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“Changing a Student’s Life Together”

Updated: Jul 20, 2020

Educators and specialists that work with children don't typically treat work as a business.

If we did, we would expense the supplies we bought for our students, charge overtime for all the hours of work we brought home, and cut student services that weren't considered profitable enough. Instead, educators get into their field because they want to help children, not just make money. So what happens when a school-based specialist decides to treat her work as a business? FundEd Chicago is figuring that out. 

Founder, Dr. Jessica Wacker, began developing the framework for FundEd Chicago as a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University. Her experience working as a speech-language pathologist and learning specialist in public and private schools gave her unique insight into the need for specialized support services and the benefits of early access to these supports. Dr. Wacker saw a gap in some children getting quick access to the specialized support they need to catch up with their peers. 

In Chicago Public Schools, students have to wait for their learning difficulties to be severe enough to qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which means waiting for their scores to drop to the 10% or less. This waiting for children to fail leads to students missing crucial sensitive periods of learning, repeating grades, losing confidence, and developing a hatred of school. Similarly, in private schools, children who need support but come from families experiencing financial hardships also have to wait to work with specialists due to the financial burden  The delay in receiving these supports is not the fault of the students, their families, or their schools. These students need to work with a specialist, and that comes with a cost. How can FundEd fix that?

FundEd is a nonprofit that partners with specialists like learning specialists, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists in order to provide children that require their services but whose families lack the financial means to procure them. These specialists will get paid for their services but at a reduced rate. Why would these professionals agree to be paid a reduced price? Besides wanting to use their expertise and experience to help students in their community, this partnership will open up new relationships with local schools that could lead to additional private clients. These mutually beneficial partnerships will allow struggling students to get much-needed support as soon as possible. 

FundEd is looking at this problem through the lens of social entrepreneurship. What distinguishes social entrepreneurship from a typical charity or not-for-profit is social entrepreneurs use a business mindset to approach their work. FundEd will evaluate how our organization can partner with schools and specialists in order to streamline the process and find the most economical way to provide those services. However, unlike a business that generates profit, we are creating an impact. Will FundEd save the world? No, but together we can change a student's life. 

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