Better Makers: Kids First Chicago Celebrates 15 Years of Education Transformation

In the 15 years that Kids First Chicago has been active, the graduation rate of CPS students has gone from 50 percent to 80 percent.

Kids First Chicago (K1C) is an education nonprofit that works to ensure every family and child in Chicago has access to a high-quality education. In coordination with parents and district leadership, K1C works to empower communities and shape education policies to better support students and families.

On Thursday, Oct. 10, Kids First Chicago commemorated 15 years of educational progress in Chicago Public Schools. Their 15th Anniversary Luncheon was attended by 300 civic and education leaders from the Chicago area and beyond. The event was their first milestone fundraiser, raising nearly $450,000 and exceeding their fundraising goal.

The anniversary program included a keynote conversation with Kids First Chicago CEO Daniel Anello with CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson and Former Obama U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan exploring what they’ve learned over these past years and how they will continue to champion change.

Kids First Chicago: Daniel Anello, Dr. Janice K. Jackson, Arne Duncan
Kids First Chicago CEO Daniel Anello, CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson, and Former Obama U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Anello explained, “As Chicago wades through another teachers strike, it is important to remember that positive, meaningful change is occurring in our schools. While there is still much work to be done, the only way we can continue to make progress is by giving those closest to our schools — real CPS students and parents — a prominent seat at the table. Parents are our most valuable champions for change.”

The event also honored three such parents — Consuelo Martinez, Rena Robinson, and Alma Sigala — for helping their communities to understand Chicago’s education system and advocating for funding equity. Dr. Janice Jackson and Dea Meyer of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago were also honored for their career-long dedication to Chicago students.

Kids First Chicago honors parents
Kids First Chicago honorees Rena Robinson, Consuelo Martinez, Alma Sigala, and Dr. Janice K. Jackson with Kids First Chicago CEO Daniel Anello.

The event was co-chaired by Patrick J. Canning, former managing partner of KPMG; David Casper, U.S. CEO of BMO Financial Group; Timothy R. Schwertfeger, chairman and CEO emeritus of Nuveen Investments and founding board member of Kids First Chicago, and Nancy Searle, a founding board member of Kids First Chicago.

The Steans Family was the presenting sponsor. Anniversary sponsors included the Best Portion Foundation, BMO Harris Bank, the Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education (The CAFE), the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, Illinois Tool Works, The Joyce Foundation, Holly and John Madigan, Northern Trust, John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe, KPMG, Nancy S. Searle, and Catherine M. and Frederick H. Waddell. Other sponsors included the Andersen-Formolo Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Bobins, Janet and Craig Duchossois, Roopa and Sam Ganga, Philip and Carole Hildebrandt, the Lefkofsky Family
Foundation, Charles Lewis and Penny Bender Sebring, Pritzker Traubert Foundation, and David J. Vitale.

For more information, visit Kids First Chicago’s website.


Madison Muller is a senior at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, learning to navigate the contemporary media environment with compassion and candor. She enjoys writing about health, travel, and humanity. You can always find her with a coffee in hand. Madison is a proud supporter of the National Eating Disorders Association.