Seven South Side Nonprofits Ready to Grow in University of Chicago Community Programs Accelerator

cpa 2020

The UChicago Community Programs Accelerator welcomed seven South Side nonprofits to its program on February 28. In a morning reception at the Green Line Performing Arts Center, Accelerator staff, representatives from the Office of Civic Engagement, and community members celebrated the selected incoming nonprofits which will each receive customized support to grow their respective organizations’ work and impact.

The Accelerator is an initiative of the University’s Office of Civic Engagement. In 2020, the program will again leverage a full range of the University’s institutional strengths and partnerships to equip both established and emerging community-based nonprofits and leaders with tools and resources to fulfill their unique missions.

“What’s most powerful about the program is that we’re helping these organizations accomplish their own goals,” Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs Derek Douglas told event attendees. “We’re helping some increase their fundraising capacity. We’re helping others develop their first strategic plan. Still others are getting assistance putting a board together and establish the governance that enables them to qualify for many grants. Today, six years after we launched the program, it’s clear our work together is making a difference.”

West Point School of Music, an organization that focuses on engaging urban youth through music instruction and performance, was one of two new organizations selected to take part in the Accelerator’s Core Program level this year. The music school primarily serves South Shore, Auburn Gresham, Hyde Park, and Kenwood. Chicago Hyde Park Village, which offers services and social opportunities that help seniors in Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Woodlawn stay active and engaged in their communities, was the other new Core organization introduced. Core level organizations receive $50,000 in direct funding along with intense, focused, and personalized support for up to three years.

Chicago Hyde Park Village has a longstanding relationship with the Accelerator, having participated in its program since the Accelerator was launched six years ago. This year the organization will work with the Accelerator at the more rigorous Core level.

The new organizations selected to take part in the Accelerator’s Associates Program level this year include:


  • Blue Gargoyle, a community services hub based in Hyde Park for South Side youth and families offering programs in arts, education, and workforce development across Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Woodlawn


  • Ladies of Virtue, a Grand Boulevard-based organization that serves Douglas, Grand Boulevard and Oakland and aims to instill purpose, passion, and perseverance in girls, ages 9 to 18, while preparing them for college, careers, and to become change agents in their communities



  • The Neighborhood Network Alliance, a South Shore-based organization that equips South Shore block clubs with resources so community residents can manage and revitalize their neighborhoods


  • The Chance Center, an organization that aims to remove barriers that deny equal opportunities to individuals and families in under-resourced areas such as Greater Grand Crossing and its neighboring communities


Associates level organizations receive individualized organizational and technical support from consultants and Accelerator staff-supervised University graduate students over the course of a year.

The Accelerator will additionally support 19 organizations designated as Special Projects in 2020. These groups will receive discrete technical assistance from staff and students to address specific issues or projects over the course of up to two academic quarters.

Tammera Holmes, founder and CEO of AeroStar Avion Institute, a participating organization at the Core level of the Accelerator, also spoke at Friday’s event. AeroStar, a nonprofit that promotes aviation and aeronautical career path opportunities for underserved girls and students of color, has seen its work fittingly take flight since Holmes started working with the Accelerator. AeroStar has tripled its revenue over the past two years and in the past 12 months served more than 1,500 kids in Chicago and Northwest Indiana in comparison to the roughly 70 kids the group served when it started working with the Accelerator in 2018.

cpa 2020 tammera holmes

“The funding at the Core level literally changed the way that our organization was able to function,” Holmes says. “Aerostar’s goal is to bring together local and global partners, academic institutions, and young people, to create the only aviation talent pipeline development organization in the world that’s specifically focused on black and brown youth and females. We are so close to being able to get that done and I know it’s only because of the help that the Accelerator afforded us.”

Since launching in 2014, the Community Programs Accelerator has helped develop and strengthen the capacity of more than 150 community-focused nonprofit organizations that are based in or directly serve the nine South Side neighborhoods adjacent to the University. It has additionally provided training to 1,500 representatives of nonprofit organizations, contributed $575,000 in direct funding to community-based organizations, and helped participating organizations leverage an additional $800,000 from other funders.

Relationships are everything,” West Point School of Music executive director Julian Champion says of working with the Community Programs Accelerator. “The right relationships can move you into spaces and circles that on your own you just couldn't get to. We want to be an iconic institution. We want to serve the community and have longevity. Being connected to the University of Chicago and the Accelerator is going to provide that for us. It’s going to add legitimacy to our work and send a signal to funders and people throughout the city that these guys are good. We believe in them.”

The Community Programs Accelerator will support the following organizations in 2020:

Core Program

Associates Program

Special Projects


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