Success Bound’s Goal-Setting Approach Gives Local Students Ownership of Their Education

Success Bound—an initiative led by the Lefkofsky Family Foundation (LFF) in partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS), University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute, and Academy for Urban School Leadership—is a free program that prepares 6th-8th grade students for a successful transition to high school and ultimately college, which helps them take ownership and build more successful lives. By enabling school counselors with the tools they need to make improvements in focus areas like grade performance, attendance, and high school advancement, Success Bound has reached more than 15,000 Chicago-area students to date. We sat down with Liz Lefkofsky to learn more about Success Bound and what the future holds for this initiative. Read on to for her insight, then watch the video below to hear about the program from the perspective of its participants:


How did Success Bound come to be? What was the need there?

After several years of supporting education initiatives around the city it became clear that Chicago Public School students have a unique opportunity to select from a wide range of different high school programs. With more than 250 programs to choose from, including neighborhood schools, selective enrollment, arts programs, culinary arts, and international baccalaureate to name a few, the process is complex and difficult to navigate even for the most well-resourced students. Research from the UChicago Consortium on School tells us that both high- and low-achieving students struggle when they enter high school and grades typically decline because of a decrease in student attendance and study skills. In exploring solutions to meet these challenges, we met with thought leaders at the University of Chicago and CPS; we spoke with principals, students and families. Success Bound was born from these conversations.


In what ways does Success Bound empower students to take their future into their own hands?

Success Bound empowers students by helping them realize they hold promise and power. Through conversations with students, parents and counselors, it was clear that students didn’t realize what an active role they could play in designing their future. As a result, Success Bound encourages students to use their voice to self-advocate for their individual needs and to set short and long-term goals for themselves. The curriculum focuses on five key themes: building a post-secondary vision, student success skills, a strong student profile, social capital and knowledge around the high school application process. These themes build upon each other starting in 6th grade so by the time they apply to high school they are empowered to choose the school they believe will best prepare them for the future they envision for themselves. Further, the skills of self-advocacy and making choices based on their goals and understanding their student profile prepare them to thrive during the often-challenging transition to high school.


How can schools adopt the program? Are there any requirements for students to get involved?

It was important to us to remove all barriers of access for students and schools interested in getting involved. As a result, the curriculum is FREE of charge to all staff with a CPS email address, and it is intended for use with all 6-8th grade students across the district. Schools interested in partnering will also receive support from our Success Bound Coach. Anyone interested in getting involved can visit our web page at or email to learn more.


Do you believe this model is working?

Yes, the impact on high school choice has also been really encouraging. In a few short years we have seen a 20% increase in students enrolling in level 1+ and 1 high schools, leading stakeholders to believe students are thinking more deeply about the right option for them. Counselors engaged in Success Bound have noticed their students asking more direct questions about the rich diversity of high school options and advocating for their individual needs. In just this 2018-19 school year alone over 10,000 students will be engaged with Success Bound at their schools. We believe that by focusing on grades and attendance, as well as preparing and supporting students through the transition to high school, more CPS students will be on track to graduate from high school prepared for a successful future.


What does the future hold for Success Bound?

Over the next few years more than 25,000 students will benefit from Success Bound! As we continue to share resources throughout CPS we are working with other non-profit partners to ensure that all Chicago students benefit from these resources, which also include This website helps students sort through high schools based on their individual interests. With approximately 100-300 visitors per day, totaling over 36,000 visits, will continue to support all students in making their high school choice.

Success Bound and High School Bound are great examples of a successful public, private, and university partnership. Together the Lefkofsky Family Foundation, the University of Chicago, and CPS have teamed up to create an impactful program for CPS students. We look forward to seeing the long term effects of empowering students to make choices that help them recognize their long term vision and achieve their goals.


Hear from Success Bound participants:

Vanessa M. Buenger is the director of marketing & content at Chicago Ideas. She is passionate about storytelling and the power it has to change the world.

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