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Maria T. Nagorski

Fair Chance
Purpose Prize Fellow 2010

A Polish immigrant who had a successful international career in social justice, Nagorski works to build the capacity of organizations that serve low-income youths and families.

When she was 5, Maria Nagorski and her family came from Poland to the United States with the “hopes and dreams of a country that welcomed us.” She believed in the American dream and lived it. She had a successful career in launching and growing a national youth-focused organization, followed by 10 years of international consulting in organization development, social justice and youth empowerment.

Yet she realized that children in her adopted hometown of Washington, D.C., didn’t often have the same opportunities she did. In parts of the city, the high school dropout rate is more than 50 percent, and 60 percent of children live in poverty. Teen violence plagues those areas. So Nagorski decided to launch her encore career and “work for D.C., not just live in D.C.”

As the executive director at Fair Chance, Nagorski leads an organization that strengthens community-based, youth-serving nonprofits that work in the city’s poorest neighborhoods by providing customized, free training and capacity-building services. The results show her efforts are working: 93 percent of partner organizations are thriving.

Plus, partners have doubled the number of youths served to 40,000 and raised more than $2 million in new funds. Her vision is that every child in the nation’s capital, regardless of their economic, social or ethnic background, will have a fair chance to succeed.