In 1990, a handful of altruistic young friends found themselves reflecting on the success they were experiencing in the professional sphere as well-educated young people. They began to wonder why every child who grew up in Chicago did not have the same opportunities for success that they did. Which barriers were preventing others from fulfilling their professional, educational, and financial potential?

Their formula was probably the same as yours:

  • quality education
  • strong adult support network
  • exposure to new experiences

Horizons for Youth’s founders might have stopped the conversation there, gaining nothing more than a deeper appreciation for the conditions fostering their own success.

But this group dared to ask one more question:

Could we create opportunities where they have historically not been offered? Could we connect children with potential to the opportunity to exercise that potential?

Could children with the odds stacked against them receive the catalyst that would remove barriers to reaching their full potential?

Turned out, the answer was yes.

Turned out, the answer was…Horizons for Youth.

Whatever It Takes

Determined to focus on children’s needs rather than the barriers they faced, our founders started filling in the gaps. They scraped together funds to cover parochial school tuition and enrichment outings for the first five Horizons for Youth kindergarteners. From there, the organization formed around the students’ needs.

When parents expressed a desire for positive adult role models in their children’s lives, we recruited mentors. When we discovered kids needed additional academic support, we found tutors. There was no prescribed recipe. As founder Mike Murdock explained, “We just concentrated on filling each new need as it came along.” We did not know it, but this organic, “find a way” approach was to become the defining characteristic of Horizons for Youth:

Listen. Understand the need. Fill the gap. Child by child…family by family…year by year…develop solutions tailored to address the needs of our students.

Under that enterprising, organic approach to growth, the organization evolved. At first, student support was assured for two years, then through 8th grade, then eventually through high school, and now, through college. Today, 28 years later, the organization can claim this superlative:

Horizons for Youth is Chicago’s first and only organization providing scholarship, mentoring and enrichment programs for children from kindergarten through high school, with continued academic and socio-emotional support through college.