Future Foundation Atlanta

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After the Future Foundation had achieved a 100 percent success rate (seeing every one of their participants graduate high school, and 99 percent move on to post-secondary education), CEO Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim was pleased – but not satisfied. Rather than let success get in the way, Abdur-Rahim set out an entirely new strategy, launching an ambitious pilot aimed at no less than nation-wide poverty disruption. The results of that pilot recently won the Atlanta-based nonprofit a $4.5 million grant, ensuring five more years of research into the community-raising approach developed by one determined young nonprofit leader and her team.

In her opening address to the 2017 YNPN National Conference & Leaders Institute, Abdur-Rahim shared her methods for advancing the cause by embracing personal and professional growth. The following piece is based on that address.

Young leaders: We are living in the most extraordinary times. Technology and education are opening up new vistas, barriers to entry are lower, access to information is better than ever. The impact on business in America has been undeniable. What makes me truly excited is considering the impact this disruptive thinking can have in the nonprofit world: how one ripple can inspire another and another and another until it becomes a wave – a tide – of change, making the world a better place for generations to come.

The world needs us more than ever. Seize this moment: a time to create and build on the ripples you’ve created, and amplify the impact of opportunity.

How?

  1. Embrace continuous learning. Two years after founding Future Foundation, I had quadrupled the budget. That created amazing opportunity for impact, but also amazing business problems. I succeeded by embracing my curiosity about those problems: I went to Emory for my MBA, which helped me learn strategies to take our nonprofit to greater heights. Professional development opportunities should be on your priority list, and your team’s priority list, annually. If not, you will be left behind.

  2. Collaborate often. Look for partners who do not do the things you do, or who do things better than you do. Unusual collaborations are taking place everywhere, and they are maximizing stakeholder value and experiences.

  3. Challenge what you think you know. Poverty statistics haven’t changed in 50 years. So how do you disrupt the sector and challenge the possibilities? By surrounding yourself with networks that don’t look like yours. Immersing myself in other-industry learning networks enabled me to see what’s possible in the nonprofit world today. Good and challenging ideas come from working across sectors.

  4. Disrupt yourself. Companies that don’t examine their surroundings don’t make it. Look at some of the companies that have been around for 50-plus years: It’s not the strong that survive, it’s those that are most adaptable. Just like a company, you must always examine how you are growing in relation to where you are now, personally and professionally.

  5. Embrace your mentors. Build your “second family” by embracing your mentors, and embracing mentorship. Don’t be afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants: One of my mentors has encouraged me to go back to school, another has shared her network. But I have also learned just as much from my mentees – they help you think about how you do what you do.

  6. Be resilient. They say failure teaches us more than success; that courage is grace under pressure; that when things are not going smoothly, those are the times you’re being tested. It’s true: This is when you will be forced to come up with solutions you never could have under normal circumstances. Don’t be afraid. Instead, ask a new question. Explore a new path. Think differently. Employ positive self-talk. And never give up on something you believe in deeply. I can tell you first-hand: It really works.

  7. Be well. This work is hard. We cannot be an inspiration or lead change if we are not well. Establish a weekly routine that allows for physical activity and meditation. I don’t know if work-life balance is real, but I do know that such a routine has helped me become aware of when I’m pushing myself too hard, and the level of warmth and kindness I’m exhibiting as a leader. Above everything else I’ve said: Be well.

We are gathered here today as a second family, some of the greatest thinkers ready to change the world. Let’s bind the uncommon partners. Let’s discuss the ideas we are holding inside. Let’s rethink the 50-plus years of policies and strategies, and find the courage to do something different.

Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim is CEO of Future Foundation, which seeks to improve the life chances of youth through a five point, wrap-around strategy helping Atlanta-area families take the hard steps up and out of poverty. Find out more on their website, or by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

 

 

Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim

CEO
Future Foundation
East Point

Like many people, Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim worries about the future – especially of children living in poverty. What sets her apart is her devotion to changing their life trajectory.

As CEO of Future Foundation, Abdur-Rahim transformed an after-school program in College Park and East Point into comprehensive services that include a teen center, learning centers and parental support. A sign of success: For the past 10 years, 100 percent of Future Foundation participants graduated from high school. For comparison, the community’s graduation rate is about 70 percent.

Under her leadership, the Future Foundation recently won a five-year, $4.4-million federal grant to create an intensive model that gives children in poverty a “second family” of resources.

Abdur-Rahim grew up in the community and understands the challenges. “If someone is slipping or falling through the cracks,” she says, “we’re going to catch them.”

At Future Foundation, we consider ourselves to be a second family; not just in the way that we interact with each other, but also in the way that we serve our students and families. But what does it actually mean to be a “second family”?

We’re not out to replace the student’s family, but instead to fill in the gaps, provide stable, nurturing relationships and opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to support and guide young people and their families by connecting them to critical learning resources; tutoring and mentoring in a safe, nurturing after-school environment.

Isabel Woods (Banneker High School’s 2017 Valedictorian) is just one example of the thousands of students that have thrived in Future Foundation’s program over the years. Starting as a sophomore at Banneker – the only Fulton County high school with a nursing pathway – she overcame the challenge of switching schools from her previous home in Saginaw, Michigan.

We highlight Isabel today, as her story of resilience is not much different than that of many youth served by Future Foundation. So, when it was discovered the day before Isabel’s graduation that she did not have a dress to wear and that no one from her family could attend her graduation, our staff jumped into action! We were able to coordinate buying Isabel a graduation dress; treating her to her very first mani / pedi and getting her hair styled for her big day. And of course, on graduation day we were right there cheering her on!

Despite the fact that this young woman faced homelessness, caring for a mother with health challenges and playing a huge role in raising her siblings, Isabel remained an active participant in our program and graduated high school with a 3.7 GPA. Future Foundation is committed to disrupting the way poverty has been historically addressed nationwide and leading a revolutionary, data driven effort against the core causes of poverty in America. #AfterschoolWorks #AfterschoolGA

The impact on business in America has been undeniable with innovations from companies such as Uber, Netflix and Air B&B, but what makes the staff at Future Foundation truly excited, is thinking about what impact disruptive thinking can have on the non-profit world. What opportunities we have to create a ripple that affects another person’s life for the better.

How that ripple can inspire another, and another and another until it becomes a wave—a tide of energy creating change. Making the world a better place.

The Future Foundation all started as just a glimmer of an idea that, maybe, we could give something back to the communities that needed it most. Soon this idea became a commitment; we started to see our vision as a real possibility. 

Then the first generation of 15 kids from our very first cohort in 2004 graduate. They go on to earn their Associates, then their Bachelors degrees. Get accepted into the National Honor Society. One comes back for Career Day and talks about the business she started.

Shawanda Edwards (shown below) is one of those kids. A native of East Point, GA , she started with Future Foundation in the 5th grade. A first-generation college graduate, she has gone on to earn her Associates from Atlanta Metropolitan College and is on track to graduate from Georgia State University with a Bachelors degree in Social Work. Shawanda is on the Dean’s List at GSU and was recently accepted into The National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS).

She continues to play an integral role as a member of our second family by speaking at Future Foundation events and mentoring other youth currently enrolled in our program.

And that’s the opportunity. One ripple builds on another. That’s how extraordinary change happens. Being part of something—a second family—what does that do for the world?

Through LOVE, LEARNING and LEADERSHIP we at Future Foundation have been able to engage business leaders, government and volunteers to rally behind our work and affect change in our most vulnerable communities. Check out what we’ve been up to!

LOVE

Two master barbers from Trinity Barbershop in College Park, GA came by our Future Foundation teen center and volunteered their services to our summer camp students. The results were astounding!!! Kudos to our Future Foundation staff, Xavier Alexander (program aide) for coordinating this awesome endeavor.

Trinity Barbershop
Robert Moore; owner/master barber
1876 Harvard Avenue
College Park, GA
404.780.5580

LEARNING

Future Foundation has partnered with tech startup, Tribe, to pilot a 6-week initiative focused on closing the college and career readiness gap for children coming from low-income families. Tribe uses an online platform (Instagram) to connect high school students to professionals and facilitate career exploration and role modeling. This allows students to:

  • Directly engage with career content and professional mentors
  • Ask questions, and build relationships despite distance and place.
  • Guarantees a young person receives the support and investment he/she needs to be successful after high school.

    Check out our students in action!


LEADERSHIP

In April, Our Banneker High School kids took a field trip to the Urban Feed Store in Historic College Park, GA. The students utilized the etiquette information they learned from a previous workshop that taught them essential codes of conduct for social behavior. The owner, Ms. McQueen, conducted a Q&A session, discussed how she became an entrepreneur and highlighted her career path. She stressed the importance of a college education and the challenges she faced along her academic journey. 

The restaurant customized our menus and provided exceptional service. It was an awesome learning experience and opportunity for all 21 Banneker High School students who attended.


What’s your superpower?

As students walked through the doors of Future Foundation for their last day of Summer programming, there was both a sense of relief and dismay. They had worked hard all Summer building drones, designing apps, developing math and reading skills and receiving college and career prep courses. This moment was bittersweet; students who were once strangers had become friends, and now had to wish each other farewell (at least for now).

The new school year was just weeks away and the staff at Future Foundation wanted to ensure that each youth had a great kick-off to the new semester. What better way to do this than a superhero-themed cookout? This end of Summer party theme was chosen by the staff to help students discover their own “superpowers”.

The program curriculum was modified for the day to teach students how to use their superpowers to take on the school year just like their favorite superheroes would. Each child designed their own superhero cape, enjoyed some great barbecue and ended the afternoon  in with a dance celebration in honor of all that was accomplished and all that there is still left to achieve.