Educational Institutions

Mikva Challenge Grant Foundation Inc

  • Chicago, IL
  • www.mikvachallenge.org

Mission Statement

Mikva Challenge develops youth to be informed, empowered, and active citizens and community leaders. We do this by engaging youth in action civics, an authentic and transformative learning process built on youth voice and expertise.

Main Programs

  1. Democracy in Action
  2. Elections in Action
  3. Citywide Youth Councils
  4. Peace and Leadership Councils
  5. Mikva Government Fellows
  6. Center for Action Civics
Service Areas

Self-reported

National

Mikva Challenge has provided high quality action civics programming to tens of thousands of youth in Chicago since 1998. Mikva Challenge programs prioritize the needs of low-income youth and under-resourced neighborhoods and schools. In 2014, Mikva Challenge began offering action civics programs in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Mikva Challenge also provides curricula, professional development, and support to teachers interested in bringing action civics to their classrooms nationwide.

ruling year

1997

Executive Director

Self-reported

Mr. Brian Brady

Keywords

Self-reported

youth, politics, education, civic, social justice, action civics, campaigns, elections, youth voice

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EIN

52-2033353

 Number

0607255773

Also Known As

Mikva Challenge

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Educational Services and Schools - Other (B90)

Youth Development Programs (O50)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Overview

Self-reported by organization

Since opening our doors in 1998, over 70,000 students have participated in Mikva Challenge’s action civics programs. Our alumni attest to the success of our hands-on approach to developing active, life-long civic and professional leaders. Alumni assessments demonstrate that Mikva Challenge program alumni vote, volunteer in their communities, and have a sense of civic commitment that is double the national average. Our alumni are managing political campaigns; graduating from college; becoming lawyers, scientists, entrepreneurs and teachers; and are active community leaders. In their own words - Mikva alumnus Happy Johnson said that Mikva Challenge “had a profound hand in shaping me into the man I am today. It instilled in me a sense of confidence, purpose, and social responsibility.” Alumna Lilly Athamanah remarked that Mikva “made me realize that it is important to be knowledgeable about the issues, to have meaningful conversations, to make a difference, to break negative stereotypes of youth, and most of all, to be positive.”

Programs

Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Democracy in Action

Through ‘Democracy in Action’ (DIA) Mikva staff support teachers and classrooms as they engage in a guided, reflective, experiential learning process where students 1) examine their community starting with mapping neighborhood assets, 2) choose a community issue that is important to the whole class, 3) research the issue using root cause analysis and surveys of family, friends and neighbors, 4) set a goal for solving issue and analyzing who has the power to make it happen, 5) develop civic action strategies, and 6) take concrete action to affect policy on this issue. The program develops young people’s critical thinking, public speaking, research and other leadership skills. Through ‘Project Soapbox,’ a critical component of the DIA curriculum, students compete on a classroom and citywide level delivering powerful speeches on the issues most important to them.

Category

Youth Development

Population(s) Served

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

None

Budget

Program 2

Elections in Action

The ‘Elections in Action’ program authentically engages students in elections through campaign work, voter registration, and election judging. Launched each year with a student-run candidate forum, this project transforms students’ attitudes toward the political process and supports their understanding of campaign work and electoral politics.

Category

Youth Development

Population(s) Served

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

None

Budget

Program 3

Citywide Youth Councils

Mikva’s five Citywide Youth Councils focus on the issues of education, health, safety, employment, and after school programming. Each council has 20 diverse members from across Chicago who receive intensive leadership training and provide public officials with youth expertise and policy ideas. These councils meet regularly with city leaders like the Mayor and the CEO of Chicago Schools, and work with the media, community groups, and peers to advocate change.

Category

Youth Development

Population(s) Served

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

Budget

Program 4

Peace and Leadership Councils

Mikva’s Peace and Leadership Councils operate in high-need, high-violence high schools and middle schools. The Councils provide youth expertise and ideas to school and community leaders in an effort to promote peace. The student leaders undertake intensive leadership training and work through an advocacy process that includes issue selection, research, and the creation of recommendations for school and community improvement.

Category

Youth Development

Population(s) Served

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

Budget

Program 5

Mikva Government Fellows

The Mikva Government Fellows program places students who have excelled in Mikva programs in paid summer internships at city, county, state, and federal lawmakers’ offices. In addition, student interns learn leadership skills and activism by attending weekly, day-long Mikva workshops where they explore an issue affecting young people and develop relevant policy recommendations.

Category

Youth Development

Population(s) Served

Youth/Adolescents only (14 - 19 years)

Budget

Program 6

Center for Action Civics

The Center for Action Civics (CFAC) develops curriculum tools and provides professional development for teachers, schools, and non-profit organizations to engage students in high quality Action Civics programming and experiential learning opportunities. CFAC encourages a culture of support while teachers share best practices on civic education strategies.

Category

Education

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

Budget

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    Mikva Challenge envisions a world where citizens are informed, empowered, and active; youth voice is valued in decision making; civic leaders reflect the nation’s diversity; and action civics is prioritized in education. For this reason, Mikva strives to develop youth to be informed, empowered, and active citizens and community leaders. By opening up spaces for democratic education and youth participation in Chicago schools and government, we strive to prioritize the needs of low-income youth and under-resourced Chicago neighborhoods and schools. 88% of the youth Mikva serves come from low-income households, and 90% are youth of color.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    Mikva Challenge serves thousands of youth each year through five robust action civics programs and through the work of our Center for Action Civics. Action civics is an authentic and transformative learning process built on youth voice, youth expertise, collective action, and reflection. • Through DEMOCRACY IN ACTION, Mikva staff support teachers and classrooms as they engage in a guided, reflective, experiential learning process where students 1) examine their community starting with mapping neighborhood assets, 2) choose a community issue that is important to the whole class, 3) research the issue using root cause analysis and surveys of family, friends and neighbors, 4) set a goal for solving issue and analyzing who has the power to make it happen, 5) develop civic action strategies, and 6) take concrete action to affect policy on this issue. • The ELECTIONS IN ACTION program authentically engages students in elections through campaign work, voter registration, and election judging. Launched each year with a student-run candidate forum, this project transforms students’ attitudes toward the political process and supports their understanding of campaign work and electoral politics. • Mikva’s five CITYWIDE YOUTH COUNCILS focus on the issues of education, health, safety, employment, and after school programming. Each council has 20 diverse members from across Chicago who receive intensive leadership training and provide public officials with youth expertise and policy ideas. These councils meet regularly with city leaders like the Mayor and the CEO of Chicago Schools, and work with the media, community groups, and peers to advocate change. • Mikva’s PEACE AND LEADERSHIP COUNCILS operate in high-need, high-violence high schools and middle schools. The Councils provide youth expertise and ideas to school and community leaders in an effort to promote peace. The student leaders undertake intensive leadership training and work through an advocacy process that includes issue selection, research, and the creation of recommendations for school and community improvement. • The MIKVA GOVERNMENT FELLOWS program places students who have excelled in Mikva programs in paid summer internships at city, county, state, and federal lawmakers’ offices. In addition, student interns learn leadership skills and activism by attending weekly, day-long Mikva workshops where they explore an issue affecting young people and develop relevant policy recommendations. • The CENTER FOR ACTION CIVICS (CFAC) develops curriculum tools and provides professional development for teachers, schools, and non-profit organizations to engage students in high quality Action Civics programming and experiential learning opportunities. CFAC encourages a culture of support while teachers share best practices on civic education strategies.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    In 1998, Mikva Challenge began by running an electoral engagement project in four classrooms. 70,000 students later, Mikva has grown this strategy of real-life democracy education into five robust "Action Civics" programs that serve over 6,000 high school students and 130 teachers at 110 schools across the Chicago Metropolitan region each year, and (since 2014) serve an additional 2,000 students in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Our three main program areas - youth electoral participation, youth policy-making, and youth community problem solving - teach young people civic knowledge and leadership skills while transforming their attitudes about political participation. We are proud to now be one of the strongest and most innovative youth development and civic education organizations in Chicago, with lasting impacts on the personal and civic development of youth and on how local schools and government incorporate young people into their decision-making processes. • Mikva Challenge Mikva’s innovative Action Civics programming has received considerable attention from top leaders in the civic education reform movement. In her 2012 book, “No Citizen Left Behind,” one of the nation’s foremost civic education researchers, Dr. Meira Levinsopn, cites Mikva Challenge’s youth civic engagement work as “the gold standard for guided experiential civic education.” Ted McConnell, the Executive Director of the National Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, has also recognized the power of Mikva programming and said, “Research has shown that students who have the opportunity of participating in programs like the Mikva Challenge develop a commitment for life-long, informed civic engagement. The Mikva Challenge and the Mikva Action Civics network are among the very best civic learning programs in the nation.” In addition, US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has repeatedly applauded Mikva’s work. Most recently, at the National Conference on Civic Education he stated, “[Mikva] has produced hundreds of civic learners who have done some amazing projects in their communities. [Mikva] helped those students to organize and run an advisory council for me, and their insights on how policy decisions impacted students’ lives were profound and invaluable to me and my team.” • Mikva Challenge has an experienced and committed staff with a low turnover rate. Our fiscal and administrative capacity is also strong, with an Executive Director and Operations Director who each have over 20 years of experience in the field. In line with best practices and legal requirements for a non-profit organization, Mikva Challenge has put in place a comprehensive set of financial policies, checks and balances, and procedures to protect the organization's resources, stakeholders and clients. In addition, we have an active and diverse 24 member Board of Directors that is committed to providing high quality innovative action civics programming and maintaining the fiscal health of the agency
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    In order to achieve our mission, Mikva Challenge has a core set of overarching organizational goals that guide all of our work. Mikva Challenge programs: 1) Provide youth with authentic and powerful democratic experiences; 2) Develop agency and future commitment to civic action; 3) Provide youth with skills and knowledge to be effective citizens; and 4) Increase exposure, demand, and access to action civics. •• Evaluation and assessment of programs are key components of Mikva Challenge’s work. Along with a focus on evaluation from our program staff and Board of Directors, we have an Evaluation Director on staff who oversees the development of our evaluation plans and assessment tools and collaborates with program staff to implement and analyze our assessments. Mikva Challenge also partners with other Action Civics organizations and leading civic education researchers across the country to develop common measures and assessment tools. •• Mikva Challenge evaluates the success of our programs on two levels - individual impacts and systemic impacts. We measure the individual impacts of our programs through increases in the 5 C’s – Communication, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Civic Commitment, and Civic Literacy – before and after participating in our programs. The systemic impacts of our programs are measured by changes in institutional policy or budget priorities made by schools or governmental agencies. The systemic impacts refer to our mission of institutionalizing youth political development, youth participation, and youth voice in city and school decision-making systems.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    Mikva Challenge strives to provide young people with the skills, knowledge, and access to make their voice heard and take action. Through Mikva’s programs, young people are provided opportunities to authentically participate in civic life. They learn to critically analyze the root causes of problems. They learn to mobilize support for their cause among peers and school and community leaders. They are provided a seat at the decision making table and a place at the podium to speak out about the issues they care about. Importantly, Mikva programming transforms young people into empowered leaders and active citizens while benefiting communities and schools. •• Assessments of program alumni demonstrate that our alumni remain actively engaged in their communities after high school. In fact, a 2014 survey of over 400 Mikva alumni from 82 high schools found their civic engagement to be well above the national average. 74% of alumni participate in community service (vs. only 36% of 18-29 yr. olds nationwide); 88% of eligible alumni are registered voters (vs. only 53% of young people nationally); 86% of registered alumni voted in the 2012 presidential election (vs. 45% of peers); 31% have talked to public officials to ask for assistance or to express opinions (vs. 11% of peers); 33% of alumni continue to volunteer for political campaigns (vs. only 2% of peers nationally); 87% of alumni believe they have the power to make a difference in solving community problems (vs. 55% of peers); and 88% of alumni report that Mikva made them feel it is their responsibility to get involved to make things better for society (vs. only 39% of young people nationally). •• With our programs’ strong impacts, the demand for Mikva programs continues to increase. We currently provide Mikva Challenge programs in about half of Chicago’s public high schools. We also offer Mikva programs in a dozen Chicago suburban high schools and recently expanded our programming to 30 schools in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. In the coming years, we aim to increase our reach to provide high quality, high impact action civics programs to more Chicago students and more students across the nation.
Service Areas

Self-reported

National

Mikva Challenge has provided high quality action civics programming to tens of thousands of youth in Chicago since 1998. Mikva Challenge programs prioritize the needs of low-income youth and under-resourced neighborhoods and schools. In 2014, Mikva Challenge began offering action civics programs in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Mikva Challenge also provides curricula, professional development, and support to teachers interested in bringing action civics to their classrooms nationwide.

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External Reviews

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

Mikva Challenge Grant Foundation
Fiscal year: Jul 01-Jun 30
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

Mikva Challenge Grant Foundation Inc

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2014, 2013 and 2012
  • Board Chair, Board Co-Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
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Executive Director

Mr. Brian Brady

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Andrea Jett-Fletcher

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

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BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?


RESPONSE NOT PROVIDED

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?


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BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?


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BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?