One Million Degrees

One Million Degrees Food + Wine event at Morgan Manufacturing in Chicago, IL, Friday, June 3, 2016.

Jarrett Adams keynotes the One Million Degrees Annual Food + Wine Event of 2016 at Morgan Manufacturing in Chicago, IL.

“I stand before you as proof that with every dollar donated and every second of support for OMD scholars, future leaders can be created and people who otherwise have the potential to be great, but lack the resources to do so, can go on to fulfill that potential.”

– Jarrett Adams, OMD Alumnus, Attorney at Law, National Innocence Project

Guests at One Million Degrees Gala 2013 VIP Reception

Scholars and their coaches celebrate at the One Million Degrees Scholar Awards & Appreciation Night at Chase Auditorium.

One Million Degrees awards night at Chase Auditorium in Chicago, Tuesday, June 21, 2016.


OMD cofounders David Scherer, Rose Lizarraga, Michael Golden, and CEO Paige Ponder at the 8th Annual One Million Degrees Food + Wine Event.

In the fall of 2006, Michael Golden cofounded the One Million Degrees non-profit scholarship program, based in Chicago, Illinois. Motivated by the fact that more than 60 percent of the state’s post-secondary students attend community college – and fail out at a staggering rate – OMD fine-tuned an educational support model that would empower hard-working, low-income students to achieve success.  

OMD would extend dollars to its scholars, but the founders knew that financial support was only the beginning. They realized that so many low-income community college students confront unique obstacles in their efforts to earn degrees. For this reason, OMD’s model also provides a suite of services that includes course-advising, academic tutoring and one-on-one coaching.”

Ten years later, OMD has secured more than $15 million and exponentially increased the program’s annual class from 25 students to over 1,000. Even more importantly, 70 percent of OMD scholars earn their Associate’s Degree within three years, and 86 percent of alumni are either employed, continuing their education, or both.

Michael continues to serve on the OMD board of directors and collaborates with public and private leaders to raise resources for the program. In 2012 he cofounded Complete The Degree, an affiliated program that recruits adults to return back to college. Michael describes these projects in higher education empowerment as the heart and soul of his career:

“Working alongside dear friends and valued colleagues over the last decade to build One Million Degrees has easily been the most profound experience of my career. Seeing the dedication and hard work that is devoted daily by our board members, amazing staff, and the hundreds of scholars we serve is nothing short of humbling. I truly love this extended family, and I’m so grateful for having the opportunity to help our scholars to enhance their lives through the achievement of their goals.”