Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim, Chief Executive Officer
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”—Gandhi
A thought leader and status-quo disruptor, Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim transformed her life and uplifted her community—now she’s using what she learned to alleviate poverty and change the world. The CEO of the Future Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower Atlanta’s youth, Qaadirah is also a former U.S. Air Force Reservist and a Georgia Education Policy Fellow who has been named one of America’s Leaders of Change by the Urban Fellows Program. But the award-winning activist and educational expert started out as a young person whose schooling barely prepared her to graduate, much less innovate.
Back to the Future (Foundation)
Qaadirah grew up on Atlanta’s South Side, East Point, and College Park, as one of five siblings attending low-performing public schools. Seizing the opportunity of a lifetime, she attended college at the University of California, Berkeley, on an athletic scholarship. But while Qaadirah ran track, she struggled academically, insufficiently prepared for higher education by sub-par local schools.
When the going got tough, Qaadirah got going, working hard and earning her degree in social work, followed by a master’s from the University of California San Francisco. Then she returned to her hometown of Atlanta to give kids like herself the skills they need to succeed. Joining the Future Foundation as a program director, Qaadirah grew the Future Foundation from a small afterschool program into a phenomenon that brings together the nonprofit, business, and government sectors to empower resilient youth.
Hard Work, Real Results
In her tenure as CEO, Qaadirah quadrupled the foundation’s revenue and expanded its reach. Eager to develop new skills to serve her constant goal of empowering local students, she also earned an MBA at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School while still working as CEO (and in-house grant writer, afterschool tutor, college counselor, job coach, surrogate parent, and whatever else the Foundation’s kids might need).
As for results, the numbers speak for themselves. Over the past 12 years as CEO, Qaadirah accomplished the following:
• Grew a team of two to a staff of 40
• Recruited over 30 board members
• Raised $25M plus in revenue to service four locations and 11,000 students
• Increased the Foundation’s visibility by 60 %
Perhaps the most impressive statistic is that Future Foundation participants have a 100% high school graduation rate, compared to 70 percent of their peers.
Acting Locally, Thinking Globally
It wasn’t enough for Qaadirah to rise above her own humble beginnings, earn three higher education degrees, and become an award-winning CEO. And simply helping thousands of kids on her home turf doesn’t satisfy her. Continually striving towards her goal of alleviating poverty, Qaadirah is now casting her eye beyond the old neighborhood.
Using the Future Foundation’s program as a laboratory for innovation, Qaadirah has developed a “Theory of Change” to address how poverty can be disrupted and alleviated anywhere—by giving children access to family, education, health, relationship and life skill support, creating what she calls a “second family environment.” She is committed to sharing the Foundation’s methods and results in a Learning Lab think tank that will explore how to most efficiently create the greatest amount of social impact, giving as many children as possible their own chance to change their lives.
These countless personal success stories are adding up to a game-changing movement for a community and a positive blueprint for other activists to follow all over the globe. By setting a trailblazing example, and sharing strategies behind successful programs to disrupt the cycle of poverty, Qaadirah is not only being the change she’d like to see in the world, she’s also making sure today’s kids can accomplish the same thing. “The hope generated from the shared experience of adversity, and the living example of those who’ve overcome the odds, is extraordinary,” says Qaadirah, speaking from experience. “Investing in that hope, and returning its benefits to the community, means a better future for generations to come.”