EPIC Academy raises $110,000 at annual Dare to Imagine benefit

This month, Chicago's Epic Academy College Prep, a public, open-enrollment charter high school, hosted its 2022 Dare to Imagine fundraising benefit themed "Investing in Tomorrow's Legends" at the Palmer House Hilton.

Nearly 200 guests attended the event for an evening filled with fun and inspiration. With the support of generous sponsors, attendees, volunteers and in-kind and monetary donations, EPIC raised more than $110,000. Corporate sponsors included; KRD, Ltd., Apogem Capital, JGMA and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). Funds raised will help further EPIC's mission for students to pursue excellence and high expectations for postsecondary success, working towards college and career readiness through a variety of pathways.

The inspirational evening featured a fireside chat with two students as they interviewed the benefit's Visionary Leadership Award honoree, Mark Payne, executive director, Public Allies - Chicago. Payne has shown exemplary service and commitment to youth in Chicago. "EPIC Academy's desire to create community leaders should be a goal for all schools. I am proud to be honored with the EPIC Visionary Leadership Award," said Mark Payne, executive director, Public Allies.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) was presented with the EPIC Dare to Imagine Award for demonstrating excellence and investment in helping EPIC students achieve their goals.

Adam Semel, EPIC Academy Board Member and Partner at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) spoke about introducing students to design and engineering. "SOM was actually involved with EPIC from the very beginning. Our first intensive was 2012 and we've been a supporter ever since. We've introduced students to urban design, architecture and engineering and hosted young leaders in our studios to talk about careers in design and what it means to study these fields in college," said Semel. "Together with students, we've also explored some larger design questions, like what it will mean to live and learn in cities in the future. Questions like this-combined with the EPIC community's boundless curiosity and spirit for experimentation-have allowed us to take our partnership to the next level."

Other awards presented included, EPIC Alumni Krystal Velasquez, business development manager at a healthcare company (Class of 2013), and Jawon Mayberry, cloud engineer at an insurance company (Class of 2015) were presented with the EPIC Legend Award for demonstrating excellence in achieving EPIC's four student pillars. They have exhibited a strong sense of self-identity, possess a curious approach to the future, are accomplished academically and professionally and are advocates for positive social change.

LeeAndra Jamison, Executive Director of EPIC expressed gratitude for the support and spoke about the school's career development opportunities helping students build a brighter future. "We are so grateful for all of the supporters of the 2022 Dare to Imagine Dinner. Since its founding, Epic has experienced a great deal of success. 80% of our students enroll in college and have a 60% retention rate. We offer unique programs like Career Intensives which exposes our students to businesses and professionals from a variety of industries, Summer Internships with our corporate partners, a College and Career Skills course at every grade level, alumni counseling, and a 9th-grade bridge program," said Jamison. "I am proud to serve as the executive director at Epic because it is what I wanted as a student. A school in my neighborhood that offered a unique student experience, tons of electives, a beautiful space, talented and dedicated adults, and college and career planning and support."

The event featured networking, a silent auction and other opportunities to support EPIC Academy students. EPIC supporters can still donate to the Dare to Imagine fundraising benefit until June 30, 2022. To support EPIC Academy, visit To share news about the event, visit: Dare to Imagine Dinner video

About EPIC Academy

Epic Academy College Prep, a public, open-enrollment charter high school, has served low-income African-American and Latino students in South Chicago since 2009. The South Chicago community, one of Chicago's poorest neighborhoods, has a 20% unemployment rate and a childhood poverty rate that is 86% higher than all other U.S. neighborhoods. Epic Academy serves one of the most challenging student demographics in Chicago: 96% free/reduced lunch, 23% of students with diverse learning needs, and 15% English Language Learners. Despite the obstacles EPIC students face, it has a 100% college acceptance rate and 81% of our students enroll in college upon graduation.

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