About Us

Mission & History
Annual Report
Alumni Report
Fall Semester Report Card
  • One Million Degrees empowers low-income, highly motivated community college students to succeed in school, in work, and in life.

    Formerly the Illinois Education Foundation, One Million Degrees was founded in 2006 by a group of social entrepreneurs who understood the specific challenges facing a uniquely overlooked student population – community college students.

    Recognizing the fact that most of these students were failing and determined to change the odds, our founders developed a unique and highly successful program based on providing the kind of support that would make a meaningful difference.

    One Million Degrees believes that when given a solid system of support, every student has the ability to reach his or her full personal and professional potential. Since 2006, One Million Degrees has helped empower hundreds of community college students to succeed in the classroom and beyond. 

    Today, One Million Degrees Scholars are graduating at roughly three times the national average and are equipped with the skills necessary to help them reach their full potential in school, in work, and in life.

  • Community college students are among the most important yet least supported of this country's undergraduate population. Community colleges offer pathways to meaningful careers and, often, an on-ramp to four-year universities. Yet, lacking critical resources, most students never graduate. It is stunning how little is available to this vital and vibrant group of students.

    One Million Degrees changes the odds entirely. Our groundbreaking program – innovative, personalized, uniquely effective – delivers the kind of meaningful support that is transforming lives and creating a pattern of positive change that will echo for generations.

    This is what works.

  • OMD's 2012-2013 Annual Report

    Read about OMD in our 2012-2013 Annual Report which outlines the powerful effects of our program: a unique combination of academic, personal, professional, and financial supports that successfully empowers low-income community college students to succeed in school, in work, and in life.

  • OMD's Fall 2013 Semester Report Card

    We are excited to share with you our Fall 2013 Semester Report Card, which will provide you with a snapshot of our progress for far this year. These regular reports are designed to ensure that you are up-to-date on the latest and greatest scholar successes, new program developments, and growing partnerships.


Board of Directors
Advisory Board
Associates Board
  •  “The question isn’t 'Does this work?' Clearly, it does. The question is 'How big can this be? How many lives can we touch? How does this change the world?”

     -David Scherer, Chair of the Board of Directors, One Million Degrees

    David Scherer, Chair
    OMD Co-Founder & Principal, Origin Capital Partners

    The Honorable Melissa Bean, Vice Chair
    President & Chief Executive Officer, The Executives' Club of Chicago

    Charles Dale, Treasurer
    Managing Director, Atlantic Trust Private Wealth Management

    Constance Mixon, Secretary
    Director, Urban Studies Program
    Professor, Political Science, Elmhurst College


    John Atkinson
    Managing Partner, Willis 

    Rashid Carter
    Professor of Economics and Business, Harold Washington College, City Colleges of Chicago

    Susan Credle
    Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett

    Catherine Cummings
    Founder and Managing Partner, SparkWorks Consulting

    Suzanne Faber
    Marketing Consultant

    Michael B. Golden
    OMD Co-Founder & Chairman, Newsbound, Inc.

    John Gross
    Chief Executive Officer, Newcastle Properties

    Rose Lizarraga
    President, Buddy Pictures

    Jan Melk
    Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

    Laurie O'Shea
    Vice Chairman, CTPartners

    Thania Panopoulos
    Principal, The Perissos Group

    Katie Spring
    Managing Director and Head of Corporate Communications, Citadel

    Grace Tsao-Wu
    Owner, Tabula Tua

    Jason Tyler
    Senior Vice President, Head of Corporate Strategy, Northern Trust

    Anne Wedner
    Commissioner, US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy

    Don Yannias
    Founder and President, Boker Investment Management, Inc.

  • Michael B. Golden, One Million Degrees Co-Founder

    A former national award-winning broadcast journalist, Michael Golden has also served as a political campaign manager and communications strategist for U.S. Presidential, Senate and Congressional races. Michael is a fellow at the British-American Project and the Open Society Institute.  In 1999, Michael’s investigative and public affairs reporting for NBC earned him honors from the Society of Professional Journalists, the AP, and the Edward R. Murrow Awards.

    In 2011, Michael co-founded Newsbound, Inc., a media and software company based in San, Francisco, CA.  He is also a co-founder of the Complete the Degree back-to-college initiative in Chicago, Illinois.  Michael serves on the boards of the ADL and SPARK, as well as the Illinois Commission to Eliminate Poverty.  He received his B.A. from Indiana University, and his M.S. in Public Services Management from DePaul University.

    Rose Lizarraga, One Million Degrees Co-Founder

    An award-winning documentary filmmaker and freelance writer, Rose's career also includes 10 years spent developing new product and brand strategies as well as marketing and advertising campaigns at Leo Burnett, Foote, Cone & Belding, M&M/Mars and other small businesses.  More recently, she worked as a writer/editor for Modern Luxury Inc., publishers of magazines such as CS, and Angeleno.  Rose graduated from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor with dual degrees in English and Political Science.  She is a founding member of the Daniel M. Kerrane, Jr. Foundation, former Board Vice President of the Fairygodmother Foundation, and currently serves on the Chicago committee for Human Rights Watch.

    David Scherer, One Million Degrees Co-Founder

    David Scherer oversees business development and acquisitions at Origin Capital, a real estate private equity fund. He has underwritten over $5 billion in real estate and notes collateralized by real estate and purchased real estate and real estate notes with outstanding principal amounts in excess of $250 million in the aggregate. Prior to joining Origin Capital, David served as President of a private hedge fund specializing in derivatives trading with operations in Chicago, London and New York.

    In 2003, David co-founded the Daniel M. Kerrane, Jr. Foundation, and in 2006 he co-founded One Million Degrees (formerly the Illinois Education Foundation). David also serves on the Advisory Board of Invest for Kids, Chicago. David received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University, graduating in 1993 with honors. He is currently working on his Master of Business Administration at the University of Chicago.

  • One Million Degrees is staffed by a group of talented and passionate professionals, steadfast in their commitment to our mission and relentless in their dedication to the success of our scholars. They are the very heart of our program and the engine of our success.

    Paige Ponder

    Chief Executive Officer

    Paige works closely with all stakeholders – Board members, staff, partners, funders, mentors, and scholars – to ensure One Million Degrees achieves its mission and makes a lasting impact in the lives of the students we support. She joins One Million Degrees after leading Project Exploration, a dynamic youth STEM organization. Prior to Project Exploration, Paige was Officer of Student Support and Engagement at Chicago Public Schools.

    Paige has experience in for-profit education having worked for The Grow Network and McGraw-Hill in product development, professional development, and client services capacities. She also has school-based experience as Assistant Principal of Holy Cross School in the South Bronx. Paige holds a BA from Princeton University and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

    Jessica Besser-Rosenberg

    Director, Research & Communications

    Jessica oversees the evaluation of all OMD programs, as well as the development and implementation of the marketing and communications strategy. Before joining OMD, Jessica worked as a program officer at the Illinois Humanities Council. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, and a Master of Public Policy from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

    Veronica Herrero

    Director, Strategic Partnerships

    Veronica leads OMD's corporate partnership strategy.  Her focus is on building relationships with the corporate community that will not only allow OMD to expand its reach and impact, but also to provide our friends in the business community with opportunities to make a meaningful and long-term impact on the lives of our scholars.  Veronica has held leadership roles in the non-profit, private and public education sectors, including Director of 6to16 with the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute and Deputy Officer of Student Support and Engagement at Chicago Public Schools.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

    Nina Sánchez

    Director, Scholarship & Academics

    As Director of Scholarship & Academics, Nina is responsible for the development of programs that fully support OMD Scholars, whatever their endeavors. Prior to joining OMD, Nina was the student programs coordinator with the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE). Nina holds a Bachelor of Arts from Colorado College in Anthropology and International Affairs, and a Master of Social Sciences from the University of Chicago in Latin American & Caribbean Studies.

    Holly Urban

    Development and Marketing Manager

    Holly contributes to the development of OMD fundraising efforts, including grant research, donor cultivation, and coordination of special events. A recent graduate of DePaul University, Holly received her bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising with a concentration in marketing.

    Samantha Robinson

    Program Coordinator

    Samantha manages the OMD Scholar recruitment and application process and provides supports to scholars to ensure they are excelling academically. A graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College, Samantha received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in English Writing.

    Joseph Williams

    Program Coordinator

    Joseph works directly with scholars to support their path from enrollment to graduation, in addition to collaborating with OMD's staff to engage scholars in a focus on career development, civic engagement, and personal well-being. Most recently, he worked at The Thresholds Company, serving young adults either diagnosed with a mental illness or recently transitioned from the Juvenile Justice Department. He has a BA in African American Studies from North Park University, a Masters of Theological Studies from Garrett Seminary, and is a current graduate student in United States History at DePaul University.

    Saajidha Rizvydeen

    Program Assistant

    Saajidha manages various aspects of the tutoring support scholars receive. She also works directly with scholars as a Math and Science Tutor. Saajidha received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Lake Forest College.

    Matt Schultz

    Program Assistant

    Matt provides OMD scholars with both academic and co-curricular support and mentoring though their collegiate journeys. Hailing from Los Angeles, Matt comes to One Million Degrees having worked the last two years within the Office of Student Affairs at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles as their Coordinator of Residence Life and Housing, and is currently completing a year of service at OMD as part of the Amate House Americorps Vista program. Matt graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing.
  • The One Million Degrees Advisory Board of Directors is comprised of dedicated leaders throughout the state with backgrounds in business, education and government. Members of the Advisory Board leverage their considerable expertise in diverse fields to support One Million Degrees and our scholars.

    State Rep. Edward Acevedo
    IL 2nd District, Asst. House Maj. Leader

    John Bouman
    President, Shriver Center

    Paul Bryant
    Principal/ Vice President, Mid- America Real Estate Co.

    Dr. Cozette Buckney
    CEO, The Institute for Educational Services LLC

    Martin Cabrera, Jr.
    CEO & Founder, Cabrera Capital Markets, LLC

    Marty Castro
    President, Castro Synergies, LLC

    Gery J. Chico
    Senior Partner, Chico & Nunes, PC

    Sunny P. Chico
    President, SPC Consulting

    State Rep. Tom Cross
    IL 84th District, House Republican Leader

    State Senator John J. Cullerton
    Illinois Senate President

    The Honorable Richard M. Daley

    Andrew Davis
    Managing Director, Midwest Education Investment Trust

    U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis
    IL 7th Congressional District

    State Rep. Ken Dunkin
    IL 5th District

    The Honorable Alexi Giannoulias
    Chairman, Illinois Community College Board
    Vice President and Senior Advisor, Strategic Relationships, BNY Mellon Wealth Management

    Ron Gidwitz
    Co-Founder, GCG Partners

    Shelley Stern Grach
    Citizenship Director, Microsoft Corporation

    The Honorable Debbie Halvorson

    John Hartigan
    Managing Director, EnTrust Capital, Inc.

    U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson
    IL 15th Congressional District

    Steve King
    Founding Partner, Prairie Capital

    Pete LaPietra
    Founder & CEO, PLP Capital Markets

    Doug Levy
    President/General Manager, Univision Radio

    Tony Lorenz
    Founder, bXb Online

    Judd Malkin
    Chairman, JMB Realty

    State Senator Edward D. Maloney
    IL 18th District

    The Honorable David Miller

    State Senator Antonio Muñoz
    IL 1st District

    Governor Pat Quinn

    Andrew Rashkow
    CEO, IMBIBE, Inc

    Michael Rendina
    Chief Public and Community Affairs Officer, Chicago Public Schools

    Jesse Ruiz
    Partner, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, LLP

    U.S. Rep. John Shimkus
    IL 19th Congressional District

    Elizabeth Swanson
    Deputy for Education, Office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel

    David W. Tretter
    President, Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities

    Dr. Wayne Watson
    President, Chicago State University

  • Founded in 2010, the One Million Degrees Associates Board is a diverse group of emerging leaders, who believe in the transformative power of a community college degree. 

    The mission of the OMD Associates Board is to cultivate supporters and volunteers, to provide philanthropic support, and to increase awareness of the valuable work of One Million Degrees.

    Mandy Zaransky-Hurst (Chair)
    Senior Manager, Integrated Marketing, Chicago Tribune

    Jonathan Chaparro (Vice-chair)
    Recruitment Manager, Teach for America

    Judith Asuzu
    Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, University of Chicago Law School

    Jonathan Berger
    Portfolio Manager, Alyeska Investment Group

    Reid Bolton
    Attorney at Law, Bartlit Beck, LLP

    Jessica Chu
    Associate, Hedge Fund Investor Relations

    Gary Dulaney
    Manager, Mobile & Innovation, United Airlines

    Karianne Gomez
    Vice President of Strategy, HAVI Global Solutions

    Andrea Hail
    Administrative Associate, Mesirow Financial

    Travis Kessel
    Vice President of Recruitment, Edelman

    Rodger Lederer
    AVP/Client Advocate, Willis of Illinois, Inc.

    Shawn Mayberry
    Digital Activation Associate, Starcom

    Jeremy Murden
    Senior Investment Manager Analyst, William Blair and Company

    Rachael Olson
    Strategy & Operations Associate, Enova International, Inc.

    Christina Otero
    Wealth Manager Associate, JP Morgan Chase

    Jia Peng
    Partner, ACM Global Macro

    Jessica Smith
    Assistant Director of Fellowships, University of Chicago

    Sadie Stockdale
    Recruitment Manager, Teach for America

    Phillip Wilson
    Private Capital Manager, Metropolitan Capital Bank

    Tim Zachas
    Growth Strategy Analyst, The Cambridge Group


Signature Scholarship
  • “When meeting someone new, shake their hand firmly, look directly in their eyes, say their name in your mind three times, and think of some association to help you remember their name.”

    Rule #4 from the Etiquette Dinner hosted annually by the Standard Club of Chicago. All new One Million Degree Scholars are required to attend.

    The One Million Degrees Signature Scholarship Program offers groundbreaking, whole-student programming to low-income, highly motivated community college students.


    • Coaching
      individual and small group coaching around personal and professional goals
    • Academic Advising/Tutoring
      substantive support personalized to each scholar
    • Professional Development
      skill-building support workshops designed for success beyond college
    • Financial Literacy Training
      to help scholars plan for their financial futures and the futures of their families
    • Civic Engagement
      empowers scholars to drive meaningful change
    • Financial Support
      tuition assistance, bi-annual stipends
    • Transfer Support
      assistance for scholars in our program transitioning to four-year universities


    • “It’s Who You Know” Mocktail Networking Night
    • Suited for Success
    • Standard Club Etiquette Dinner 

    To assist our scholars in navigating the community college sphere, we have established partnerships with the seven City Colleges of Chicago, College of Lake County, Harper College, Prairie State College, and South Suburban College.


Why Apply?
Signature Scholarship Eligibility
Supply Chain Management Scholarship Eligibility
  • Why apply?

    Please note, the application for the 2014-2015 academic year is now closed. The application for the One Million Degrees Signature Scholarship will reopen in January 2015. 

    The One Million Degrees Signature Scholarship Program is not your typical scholarship. Yes, we offer financial assistance to help you pay for community college--but we don't stop there. You see, we're as committed to your success as you are. It's your college education, your career, your life. But you're not alone. Together, we've got this. Learn more about the supports that One Million Degrees offers here.

  • The application for the 2014-2015 academic year is now closed. Please note that the application for the One Million Degrees Signature Scholarship will reopen in January 2015. 

    Eligibility Requirements for the One Million Degrees Signature Scholarship Program

    1. You must be planning to attend one of our eleven partner colleges:

    • College of Lake County
    • Harold Washington College
    • Harper College
    • Harry S. Truman College
    • Kennedy-King College
    • Malcolm X College
    • Olive-Harvey College
    • Prairie State College
    • Richard J. Daley College
    • South Suburban College
    • Wilbur Wright College

    2. You must be enrolled or planning to enroll full-time in community college. Students enrolled in some allied health programs or the basic certificate program for supply chain management are considered full-time equivalent. Please check with OMD staff to verify eligibility. You must have at least a full-year of course work left to complete at your college.

    3. You must be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, as well as eligible for federal and state financial aid, regardless of amount received.

    4. You must be pursuing your first associate's degree. Anyone with an associate's, bachelor's, or other degree is not eligible to apply.

    5. Your GPA must be 2.0 or higher.

  • Supply Chain Management Program at Olive-Harvey College

    The application for the 2014-2015 academic year is now closed. Please note that the application for the One Million Degrees Scholarship will reopen in January 2015. 

    Interested in a career in one of Chicagoland's fastest growing industries? The Supply Chain Management Program at Olive-Harvey College teaches you cutting-edge skills & gives you hands-on experience that employers in the warehousing and distribution industry are seeking. One Million Degrees is excited to bring our program of unique comprehensive student supports to students pursuing a basic certificate in Supply Chain Management.

    What you get:

    • Monthly Professional Development Workshops
    • Career Coaching
    • Academic Support
    • Job Placement Assistance
    • Financial award to cover tuition and fees

    What you need:

    • A high school diploma/GED or a minimum 2.0 GPA for current college students
    • Proof of income in the form of a 2014-2015 Student Aid Report or 2013 Income Tax Return
    • Applicants should be a first-time credential or degree seeker
    • Applicants must be eligible for completion of Math 118

Annual Events

Food + Wine Tasting
Speed Networking and Mocktail Reception
Scholar Awards
Suited for Success

Get Involved

Associates Board
  • One Million Degrees coaches transform lives. As part of our community of support, coaches work with our community college scholars throughout the year helping them set goals and motivating them in both their professional and personal journeys.

    The application to coach a One Million Degrees scholar for the 2013-2014 academic year is now closed. If you have any questions or feedback, please contact Nina Sanchez, Director of Scholarship & Academics at 312.920.9605x304 or ninasanchez@onemilliondegrees.org.
  • One Million Degrees has an ongoing need for volunteers. Whether helping scholars develop their networking skills at our annual "It's Who You Know" Mocktail Networking Night or committing to a longer-term relationship -- perhaps as a coach -- we welcome all levels of participation.

    To volunteer with One Million Degrees, please complete this volunteer information form.

  • OMD Associates Board members are emerging leaders from all backgrounds, who believe in empowering community college students to reach their full potential.

    Associate Board Members:

    • Support an organization that is committed to broadening opportunities for community college students who are seeking a successful future.
    • Serve as role models for students who are passionate about gaining a higher education. 
    • Gain leadership experience.
    • Play an active role in advocating for OMD and its scholars.
    • Develop fundraising skills from trained development professionals. 
    • Meet new, energetic people and have fun while improving students’ lives! 

    If you are interested in joining the OMD Associates Board, please contact associatesboard@onemilliondegrees.org.


Get in touch
Join our Mailing List
  • One Million Degrees
    226 W. Jackson #528
    Chicago, Illinois 60606
    (312) 920-9605

    One Million Degrees is a registered not-for-profit organization and has 501(c)3 tax-exempt status with the United States Internal Revenue Service.