Our Mission

Pursue Scholars holistically invests in emerging urban leaders in pursuit of higher education. Holistic support is financial, social, and spiritual.

Due to gravity, when an object is released into the air it must return from where it was originally launched. Sadly, urban communities have no gravitational pull on its brightest and most talented scholars. Consequently, many of them mature and very seldom return to serve the communities that desperately need their leadership and vision.

Today’s brightest and most talented urban leaders are daily faced with a decision that affects not only themselves, but also the strength of the communities they reside in. After they have been successful on the college campus, will they return, in some capacity, to the community that helped foster their development?

Because of the magnitude of this question, Pursue Scholars has a heart for developing young urban leaders partly for the success of the individual scholar, but largely so that investment will result in communal returns of leadership and encouragement. When urban scholars become equipped in their areas of purpose and they serve in their communities, they permit everyone around them to chase their dreams and be successful as well.

The problem that currently exists in urban higher education is that those who have a heart to build their communities aren’t properly resourced to receive the education and training they need to be sent back into their communities to create the impact they desire. This is where Pursue seeks to be a change-agent.

Pursue Scholars not only identifies young leaders who have a heart for the community, resources them and provides extensive leadership training. Pursue positions them to lead on campus, so that when they return home, they have real-world experience and proven leadership to build the communities they love so dearly.

It’s been rendered nearly impossible for a rose to grow from concrete due to the lack of nutrients the concrete has to offer. Something as beautiful and delicate as a rose would need adequate resources and the optimal environment to help the rose grow to its full potential. The problem in urban higher education is very similar to roses daring to grow from the concrete. Many of our urban students are not supported with the adequate resources and optimal environments they need to grow into their full potential. Urban roses are blooming nonetheless, but could use so much more support.

So, let us introduce you to Academic Undermatch.

Academic Undermatch is when urban, low-income students enroll in a college that does not match their academic ability. This means that academically gifted urban students often matriculate to higher learning institutions that are not prepared to intellectually challenge the students, nor offer resources and environments that lead to gainful employment upon graduation, which hinder the students from being productive members of society and leaders in their communities.

Public schools in Illinois are funded by property tax dollars*. Consequently, the neighborhood a student resides in determines the quality of their resources and ultimately their educational experience. Despite the arduous hurdles of outdated textbooks, substandard technology, few to no field trips, uninspiring classrooms, and minimal intellectually stimulating extracurricular activities, many of these students defy mountainous odds and climb to the highest peaks of academic achievement.

But what happens when these bright-eyed students graduate high school and are met with the harsh realities of rising tuition costs? Many of them opt to not attend college and some of them choose a lesser quality institution. In a recent survey, 76% of some college preparatory seniors admitted to not attending college because they could not afford it.

Sobering as it may be, this gut-wrenching truth doesn’t have to persist. Through generous scholarships and leadership development provided by organizations like Pursue Scholars, many of these well-deserving scholars are granted the financial assistance they need to offset academic costs and help realize their full potential, blossoming into the roses they were destined to be.

How We Accomplish Our Mission

Pursue Scholars provides spiritual, social, and financial support to emerging urban Christian leaders in their pursuit of higher education:


We are strategic about investing in the spiritual formation of our scholars. The college years are a critical time for setting the foundation for a lifetime.


We offer a community of support to help students know they are not alone. Our networking opportunities serve to create a connection with Pursue Scholars staff & volunteers, to foster a sense of community between scholars, and to help with employment after college.


We provide a wide range of leadership scholarships through our Daniels Scholars and Act Six Scholars programs.

Our History & Facts


In July of 2007, Kevin Gwin began PURSUE with a vision to invest in the next generation of urban leaders.  This was done by supporting Christian young people who are pursuing a college education. PURSUE originally started as a ministry of Vision Nehemiah.  That first year began with investing in 3 college freshman. Each year, a new class of students were added.


In the fall of 2010, PURSUE became Pursue Scholars and incorporated with the state of Illinois as a recognized 501©3 charity.


In 2011, we celebrated our first graduating class as our original 3 freshman all graduated from college. By this time, we now had 15 students on scholarship.


In 2015, Pursue Scholars partnered with Act Six to begin Chicago’s newest full-tuition, full-need urban leadership award. In 2019, our fourth Cadre of Chicago’s most promising urban leaders were selected for scholarships to Taylor University.


We have now seen 44 students graduate from college.  We have 52 students currently in college for the 2019-2020  school year.  6 of our Pursue Scholars alumni currently sit on our Young Professionals Board. And our current Daniel Scholars Coordinator is a Pursue Scholars alumni. Pursue Scholars is successful when students are graduating from college, serving society with their gifts, and becoming a valuable resource to their family, church, and community. It is our hope that the students who have been blessed by Pursue Scholars will someday be a blessing to the next generation of scholars. We dream of seeing the receivers of support now become the greatest givers of support in the future.

Persistence Rate






Scholars & Alums


Student Gender

  • Female
  • Male

Student Race

  • African American
  • Hispanic
  • Caucasian
  • Asian
  • Bi-racial

Our Staff

Our Board

Great work can only happen with great support. Here are our Board of Directors:

    • Aaron Balsam: William Blair & Co.
    • Audrey Brewer: Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago
    • Robert Burns III: (President) Edward Jones, Financial Advisor
    • Robin Butler: (Secretary) Merrill Lynch, Wealth Management Adviser
    • Kevin Gwin: Pursue Scholars, Executive Director 
    • Neville Reid: Fox, Swibel, Levin, & Carroll LLP; Attorney
    • Jeff Scott: (Treasurer) Madison Capital Funding, Director
    • Candace Washington: Pivotal Impact, Founder and Chief Impact Officer
    • Bianca Mena: Alumni Representative – 2018 Graduate of Dominican University

Young Professionals Board

A group of professionals, age 35 and under, who gather to get involved in the work of Pursue Scholars, support the mission of Pursue Scholars, and to help expand the influence of Pursue Scholars.


    • Opportunity to invest in the community

    • Network with other young professionals

    • Develop your professional and leadership skills

    • Personal knowledge of and interaction with Pursue Scholars

    • Exposure to PS staff and board of directors

    • Guest speakers at meetings

    • Avenue for engaging friends in the cause

    • Have fun


Expectations & Responsibilities

    • “Give or get” at least $250 per year through fundraising

    • Attend at least 50% of scheduled meetings for the year

    • Help grow awareness of Pursue Scholars in your networks

    • Participate in 5K run/walk as a fundraising opportunity

    • Participate in other fundraising events through your skills, network, and support

    • Help develop new fundraising opportunities for Pursue Scholars