Academy for Global Citizenship’s Innovative Education Model Transforms Chicago Students’ Lives

If you want to change the world, start with one visionary, determined woman – like Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, the founder of the Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) and its charter school which bears the same name. The school, on Chicago’s underserved southwest side, is evidence of her effectiveness in bringing about change.

AGC is the urban public school equivalent of “The Little Engine That Could” by Watty Piper.

Because of the support of a thoughtful group of next-gen philanthropists, it’s also the Chicago Public School embodiment of Martha Meade’s quote: “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, that’s the only thing that ever has.” Enthusiastic supporters include Lifeway, ContextMedia Health, Blum-Kovler Foundation, Hanley Foundation and many more.

Whatever the analogy, AGC is an extraordinary achievement. And, it’s a model that needs to grow in Chicago and across the country. In short, AGC combines the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum with a strong emphasis on sustainability, local community engagement, healthy cooking and physical fitness practices like yoga, and an innovative, collaborative approach to problem solving.

“We are the leaders of today, and our children will be the environmental, social and political stewards of tomorrow,” Ippel says. Ippel’s credentials are a testament to her bold statement. Educated at Cambridge University, Harvard University and through experiences around the world as a vice president of education on the governing board of the United Nations Association, Ippel has been recognized by “Forbes” as one of the nation’s “top five game changers in education,” appointed a delegate to the G8 Young Global Leaders Summit, recognized by President Barack Obama, and has served on the executive boards of Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Art Institute of Chicago. All of this – and she’s well under 40. Remarkable indeed.

A spring visit to the school confirmed that it’s not only transforming the lives of the non-selective student population, but also their families and the staff. A positive, powerful “can do” attitude was everywhere apparent on the small campus.

Soon, this remarkable model will be delivered on a new net-positive energy campus – Illinois’ first net-positive energy school – near the current location, built with strong support from the City Of Chicago, too. “Net-positive energy” means the school will generate more energy than it uses in a year through clean and renewable resources.

On June 4, Chef Tony Mantuano and Bon Appétit Management Company CEO Fedele Bauccio hosted the third annual Chefs’ Playground event to benefit the AGC. More than 500 guests attended and raised more than $300,000 to go toward the school’s general operating costs with portions of the funds set aside for the development of the net-positive energy campus. The initial funds raised were doubled with a matching grant from the George and Amanda Hanley Foundation. Make It Better was proud to be the media sponsor for this event. We hope to see the model forged by AGC replicated broadly and encourage others to support it, too.

AGC students with Kathy Hart and Adrian Grenier at Chefs’ Playground. (Photo by Galdones Photography.)

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