Kidz Express Leader Marco Dodd Prepares for Future

Marco Dodd, 27, didn’t spend summer 2019 like a typical college student: no flashy internship, no lost days at the beach. But then again, Marco Dodd isn’t your typical college student. The 2018 Bright Promises Foundation “Marciniak Bright Stars Award” winner is a cut above, a success story from Chicago’s South Austin neighborhood with a heart for kids in his community.

Dodd, a student at Concordia University-Chicago, serves as assistant director at Kidz Express, an after-school cross-age mentoring program, and current We Raise Foundation grantee. Kidz Express provides a continuum of care, with paid mentors (“graduates” of Kidz Express) developing relationships with kids in the program, walking with them through personal and academic challenges, and building their self-esteem along the way.


As program coordinator for the Kidz Express summer program, Dodd was busy planning activities for the kids and taking them to places like the Lincoln Park Zoo and Maggie Daley Park. “We just try to the get the most out of the summer for our campers,” he says.

Dodd has been a part of Kidz Express since he was 10 years old; as a teen, he became a mentor to younger campers. Today he manages both the mentors and the program activities.


In December 2019, Dodd will graduate from Concordia with a degree in Middle Grades Education (double major math/social sciences) and transition immediately to teaching grades 6-8 at a neighboring Chicago public school. According to Dodd, his experience at Kidz Express prepared him every step of the way.

“Being a part of Kidz Express for so many years and working with children so closely has helped to prepare me to teach,” he says. “I’ll be more than ready.”

We Raise began its partnership with Kidz Express in 2017, providing a $50,000 grant to double the number of mentors. Dodd remains grateful for the generous grant – and to the people who believed in his potential, especially his mom Siniki Dodd, Kidz Express executive director Doug Low, and We Raise assistant program director Eric Hawley.

“Eric is one of those key people who advocated for me and this program, and I’m forever in his debt for that,” he says. “He’s always been on my side, a total standup guy since I met him.” A strong supporter, Hawley nominated Dodd for the Bright Star award.

Dodd is also grateful for the We Raise donors. “I’m so thankful that We Raise stepped in and took an interest—they actually came out several times and brought groups of people to speak with me, the mentors, and the kids,” he says. “That’s real dedication.”


As the summer winds down, Dodd is winding up for a bright future in teaching. He says he’ll be back to visit Kidz Express from time to time, perhaps even spend next summer as program coordinator. But he’s ready for the next step.

Your financial support helped a young man live up to his potential and secure a future where he can lead by example, inspiring other young men and women from Chicago’s West Side to mark out a future of their own.

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