two sons. His favorite role is being a father and husband, which "brings [him] peace." Thank you, Mr. Pemberton for your generous time at Midtown Center for boys. We are grateful to you and congrats on your hard work as a role model to us all! 

To explore the rest of the Midtown Voice newspaper and read Midtown's Journalism apprentice Christian Alferez' account on Pemberton's inspiring visit, click here.

Boeing Chief Tech Officer Inspires Chicago girls About Engineering

"You don't have to be a genius in math to become an engineer." So said Dr. John Tracy, Chief Technology Officer of The Boeing Company, in an informal talk to 35 students at the Metro Achievement Center for girls. "You just have to want to make a difference in people's lives."

 "For example, I'm an aerospace engineer. People get along better when they meet face-to-face. The aircraft we build help bring them together."

Dr. Tracy surprised the girls by revealing that he'd gotten an F in his first algebra class. "But later I got A's. I'm not as smart as most of you in this room. Engineers are people just like you!"

He also pointed out the importance of good character when it comes to building airplanes. "Would you want someone to take a shortcut on a calculation when they're designing a plane that will carry your loved ones? Integrity is crucial in this business."

Next summer, Metro will launch an engineering apprenticeship for high school girls, with funding from Tellabs.

Dr. Tracy will be honored by MEF on October 21 at its 22nd Annual Reach for Excellence Awards Dinner (to learn more, visit

Thank you, Dr. Tracy for spending your precious time with us and inspiring all about a potential future in engineering! Grateful for your visit, from the girls at Metro Achievement Center.