Darnell Leatherwood is a doctoral candidate, Institute of Education Sciences (IES) fellow, and Illinois Board of Higher Education (DFI) fellow at the University of Chicago in the School of Social Service Administration. He holds a M.A. in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a B.S. from the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he double majored in Management (concentration in Entrepreneurship) and Business Process Management. He has founded, co-founded, or served as a founding member of multiple organizations dedicated to promoting social justice, healthy communities, equitable outcomes, and the obliteration of oppressive systems and false stereotypes.
Darnell’s research interests include urban education, social inequality/policy, and adolescent development & identity formation. He is particularly interested in examining factors associated with academic achievement among vulnerable student populations in and/or from underserved communities. He is an independent researcher, graduate research assistant, has been a graduate teaching assistant, and coordinated/chaired the University of Chicago Committee on Education’s Workshop on Education for 2 academic years. He is currently a board member for the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences (MAPSS) Alumni Association at the University of Chicago and has authored peer reviewed publications in such academic journals as Social Service Review and the International Journal of Higher Education.
Darnell was recently appointed to The Journal of Negro Education Editorial/Advisory Board as a member of the Young Scholars Editorial Board and is a charter member of both the Black Education Research Group (BERG) and the Black Male Educators Alliance of Illinois (BMEAIllinois). BERG is a cross university research initiative dedicated to eliminating the achievement gap and promoting national advocacy efforts on behalf of Black education, and BMEAIllinois is purposed with recruiting, retaining, and developing Black male educators for careers in primary and secondary schools in Illinois and abroad. Before starting his doctoral program, Darnell taught algebra 1 at the Urban Prep Academies and was the civic engagement coordinator & an assistant teacher at the Montessori School of Englewood in Chicago.
In addition to his academic pursuits, in 2016 he co-founded Leatherwood & Lyles, L.L.C. which is a social entrepreneurial business dedicated to developing underserved communities through home-ownership and gainful employment. He is a founding board member of Quest Christian Academy, a boarding school that will service and educate students exposed to the juvenile justice system and/or who are growing up in adverse circumstances. He co-founded Posterity, Inc. which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing youth violence and providing mentoring/community service in the city of Chicago and across Illinois. In 2017, he started the Black Boys Shine campaign which is purposed to strengthen/control the Black male narrative and image nationally and internationally. Darnell or his work has been featured in Rolling Out, BlackDoctors.org, The News Gazette, The Daily Illini, West of the Ryan Current Magazine, and the podcast Separate and Unequal.
Chad Lyles is currently pursuing a M.S. in Instructional Technology at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville while simultaneously gaining advanced certifications in the field of information technology. He completed a B.A. in Applied Mathematics and a B.A. in African-American Studies at Saint Louis University while minoring in Theology. As an operative in one of his fields of interest, he is a technology analyst lead at School Sisters Notre Dame and information technology technician at the Saint Louis Zoo. He also works as a staffed mathematics tutor at Harris Stowe State University. That said, Chad is motivated by his passion to establish STEAM hubs in all low-income communities in conjunction with promoting job-empowerment among similar masses. He also holds the ambition to gain public office, ideally in an educational capacity.
He is a native of East St. Louis, IL and his beliefs are rooted in community togetherness and driven by the charge of removing restrictive boundaries across ethnic and socio-economic classes. His interests include developing comprehensive STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) matriculation education and job-readiness programs for low-income youth and cross-training adults by way of making available sustainable knowledge/training hubs in various community hot-spots – high volume areas. Such programs provide opportunities to become industrially knowledgeable in various foundations of programming languages for various age scopes and to become professionally certified in various information technology practices through facilitation and workshops. In 2016 Chad co-founded Leatherwood & Lyles, L.L.C., a social entrepreneurial business dedicated to developing underserved communities through home-ownership and gainful employment as well as acts as a board member to Posterity, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing youth violence and providing mentoring/community service in the city of Chicago and across Illinois.