David Steward

David Steward, chairman and founder of World Wide Technology, is leading St. Louis-based Concordance Academy’s First Chance capital campaign to raise $50 million to scale its model for reducing reincarceration rates nationally and to expand its programs to 11 other cities by 2025.

Chicago will be the next city after St. Louis, Danny Ludeman, CEO and president of Concordance Academy, told The American. He said they are now in the process of taking a “thorough, measured look” to determine the other 10 cities “with the greatest needs, where we will have the greatest impact.”

As chairman and founder of one of the largest minority-owned enterprises in the world, with nearly $12 billion in annual revenues, Steward would be on the short list to lead any high-dollar fundraising effort. How did Ludeman get him? In one word: God.

“There is a faith-based piece that sometimes goes unnoticed, but we are very vocal about it,” Steward told The American. He referred to Concordance, not as Ludeman’s project or non-profit, but as his “call.” Steward has been Ludeman’s confidant on Concordance since the idea phase, when Ludeman was still CEO of Wells Fargo Advisers, and Steward was one of its first investors.

“I remember sitting with Danny when he was getting ready to retire,” Steward said, “and he said, ‘God put it in my heart to do this.’”

That was six years ago. Concordance Academy then spent two years devising and studying its model with the Brown School at Washington University. They then spent four years implementing what Ludeman calls “the only program of its kind focused 100% on helping people not return to prison with a holistic, integrated, evidence-driven model providing 12 services under one roof.”

Nationally, Ludeman said, 77% of people released from prison recommit a crime and go back to prison. He said Concordance Academy has been able to reduce that rate by 38% to 39%.

The fundraising campaign that Steward leads is called First Chance, because most people who commit crime and are sentenced to prison were never provided an equitable chance to succeed in the first place.

“Hundreds of years of racial bias has led to racial inequity in wealth, employment, health, education, housing, which has led to extreme poverty, homelessness, crime and childhood trauma,” Ludeman said.

“This trauma that millions of people have experienced as a result of racial inequity is the core issue of why people go to prison, and they go back because they haven’t been healed. They need services for mental health and substance abuse. It’s all about healing individuals first, then providing good-paying jobs and very good, stable affordable housing.”

With the imprisonment rate of Black males at nearly six times that of white males, Ludeman said, incarceration disproportionately impacts the Black community, devastating communities and keeping families in generational poverty. More than 10 million children have experienced parental incarceration in their lives, and children with an incarcerated parent are at least six times more likely to go to prison themselves.

The opportunity to fund a program that breaks this damaging cycle is the pitch that Steward is taking to potential funders. Of course, if you are David Steward, major funders also come to you – in particular when there is a national movement for racial equity and saving Black lives.

“Many people across the country are calling me, asking, ‘What can I do?’” Steward said. “The biggest corporations in the world see this huge challenge and are beginning to nod their heads – especially with this movement in the country. People are looking for answers, and we think we have some answers.”

That is one way to describe the program: “answers.” A man of God might also speak a different language. “Concordance is responsible for miracles,” Steward said, “that we experience each day as people go on this healing journey who needed a first chance.”

Steward hears another, even more personal call as he starts to raise $50 million for Concordance. He lost his mother, Dr. Dorothy Elizabeth Massingale Steward, on June 20 at age 92. She was interested in the First Chance campaign.

“She knew about this,” her son said. “She was so proud whenever we talked that I was engaged in the community. This was one she was excited about. Every day, I think about her and I think that I have to be worthy of her sacrifices, and those of my father, who put me in a position to do this.”

For more information and to contribute, visit www.concordanceacademy.org.

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