To develop urban leaders for global impact.
Due to gravity, when an object is released into the air it must return from where it was originally launched. Sadly, urban communities have no gravitational pull on its brightest and most talented scholars. Consequently, many of them mature and very seldom return to serve the communities that desperately need their leadership and vision.
Today’s brightest and most talented urban leaders are daily faced with a decision that affects not only themselves, but also the strength of the communities they reside in. After they have been successful on the college campus, will they return, in some capacity, to the community that helped foster their development?
Because of the magnitude of this question, Pursue Scholars has a heart for developing young urban leaders partly for the success of the individual scholar, but largely so that investment will result in communal returns of leadership and encouragement. When urban scholars become equipped in their areas of purpose and they serve in their communities, they permit everyone around them to chase their dreams and be successful as well.
The problem that currently exists in urban higher education is that those who have a heart to build their communities aren’t properly resourced to receive the education and training they need to be sent back into their communities to create the impact they desire. This is where Pursue seeks to be a change-agent.
Pursue Scholars not only identifies young leaders who have a heart for the community, resources them and provides extensive leadership training. Pursue positions them to lead on campus, so that when they return home, they have real-world experience and proven leadership to build the communities they love so dearly.
It’s been rendered nearly impossible for a rose to grow from concrete due to the lack of nutrients the concrete has to offer. Something as beautiful and delicate as a rose would need adequate resources and the optimal environment to help the rose grow to its full potential. The problem in urban higher education is very similar to roses daring to grow from the concrete. Many of our urban students are not supported with the adequate resources and optimal environments they need to grow into their full potential. Urban roses are blooming nonetheless, but could use so much more support.
So, let us introduce you to Academic Undermatch.
Academic Undermatch is when urban, low-income students enroll in a college that does not match their academic ability. This means that academically gifted urban students often matriculate to higher learning institutions that are not prepared to intellectually challenge the students, nor offer resources and environments that lead to gainful employment upon graduation, which hinder the students from being productive members of society and leaders in their communities.
Public schools in Illinois are funded by property tax dollars*. Consequently, the neighborhood a student resides in determines the quality of their resources and ultimately their educational experience. Despite the arduous hurdles of outdated textbooks, substandard technology, few to no field trips, uninspiring classrooms, and minimal intellectually stimulating extracurricular activities, many of these students defy mountainous odds and climb to the highest peaks of academic achievement.
But what happens when these bright-eyed students graduate high school and are met with the harsh realities of rising tuition costs? Many of them opt to not attend college and some of them choose a lesser quality institution. In a recent survey, 76% of some college preparatory seniors admitted to not attending college because they could not afford it.
Sobering as it may be, this gut-wrenching truth doesn’t have to persist. Through generous scholarships and leadership development provided by organizations like Pursue Scholars, many of these well-deserving scholars are granted the financial assistance they need to offset academic costs and help realize their full potential, blossoming into the roses they were destined to be.
How We Accomplish Our Mission
Pursue Scholars provides spiritual, social, and financial support to emerging urban Christian leaders in their pursuit of higher education:
Our History & Facts
THE HUMBLE START
In July of 2007, Kevin Gwin began PURSUE with a vision to invest in the next generation of urban leaders. This was done by supporting Christian young people who are pursuing a college education. PURSUE originally started as a ministry of Vision Nehemiah. That first year began with investing in 3 college freshman. Each year, a new class of students were added.
BIRTH OF PURSUE SCHOLARS
In the fall of 2010, PURSUE became Pursue Scholars and incorporated with the state of Illinois as a recognized 501©3 charity.
THE FIRST CLASS
In 2011, we celebrated our first graduating class as our original 3 freshman all graduated from college. By this time, we now had 15 students on scholarship.
Pursue Scholars partners with Act Six to begin Chicago’s newest full-tuition, full-need urban leadership award. For Fall 2016, selected 8 of Chicago’s most promising urban leaders for scholarships to Taylor University.
We have now seen 40 students graduate from college. We have 48 students currently in college for the 2018-’19 school year. 6 of our Pursue Scholars alumni currently sit on our Young Professionals Board. And our current Daniel Scholars Coordinator is a Pursue Scholars alumni. Pursue Scholars is successful when students are graduating from college, serving society with their gifts, and becoming a valuable resource to their family, church, and community. It is our hope that the students who have been blessed by Pursue Scholars will someday be a blessing to the next generation of scholars. We dream of seeing the receivers of support now become the greatest givers of support in the future.
- African American
- African American
Kevin grew up in Lima, OH where he graduated from Temple Christian High School. He went on to Cedarville University and graduated with a degree in Bible and a minor in Christian Education. He went on to receive a Master’s degree in Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College.
Kevin spent four and a half years serving urban youth in Humboldt Park at Inner City Impact. In 2002, Kevin shared leadership of planting a church on the west side of Chicago. He is still actively involved in leading and shepherding at Legacy Christian Fellowship. Kevin is a strong believer of the power of God working through the local church to change communities. That is why he is excited to be a part of supporting young men and women who have shown themselves committed and faithful to their local church.
Kevin and his wife Lisa have three children- Shayna, Joshua, Matthew.
April was born and raised in the northern suburbs of Chicago, where she graduated from Waukegan High School. She went on to continue her education at Georgetown College, graduating with a BA in Art. It was during college that April’s faith became her own and God began to shape her into the woman she is today. She is finishing her MA in Leadership at Trinity International University.
After graduation she moved back to Illinois and began working for Northwestern University as an administrative assistant for three years. She transitioned to the city working with high school youth and fell in love with the city and all that God was doing within the lives of urban youth. She is an active member of her church body at Legacy Christian Fellowship, in the Lawndale neighborhood. Her passion is to see minority student succeed and thrive during their time in college, and sees leadership as a big part of that equation.
Derick was born and raised on the north side of Chicago where he graduated from Lane Tech College Prep in 2008. He came to faith in Jesus Christ during his senior year of high school, where his passion for sharing the gospel with youth and discipling students grew. He graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 2015 with a major in Youth Ministry and a minor in Bible.
Derick currently serves with his church in Edgewater as the Deacon of Youth ministries where he and his wife Meagan help lead and disciple junior high and high school students. He is passionate about developing and equipping leaders to impact the people and the world around them.
Lastly, Derick is a proud Alumnus of Pursue Scholars.
Solomon spent half of his life in East Asia as his parents planted underground churches in the country’s urban context. After graduating from high school in Florida, he ended up attending a small bible college in southeastern Wisconsin.
Moving later to Chicago to finish his Bachelor’s degree at the Moody Bible Institute. He spent his first three years in Chicago working with youth from different parts of the city, but primarily with youth from migrant and refugee families. Solomon is at Northeastern Illinois University pursuing a MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. While attending NEIU he worked as a Peer Coach for the university’s TRIO program. It is here that Solomon grew in his love for helping students from the city succeed in higher education.
Solomon and his wife Ellie are active in leadership at Legacy Christian Fellowship. They just welcomed their first daughter, Salome.
Great work can only happen with great support. Here are our Board of Directors:
- Erin Arnheim: William Blair & Co., Office & Data Manager
- Robert Burns III: (President) Edward Jones, Financial Advisor
- Robin Butler: (Secretary) Merrill Lynch, Wealth Management Adviser
- Caitlin Casey: HCR Care Manor; Administrator
- Kevin Gwin: Pursue Scholars, Executive Director
- Kim Johnson: Alumni Representative – 2012 Graduate of Indiana State University
- Neville Reid: Fox, Swibel, Levin, & Carroll LLP; Attorney
- Jeff Scott: (Treasurer) Madison Capital Funding, Director
- Candace Washington: Pivotal Impact; Founder and Chief Impact Officer
Young Professionals Board
A group of professionals, age 35 and under, who gather to get involved in the work of Pursue Scholars, support the mission of Pursue Scholars, and to help expand the influence of Pursue Scholars.
Opportunity to invest in the community
Network with other young professionals
Develop your professional and leadership skills
Personal knowledge of and interaction with Pursue Scholars
Exposure to PS staff and board of directors
Guest speakers at meetings
Avenue for engaging friends in the cause
Expectations & Responsibilities
“Give or get” at least $250 per year through fundraising
Attend at least 50% of scheduled meetings for the year
Help grow awareness of Pursue Scholars in your networks
Participate in 5K run/walk as a fundraising opportunity
Participate in other fundraising events through your skills, network, and support
- Help develop new fundraising opportunities for Pursue Scholars