Foundation Grantee Spotlight: Braven Celebrates a Decade of Impact

Braven, a national organization founded by Chicago native Aimée Eubanks Davis to address the education-to-employment gap, recently released an impressive impact report in celebration of its tenth anniversary. CME Group Foundation has supported Braven since 2019 as part of its College and Career Success portfolio, with funds totaling $250,000. The Foundation’s most recent grant supports Braven Chicago’s Career Accelerator Programs.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only about 30% of 1.4 million low-income or first-generation college students who enroll each year will graduate and secure a strong first job or enter graduate school. By empowering underrepresented students with the skills, experiences and confidence necessary to succeed, Braven is a part of the solution.

Students at Braven’s partner schools, called Fellows, take a one-semester course for college credit or a cash stipend (the latter through BravenX, a program for alumni of college success and charter management organizations). Fellows complete modules on an online platform and apply that content through in-person learning labs led by a volunteer professional. Fellows then have extra opportunities through the 12-week one-on-one Professional Mentor program, access to Braven’s job and internship newsletter, and skill-building events.

Both CME Group and the Foundation have been an integral part of this process with Braven’s Illinois partner schools, National Louis University and Northern Illinois University–with life-changing results. “CME Group team members have generously volunteered their time to coach Braven Fellows on the interviewing skills needed to land strong internships and jobs,” says Jonathan Chaparro, Braven’s Executive Director, Innovation, and head of the Chicago region. “As early supporters of Braven’s work in Chicago, CME Group Foundation has proven that their commitment to education and opportunity extends beyond the bounds of finance and into the very heart of community transformation."

What started in 2013 as a pilot program with 17 students, has grown to 7,400 Fellows at seven colleges and universities nationwide and through the BravenX program. In 2022, 603 Braven Fellows graduated from college. Eighty-one percent of graduates secured quality roles (full-time jobs that require a bachelor’s degree and include a combination of promotion pathways, employee benefits, grad school enrollment and a competitive salary) or pathway roles (which do not require a bachelor’s degree, but helps with financial sustainability and will lead to other opportunities). CME Group Foundation is proud to support these efforts.

"At a time when education and economic mobility continue to be closely intertwined, Braven empowers underrepresented college students to step into their careers with confidence and skill,” says Chaparro. “To date, 61% of Braven Fellows are in quality employment or graduate school compared to a national average of 47% for peer students in public universities. Braven strives to be a catalyst for change—both for emerging untapped talent and for employers by working to redefine the future of work and diversity in the professional realm."

Congratulations to Braven on 10 impactful years–here’s to many more!

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