Responding to Community Needs: The Opus Foundation and Chicago’s Big Shoulders Fund


For the last 27 years, Big Shoulders Fund has worked to successfully support Catholic schools in Chicago’s inner city. Through scholarships, operating and capital funds and professional development for teachers and administrators, Big Shoulders Fund supports 90 schools, educating 24,000 students each year.

About four years ago, Big Shoulders Fund noticed a need in science and mathematics. With the entire country producing low test scores in these areas of study, it became obvious that something needed to be done to help the students.

To solve the problem, Big Shoulders Fund partnered with local universities and other groups to provide a high-quality curriculum, after school and Saturday enrichment programs and administrative and teaching professional development programs.

In June of 2013, the Opus Foundation awarded Big Shoulders Fund a $50,000 Impact Grant to fund this comprehensive science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program in two pilot schools. “The Opus Foundation was very invested in asking thoughtful questions about the programs,” Rebecca Lindsay- Ryan, senior director of academic programs for the Big Shoulders Fund, said. “It’s great to have a partner talking to you about what’s going on.”

Big Shoulders Fund and their partner schools have three goals: 1) increase school and teacher readiness to provide high-quality math and science instruction, 2) increase student interest in STEM fields and 3) increase student achievement in math and science.

“We looked at schools with a high need. We serve a population with a majority of students living in poverty. The need is very great,” said Rebecca. “These students with a low-income background don’t generally have access to enrichment programs.”

I first learned about Big Shoulders Fund while networking with local industrial brokers. Because Opus has a great asset with the Opus Foundation, I always ask contacts if they know of or work with any organization that fits within our foundation guidelines.

It’s great to be part of an organization with a large Foundation and to be able to talk about the great things the Foundation does.

Filed Under: Our People