Notable Native: Joshua Hale



Joshua Hale promotes funding to inner-city students through philanthropy and organizations such as the Big Shoulders Fund.

By Metro Reporter

In the midst of teachers’ strikes, budget problems, overcrowded classrooms, education in Chicago has been a topic of concern in recent years. 

Addressing these issues is immensely important because it provides people access to the American dream, said president and CEO of Big Shoulders Fund, Joshua Hale.

BSF is a nonprofit organization that serves nearly 21,000 students in 64 elementary schools and 13 high schools in Chicagoland, according to the group’s website. 

Hale also serves on numerous city-based education committees and boards, and he was recognized in 2010 as one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ 40 Under 40. 

The Chronicle spoke with Hale about his experiences abroad as a child and the importance of providing a strong educational experience to low-income, inner-city students.


THE CHRONICLE: What drove you to philanthropy?

JOSHUA HALE: I was inspired by my parents, in particular my mother, because she was very active in the community and took me out to shelters and prison ministries. She would also take my family out to Haiti in the summer, where we did two-to four-week service trips, which had a profound impact on me. 


Why direct your work toward education?

On our trips to Haiti, we worked in schools but would also have students come stay at our house. So I got to see firsthand the need to provide assistance to low-income children, whether it is learning a trade or some other skill set. 

Education is the best tool for finding a path to a brighter future. The American dream has always precipitated on having the tools to succeed in this economy. It is not always the case, but a high percentage of the time, an excellent education provides that backing toward achieving that dream. 


Why has BSF directed its attention to Catholic schools?

The primary system of education in this country is the public school system. Educating the inner city is incredibly hard work and it is not just about school. It is about creating a support system for children. BSF is set to provide more options and opportunities for parents to find the best quality education for their child. 

The Catholic school is another institution that represents a place where people come together to build social relationships and to talk about how to make their communities stronger. My hope is that we are helping to strengthen the local neighborhoods and the overall educational network in the city.


Will the results of the presidential election affect BSF and education?

There has been a lot of important work done in the last number of years in Chicago and by former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, [which President Barack Obama signed in December 2015]. It will continue to push for the agenda of providing resources and opportunity to students at high-at-stake communities and help them gain higher achievement. 

My goal, as well as BSF, is to remain focused on children and their needs, so whoever is in the White House will put their own spin on it, but the mission will remain the same.