Beyond Sports Foundation / Photo: Lenswork Studio

Beyond Sports Foundation

Beyond Sports Foundation believes in the power of sport to transform lives. The organization helps athletically talented, underserved Chicago high-school students secure college athletic scholarships. Its student-athletes have the potential to play at the college level but lack the resources to navigate the complexities of college recruiting. Beyond Sports Foundation provides the academic assistance, skills, and support these student athletes need to help them through the competitive acceptance process, position them to excel in their college careers, and empower them to succeed as young adults.

Its methods: “Our mission is to turn athletic ability into economic opportunity to help underserved student-athletes succeed in life,” says Kim Michelson, Beyond Sports Foundation’s executive director. The organization also recognizes that students need more than athletic talent to reach their full potential, so it employs a four-pillar program that provides a spectrum of necessary services: athletic development, academic development, mentorship, and social programming.

In addition to providing state-of-the-art athletic facilities, coaching, and tailored training and nutrition programs, the organization provides customized tutoring services to help student-athletes excel in school. Beyond Sports also pairs student-athletes with mentors to increase their adult support systems. Finally, it creates programming to instill social skills that prepare them for college and beyond, including responsible citizenship, women’s empowerment, and job interviewing.

Its impact: Because of the organization’s small scale, staff members are able to customize their process for each athlete, including sport-specific training, tailored academic support, recruiting guidance, and other support as needed. The organization intentionally works with a small pool of students, which helps it achieve a deeper individual impact. “A cookie-cutter program won’t help kids make it out of their underserved neighborhood,” says Elias Karras, the organization’s founder. “Every student has different needs, and we bring on a village of people to offer custom, encompassing support—including mentors, coaches, and parents.”

One hundred percent of the student-athletes have graduated high school and matriculated to college. One hundred percent have also received athletic scholarships or other financial aid, and all Beyond Sports grads participate in college athletics. Its graduates have gone on to join football, track, basketball, and baseball teams at schools such as the University of Notre Dame, the University of Iowa, and the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, 15 Beyond Sports Foundation graduates are playing at the NCAA Division I level.

How the Satter Foundation has helped: Kristen has been deeply involved with the organization since it was just a concept and is a founding member of the board of directors. “Kristen shares our commitment to local impact and is a very hands-on board member. She offers a valuable voice and both her financial support and board service have been critical for our operations,” says Michelson. The Satter Foundation has donated $400,000 to the organization since 2008. Its dedication has been an important part of Beyond Sports Foundation’s growth, especially given the grassroots nature of the organization. “Kristen’s steady support, guidance, and confidence in us have allowed us to stay on course,” says Karras.

What’s next for Beyond Sports Foundation: The organization aims to increase the number of student-athletes it supports, especially female athletes. It has recently hired a dedicated staff person to run the organization’s college program. With this additional capacity, it will be better able to support its student-athletes through the college search, recruitment, and application process, and provide support to program graduates while they are in college. It is also creating a career development program to show “that you don’t need to be a professional athlete to escape poverty,” says Karras. It is working to diversify its funding base to ensure it will be able to support local student-athletes for years to come.

www.beyondsports.org

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