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?
Giving back is a recurring theme in the nonprofit world. No matter what the mission of the organization may be, so much of what we do, when we do it well, is based on the idea of giving back, mentoring, and helping others learn from your own experience to succeed in their own journeys.
This past Monday (August 13, 2017), I had the distinct pleasure of serving as the keynote speaker for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) National Conference in Atlanta, GA.
The reception we received after a disruptive conversation about the way poverty needs to be addressed at YNPN Atlanta clearly shows we’re working in a sector that’s primed for disruption.
The single word I wanted to focus on was “disruption.” I know “disruption” is a term you hear more often describing tech startup businesses rather than nonprofit efforts, but I really believe the way poverty is addressed is primed for disruption and Future Foundation’s story only serves to illustrate that fact.
The YNPN keynote provided an opportunity to initiate a conversation about the way poverty is addressed in America. To take a look at the Disruption Playbook we’re writing at Future Foundation and challenge leaders in our sector to break the status quo, and revamp the 50-year-old social policies and strategies that have been failing so many communities.
Since 2007, Future Foundation of Atlanta has been graduating 100% of our students in an area where low graduation rates are standard. We are proud to say the results we’ve seen since opening our doors in 2004 are undeniable. More important, we’re proud of what our students go on to do after graduation and we’re using our 13 years of success to build on what we’ve learned to fundamentally disrupt the way poverty is battled here in Atlanta, across the country and around the world.
How we do it?
The same way Uber disrupted transportation. The same way Airbnb disrupted travel. We are operationalizing a second-family model designed to make the most of existing resources.
Uber didn’t build a new fleet of taxis to deliver its service. It devised a way to mobilize people who already own cars to deliver a relevant, valued service to their customers.
Airbnb didn’t build thousands of hotel rooms. They connected people who wanted to rent out rooms to people who wanted to stay in interesting places at an affordable rate.
Both of these startup “unicorns” disrupted conventional thinking and reinvented an industry.
We in the nonprofit world so often get absorbed into “good works” thinking. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what drives us internally.
But it’s the disruptive ideas that can drive growth and success and real change in the world. It’s happening in the for-profit world, why can’t it happen in the non-profit one? Why can’t we disrupt poverty?
We are continually gathering data from our Second Family Model and partnering with a wide variety of people, organizations and resources to organize a model to create a disruptive, repeatable, scalable solution to poverty. We’re finding ways to connect existing resources to energize solutions to create opportunities utilizing the greatest asset we have in the not-for-profit sector—our people.
This shift is about relinquishing control of resources, decreasing bureaucracy, collecting real time data to improve student experiences, infusing innovative technologies into marginalized communities, and collaborating to coordinate resources in a strategically aligned ecosystem. It’s an ecosystem made up of a second family that spans the faith business, government, school system, and nonprofit communities.
Poverty statistics in America have not changed in 50 years. Judging from the response of young leaders listening to the disruption discussion at YNPN Atlanta this year, the time is now to seize the moment and disrupt our sector before other industry change disrupts our work.
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!
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.
Robert Moore; owner/master barber
1876 Harvard Avenue
College Park, GA
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!
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.