To know I’ve given a voice to people who consider themselves voiceless is huge for me.

April 17, 2019

Note: Jonathan McGee is no longer a member of the 2019 cohort but remains a valuable part of the Leading with Conviction community! Read his incredible story below. 

I am a social engineer, digital strategist, and external affairs professional.  My mission is to help cultivate the cadre of diverse leaders who are going to go out there and move the needle on the issues they care about.  I recently founded a political incubator, the Global Organization for Applied Political Leadership (GOAL).  GOAL’s trainings are based on the premise that there are individuals who care deeply about what is going on in their community, but they don’t know what to do about it.  They know the “what” and “why” of the things they care about but they don’t always know the “how.”  How do you build and mobilize coalitions?  How do you impact policy legally, legislatively and executively?   Everyone should have access to the resources and tools that are guaranteed to us.  When it comes to my work with GOAL, to know I’ve given a voice to people who consider themselves voiceless is huge for me.  I’m excited about being able to impact people who are often the victims of a system that isn’t just.

I am also a consultant for the Chicago Community Trust where I work with the Get IN Chicago project.   We advocate for resources for acutely at risk youth between the ages of 13-18 who have been arrested 4 or 5 times and haven’t had access to programs and services.  A lot of these young men and women have one or two parents who are incarcerated.  We don’t yet have the tailored, wrap-around services and coordinated care they need to deal with trauma, refrain from violence, and reach their full potential.  My focus is on creating a citywide case management system, using cutting edge digital technology, so that the various agencies who deal with young people at risk are working in a coordinated and collaborative fashion instead of starting from scratch every time someone seeks help.

Youth violence should be seen as a public health issue, not as a war on drugs or crime–a retaliatory approach that’s counterproductive and harmful. My challenge is to get the Chicago Department of Public Health and other agencies that work in this space to come together and think about what a centralized system would look like.  Although case management isn’t considered a “sexy” topic, I’m excited about this work because if we can crack the code on digital technology and innovation, we’ll be able to modernize and streamline the way we communicate and our young people will get the help they deserve.

I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and saw injustice first hand. When I was 17 I went to Western Illinois University in small, rural town.  I was racially profiled by the local police, caught with a small amount of marijuana, and charged with two class A misdemeanors for delivery and possession.   I was just a college kid, but the town saw me as a man of color who had broken the law.  After I graduated I was offered a political appointment with the Obama Administration, but I the offer was rescinded after a criminal background check.  The experience led me to become politically involved and to advocate for equity in our justice system.

Leading with Conviction is transformational. It’s inspiring to hear the stories of people who don’t let their status, past history, or background define who they are.  Instead of ex-felons, ex- offenders, and ex-convicts, I see millionaires, CEOS, executive directors, entrepreneurs, and leaders who are committed to helping this country become what it should be.

Jonathan McGee has a Bachelor of Arts from Western Illinois University, a Master of Professional Studies from George Washington University, and served as a Legislative Assistant for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex) in 2015-2016. 

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