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Living to Give

Jaclyn Jermyn, Sarah Ryan, Liz Stanton & David Zivan | October 30, 2017 | Feature Features National

These Chicagoans are making it their life's work to improve the lives of others—in schools and hospitals and in the farthest corners of the world.
Lindsay Siwiec

Dominique Jordan Turner
A dynamic nonprofit helps teach kids the largely unwritten rules of success.

“I have seen the transformative power of education,” says Dominique Jordan Turner, president and CEO of Chicago Scholars. “Success is not just about the right education or the right grades. If you grow up poor, black or brown in this city, that is not enough.” Born to a teenage mother, Turner grew up in a Chicago housing project and is also the first member of her family to graduate from college. At her innovative nonprofit, she leads a team that works to ensure that students from under-resourced communities have a path to college and success, more broadly defined. Each student who enters the seven-year program is counseled, trained and mentored; even those who already have many of the skills they need learn the unwritten rules for success. “Poverty can be a superpower when you really look at it,” says Turner. “These students still persist despite many odds being against them. They are gritty, resilient and creative, they make good decisions, and those things help them excel and succeed later in life if they are given other tools.” Over the next three years, Turner plans to double the number of students that the nonprofit reaches—from 2,500 to 5,000. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Turner. “There are so many students who need these services. We’re just getting started.”

On Turner: Crepe de Chine flexible necklace ($27,500) and bracelet ($15,300) in yellow gold

Lindsay Siwiec
Bolstering girls’ confidence with some expert advice

“Fashion is something—whether you are a fan or not—that everyone is faced with daily when they get dressed,” says Lindsay Siwiec, co-founder and president of new nonprofit Project Style, which works in low-income schools to empower young girls through fashion. “We really want to use fashion as a tool to empower and engage youth at a time when confidence is most critical.” Poor self-esteem, she notes, is one of the leading causes of low-attendance rates among adolescent girls. “Students who face issues with self-confidence are more at risk for low academic achievement,” Siwiec says. “Our ultimate goal is to make these girls feel great about themselves so they want to be in school and learning.” Style loving mentors engage with girls in the program throughout the school year, and participants have the ability to shop twice a year in a pop-up boutique of donated clothing. The nonprofit works in more than 20 schools in the Chicago area, and recently expanded out to four schools in Los Angeles thanks to a donation from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. While Siwiec, who attended grad school at the Fashion Institute of Technology, knows that the fashion industry is often thought of as a negative influence on young girls’ self-image, with Project Style, she’s attempting to flip the script. “We try to teach the girls that fashion is a way to express your uniqueness,” she says. “You can take it and make it whatever you want.”

On Siwiec: Opera necklace ($15,500), bracelet ($5,900) and earrings ($6,800) in yellow and white gold set with diamonds


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