The head of a Chicago-based education nonprofit is among 33 social innovators to win a 2016 Echoing Green fellowship.

Jacob Allen, co-founder and chief executive of pilotED, was selected from a pool of more than 2,000 applicants from 120 countries, according to a statement.

These social entrepreneurs are addressing many of the world’s most daunting challenges, such as global warming, racism, and water scarcity. Each fellow will receive up to $90,000 in seed money and gain access to a global network of funders.

“As an institution that sees entrepreneurship as a means to disrupt narratives and create pathways for social change, Echoing Green is so inspired by the talent and vision held by each member of the 2016 class,” said Echoing Green President Cheryl L. Dorsey in a statement.

PilotEd, launched in 2013, offers a unique curriculum to Black and Latino students from low and moderate-income families.

Allen told DNA Info that the school’s approach is to intersect the standard curriculum with lessons that the students can relate to, such as mapping out the number of gangs in their neighborhood, or comparing the chemical elements in blond hair to curly black hair.

The former Teach for America educator explained the approach to DNA Info:

“We’re making everyday issues that our students experience a part of the learning experience. The first thing that happened was that students were engaged more, because they weren’t reading about White blond-hair, blue-eyed individuals. They were actually reading and learning about themselves. Number two, it turned from ‘I am the problem or the victim’ to ‘I am a part of the solution.’”

Allen explained to the Daily Whale, a Chicago-based information site for the business and government sectors, that pilotEd also offers services and programs to the community.

What’s also unique is that the school devotes 25 percent of class time to talk about what success looks like. PilotED helps its students “get in the shoes” of successful people in the community.

“By giving them role models, community engagement opportunities, and embracing a healthy self-image narrative, our students see what it takes to succeed, and can emulate those behaviors,” Allen told the Daily Whale.

Allen plans to use the Echoing Green funding to develop pilotED’s training center and training manual for teachers. A portion will also go toward funding its community outreach activities — from distributing food to helping people “keep their lights on,” according to DNA Info.

SOURCE: Echoing Green, DNA Info, Daily Whale | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter

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