About Us

Mission & History
End-of-Year Report Card
Alumni Report
Annual Report
  • 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 End-of-Year Report Card 

    OMD's End-of-Year Report Card offers up some amazing but true facts about our scholars' test-acing, honor-rolling, career-starting, jaw-droppingly successful 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. Read OMD's 2014 End-of-Year Report today! 

  • 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.


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
    Chair of Midwest Operations, JPMorgan Chase

    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
    Principal, Laudi Vidni

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

    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 is an active member of Origin Capital’s Investment Committee and is responsible for the firm’s business development and capital raising efforts.  He has over 15 years of experience in real estate investing, finance, development and asset management.

    Mr. Scherer formed Origin Capital in 2007, along with co-founder Michael Episcope, to source investment opportunities in the commercial real estate sector.  Originally operating as a family office, the principals later expanded their platform to outside investors who shared their same values, goals and objectives.  Mr. Scherer played an integral role in the successful launch of the firm’s two value-added commercial real estate funds. In addition, he was responsible for assembling and leading Origin’s team of investment professionals who have over $2.6 billion of transaction experience.  Prior to forming Origin, Mr. Scherer spent eight years at a privately-financed hedge fund specializing in stock derivative arbitrage, where he opened and managed offices in New York and London.  He served as company President from 1999 – 2003 and was responsible for hiring and training team members as the company grew from 15-50 employees.

    In 2006, Mr. Scherer co-founded the non-profit organization One Million Degrees, which to date has raised over $9 million and offers support and mentoring to low-income college students.  He is a Board Member at the Harvard Club of Chicago, as well as a Member of The Executives’ Club of Chicago and The Economic Club of Chicago.

    Mr. Scherer graduated with honors from Harvard University and received his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

  • 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

    Matthew Altstiel
    Grant Developer, External Affairs & Competetive Grants, Chicago Public Schools

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

    Sean Bergan
    Sales Supervisor, Brooks Brothers

    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
    Assistant Vice President, Risk Specialties, Willis Group

    Shawn Mayberry
    Digital Activation Associate, Starcom

    Jeremy Murden
    Senior Investment Manager Analyst, William Blair and Company

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

    Jia Peng
    Partner, ACM Global Macro

    Sadie Stockdale
    Recruitment Manager, Teach for America

    Isaac Tipton
    Product Manager, UOP LLC

    Phillip Wilson
    Private Capital Manager, Metropolitan Capital Bank

    Daniel Wood
    Equity Research Associate, Morningstar

    Tim Zachas
    Growth Strategy Analyst, The Cambridge Group

  • 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.

    Veronica Herrero

      Senior Director, Programs & 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. 

    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.

    Holly Urban

    Development and Marketing Manager

    Holly joined OMD in July of 2011 as the Development and Marketing Coordinator.  She now contributes to OMD’s fundraising and marketing efforts, including grant writing and research, individual donor cultivation, management of special events, and graphic design. Holly holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising with a concentration in marketing from DePaul University and was selected as a 2014 Fellow of the Chicago chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. 

    Samantha Robinson

    Manager, Volunteer and Alumni Engagement

    Samantha manages the volunteer and alumni programs for OMD, including the recruitment, training, and support for OMD Coaches. A graduate of Baldwin Wallace University, Samantha received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a minor in English Writing. 

    Joseph Williams

    Senior 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.

    Christopher Cole

    Program Coordinator

    Christopher works to ensure that OMD Scholars achieve academic success and persist towards their college degrees by equipping them with strategies necessary to help them reach their full potential in school, in work, and in life. Most recently, Chris attained his Master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at Florida International University where he served as a Graduate Assistant in the Center for Leadership and Service providing leadership development for FIU students. He also received his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and African-American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Danielle McConnell

    Program Coordinator

    Danielle works to provide excellent service, supporting scholars from enrollment to graduation.  She collaborates with OMD’s staff to recruit incoming scholars and implement strategies to support their personal, professional, and academic growth.  Most recently, she worked with City Year Chicago a non-profit organization supporting freshmen on track efforts and providing socio-emotional coaching for high school students in an urban setting.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Developmental Psychology from the University of Michigan with a separate concentration in Gender & Health.

    Kristi McKenzie

    Program Coordinator

    Kristi empowers her scholars, enhances OMD programming, and supports our recruitment efforts. Prior to joining OMD, she completed a one-year fellowship at Urban Prep Academies where she focused on the social, emotional, and academic needs of a group of freshman boys. Kristi received her Bachelor of Science in Communication from Cornell University with a Minor in Education.


    Katie Dorpinghaus

    Program Assistant

    Katie coordinates all OMD tutoring support and works directly with transfer scholars who are continuing their education at four-year universities. Katie recently received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the Heider College of Business at Creighton University with a major in Accounting and a minor in History. She is currently an Amate House volunteer.



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.

Get Involved

Associates Board
  • Coach a scholar. Be a hero.

    One Million Degrees Scholars are low-income, highly motivated individuals pursuing their associate's degrees. They have persisted through challenging situations and are striving to reach their full potential and become positive forces in their families and communities.

    We provide the training and tools for you to engage with our highly motivated scholars. You empower our scholars to set goals, achieve critical milestones, and become tomorrow's leaders.

    OMD Coaches bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and support to their scholars.

    • Broaden horizons of career aspirations and possibilities
    • Provide professional insights, such as real-life examples of professional challenges and growth
    • Model professional norms and behaviors
    • Encourage scholars through challenges and setbacks
    • Be a person who cares, celebrate their successes, and won't let them fall short of their potential

    "Finally I have not one person, but a whole team of people, dedicated to seeing me succeed." -Sakina Azannai, OMD Scholar, Harry S. Truman College

    The rewards are a million-fold.

    • Build valuable relationships with scholars
    • Grow professionally and personally as you mentor our diverse and talented scholars
    • Be inspired by our scholars' stories and perseverance

    "Scholars are a constant source of inspiration for me. Forty-nine year-old Chalmus, an OMD Scholar, proves it's never too late to take the path to success. He shows me what perseverance looks like." -Gary Sutton, Senior Manager, Deloitte, Current OMD Coach

    The commitment is simple.

    • Attend coach orientation in September
    • Participate in one, one-hour session scholar development session per month (from September through May)
    • Be available outside of scholar development sessions and commit to at least one phone or email exchange with your scholar per month
    • Submit a monthly activity report to One Million Degrees staff

    Become a hero now.

    Interested in learning more about coaching? Please sign-up for a coaching conference call to learn more about this role.  You can also read OMD's coaching FAQs for coaching an OMD Scholar at Kennedy-King College.   

    Ready to coach now? Please fill out the coaching application form. Our team will be in touch with next steps.

    If you have any questions about becoming an OMD Coach, please contact Samantha Robinson, Program Manager, at samantharobinson@onemilliondegrees.org or at 312-920-9605 x309.

    If you are interested in learning about how to engage a team of people from your company, please contact Veronica Herrero, Director of Strategic Partnerships, at vherrero@onemilliondegrees.org or at 312-920-9605 x302. 

  • 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 contact info@onemilliondegrees.org.

  • 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.

  • One Million Degrees is seeking a Director of Scholarship Programs to join a team of dedicated student support professionals, committed to community college student success.

    For more information about this role and to apply, please review the job description below:

    Director of Scholar Development 

Annual Events

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


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.