Obama Foundation names inaugural fellows, two from Chicago

Staff Writer

The Obama Foundation, 5235 S. Harper Ct., named its first class of fellows today, who will “scale the impact of their community-driven work” through two years of non-residential training, leadership and networking.

Foundation CEO David Simas said the multinational cohort of 20 individuals “come from diverse backgrounds but share a common desire to make positive change and create the world as it should be.” They were selected from 20,000 applicants from 191 countries.

The fellows will gather next month in Chicago for the first of their four meetings. The Foundation will name new fellows every year; 2019 applications will open this summer.

Two of the fellows are from Chicago. Tiana Epps-Johnson is the founder and excutive director of the Center for Technology and Civil Life (CTCL), 220 N. Green St. CTCL is a nonpartisan nonprofit that provides elections officials with free and low-cost tech tools like a guide to Twitter and apps that measure voter wait times and publish real-time election results.

CTCL also maintains a civic data program that ensures “all Americans can find basic information about voting and representation online.” The data, accessible on internet search engines, provides location-specific information on candidates running, who elected officials are and what they do.

Dominique Jordan Turner is President and CEO of Chicago Scholars, 247 S. State St., Suite 700. Her organization runs a seven-year college access program for “academically ambitious, first generation college students from under-resourced communities in Chicago.” Whereas 48 percent of Chicago Public School alumni who enroll in four-year colleges earn a degree in six years, 86 percent of Chicago Scholars do.

The program has three phases. Students receive help in applying to colleges and selecting one in high school, engage in programming like mentorships and paid summer internships with need-available financial aid during college and link up with a career mentor and many other career resources in the latter undergraduate and post-graduation years.