OneGoal Board names Melissa Connelly as CEO and Jeff Nelson as Chair of the Board
CHICAGO, April 25, 2019 — OneGoal, a leading national college access and success organization, announced today that its board of directors appointed Melissa Connelly as chief executive officer while co-founder and current CEO Jeff Nelson was named chair of the board.
Connelly, who has served as OneGoal’s chief program officer for more than two years, will assume the new position on May 24, 2019, working alongside Kwame Griffith who will continue as president of OneGoal. Kim Walter and Aimee Eubanks Davis, both long-standing board members, will become vice chairs while Marty Phillips will step down as board chair after serving for over six years, and remain an active board member.
Connelly has built a distinguished career as a leader and educator. Her story emulates that of many OneGoal Fellows (students). A first-generation college graduate, Melissa’s postsecondary journey was anything but a straight path. She attended four undergraduate institutions before earning her bachelor’s degree and going on to earn multiple master’s degrees and becoming an award-winning instructional leader. As OneGoal’s first chief program officer, Melissa led her team in building a program strategy grounded in a deep belief in the brilliance of all students and their communities, making OneGoal the first organization in the college access and success sector to approach all our programmatic work through the lens of culturally relevant pedagogy.
“Melissa is both a visionary with a gift for seeing what is possible for students and also a pragmatic operator with a track record of achieving results wherever she goes,” said Nelson. “Leading OneGoal over the past 12 years has been the greatest honor of my professional life, so I am deeply grateful to be able to pass the baton to her. Melissa leads with a rare combination of heart and head, and operates with a conviction for our mission that is palpable and contagious.”
“Under Jeff’s leadership, OneGoal has been instrumental in changing mindsets about the solvability of one of our most deeply entrenched social injustices: the college degree divide,” said Connelly. “We are committed to our students’ success and deeply believe that every young person deserves an equitable opportunity to achieve their greatest postsecondary aspirations. Our students deserve nothing less. I am both humbled and incredibly optimistic about leading OneGoal alongside our team, students, educators, and partners.”
OneGoal is a unique three-year program, that begins as an in-school, credit-bearing class in students’ junior and senior years of high school. It continues with one-on-one remote support through student’s first year of postsecondary education. OneGoal builds all aspects of the curriculum, trains and coaches teams of educators, and partners with schools and institutions to create the conditions to deliver the course for all students. OneGoal is recognized as a trailblazer in the sector, with 81% of its high school graduates enrolling in a postsecondary institution, and 86% of those who enroll persisting one year later.
“Melissa is known for her commitment, performance, and leadership, but she’s also known as a mentor who’s just a text away,” said Aja Beckham, OneGoal Alumna and graduate of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “She engages Fellows regularly. An 8:00 a.m. coffee session with her is common. That’s connected leadership. As a OneGoal alumna, I am inspired to know Melissa and am excited to see her stepping into this role.”
“Simply put, OneGoal would not be what it is today without Jeff. Under his leadership the organization has grown from a bootstrapped startup with one employee to a nationally recognized leader in the fight for educational equity in the U.S.,” said Eubanks Banks and Phillips. “Further, we could not be more confident in OneGoal’s future under the direction of Melissa. She brings a unique combination of all the qualities we looked for in a leader: the ability to develop a bold and transformative vision for our future; an uncompromising focus on results; the confidence and humility required to lead through change; and an ability to continue to attract the very best staff, partners, investors, and board members to our mission.”
OneGoal is a national organization of teachers, students, school leaders and education advocates working to close the degree divide and ensure all young people have an equitable opportunity to achieve their greatest postsecondary aspirations. We collaborate closely with public schools in low-income communities, providing teachers with a robust curriculum, technology, training and coaching to implement our three-year model with a group of 25 students (called Fellows) per cohort. Teachers (called Program Directors) support the same group of Fellows beginning in 11th grade and bridge the gap through their first year after high school graduation. In communities where students typically have a 22 percent chance of graduating from college, 81% of OneGoal high school graduates enroll in a postsecondary institution and 86% of those who enroll persist one year later. OneGoal works in the Bay Area, Chicago, Houston, Massachusetts, Metro Atlanta, and New York.