Building the Pipeline
Ava Youngblood’s involvement with Communities In Schools spans a decade.
“Always Expect Great Things” is the line that appears at the end of Ava Youngblood’s emails. It is quickly evident this phrase not only captures her optimism, but is her guiding philosophy and driving force as an executive recruiter and nonprofit champion. It’s also clear that while Youngblood expects great things, it’s in large part because she is willing to put in the work needed to make them happen.
A Chicago native, Youngblood’s involvement with Communities In Schools spans a decade, as a board member of Communities In Schools of Chicago, and, since January, a member of the Communities In Schools national board of directors. When introduced to Communities In Schools of Chicago, Youngblood found that the mission spoke to her passion for education. “I attended Chicago Public Schools and went on to earn my degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University and my MBA from University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. I know that Chicago Public Schools can prepare you for life. It’s why my children went to Chicago Public Schools as well.”
Youngblood acknowledges that there have been changes in the schools over the years. “What I remember most from my education are the teachers. I was excited about math and science, and received special attention from the teachers who cared about me succeeding. We had all the services that students need, like counselors and nurses. And we even had classes like music and gym. I didn’t realize their importance at the time, but that’s what’s missing in so many schools today. It does take a village — a community — for a child to succeed, and that’s where Communities In Schools of Chicago comes in.”
When asked what she finds most rewarding about her involvement with Communities In Schools of Chicago, Youngblood says it’s seeing the growth and increased effectiveness of the work. “When a principal changes schools and insists that Communities In Schools of Chicago partners with his or her new school, you know we’re adding value and making a difference.”
It’s seeing these outcomes, and the growth of Communities In Schools of Chicago’s work, that spurred Youngblood’s interest in becoming a national leader. “[President] Dan Cardinali and [Board Chairman] Elaine Wynn came to Chicago several years ago and I found their passion to be infectious. Then I attended a dinner and heard from Communities In Schools alumni from around the country, and recognized that I could play a role in both the Chicago work and the national work.” Youngblood laughs when she says, “I’m busy; I don’t need to look for more things to do. But when it’s about helping kids succeed in school, then I’m all in.”
In addition to the strong personal ties, there also exists a strong link to Communities In Schools through her professional life asfounder and CEO of Youngblood Executive Search, which she formed 10 years ago. “The key to our future is that inclusive diversity drives innovation. Without a diverse pipeline leading to the executive suite, we’re not going to have senior leadership in corporate America that’s representative of our country.”
“If we’re not preparing today’s students, if we’re not keeping them in school, helping them finish high school and go on to college, then we’re not preparing them to lead and innovate. We can help our country’s children be successful and build that pipeline. We can make a difference.”
With enthusiasm and passion, Youngblood declares, “I want today’s Chicago Public Schools students to be the executives I am helping to place in 20 years. That’s my goal.”
It’s clear that Ava Youngblood expects great things for many years to come.
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