Photo of Jeff Nelson

Jeff Nelson

Cofounder and CEO of OneGoal

Jeff Nelson is cofounder and CEO of OneGoal, an innovative three-year college persistence program that identifies, trains, and supports our nation's most effective teachers to lead underperforming high school students to reach their full potential and graduate from college. Under his leadership, OneGoal has grown from serving seven students in one high school in 2007 to empowering nearly 1,300 students in 23 high schools in 2012. At the beginning of his tenure with OneGoal, Nelson developed the organization's first five-year strategic plan, restructured the program model, and expanded the funding base 15 times over. Under his direction, 94 percent of OneGoal students have enrolled in college, 85 percent of OneGoal alumni are persisting in college, and the cost per student has dropped by 70 percent. In addition, author Paul Tough includes a substantial profile of Nelson and OneGoal in his recent bestseller, How Children Succeed:  Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character.

Nelson began his career as a Teach For America corps member at O'Keeffe Elementary in Chicago. During his tenure at O'Keeffe, he led his sixth graders to an average of two years' growth in math. He also cofounded the school's student council, raised money to send the council on a five-day trip to Washington, DC, to meet then-senator Barack Obama, and coached the football team to a city championship.

After completing his two-year commitment, Nelson served as a Teach For America Corps Member Advisor at the Philadelphia Training Institute and was awarded the 2006 Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching for the Chicago Region. Nelson is also the recipient of Teach For America's Distinguished Alumni Award, the Community Renewal Society's 35 under 35 Award, and the Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship, as part of the inaugural 2011 Chicago Ideas Week. Nelson graduated from the University of Michigan with Phi Beta Kappa honors, earned his MA in teaching from Dominican University, and is currently pursuing his MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.