Aspire Named Winner of 17th Annual Chicago Innovation Awards


October 30, 2018


3 minutes




(October 29, 2018) –  Aspire’s Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Career Academy is honored to be recognized as one of the winners of the 17th annual Chicago Innovation Awards.

The winners were announced at an event held at Chicago’s Harris Theater on Monday, October 29, with nearly 1,500 business and civic leaders, and supporters of innovation in attendance.  The Chicago Innovation Awards, celebrating its 17th year, is the Chicago region’s foremost recognition of the most innovative new products or services brought to market each year.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Career Academy was named a winner due to its accomplishments in breaking barriers for people with disabilities in our Chicagoland community.

The Academy is a new, first-of-its-kind job training and placement facility where adults with disabilities can pursue their passions and receive hands-on training in simulated workspaces. These industry-specific training spaces include warehousing, retail, food service, hospitality (hotel and hospital), fitness center and office/IT. Academy graduates are placed into jobs that provide empowerment, satisfaction, and a higher quality of living. The Academy also partners with corporations to assist with their recruiting efforts.

“Aspire hopes that the Academy’s unique employment model will become the new normal for not only how other disability-focused nonprofits operate, but businesses as well,” said Herb Washington, Vice President of Aspire Careers. “Together, we can make a dent in the historically high disability unemployment rate as we place more people with disabilities in long-term, sustainable careers, bettering businesses and communities at large in the process.”

Aspire strategically sought out corporate partners where research proved people with disabilities excelled; positions with both high repetition and high turnover rates that companies were struggling to fill. In this way, the Academy builds long-term, mutually beneficial solutions for both the adults it serves and the corporations it partners with, pairing adults with disabilities in need of secure jobs with corporations in need of dependable employees.

“Chicago’s innovators continue to demonstrate the breadth of innovation found in the Chicago region, cutting across all industries, sectors and sizes,” said Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder with Chicago journalist Dan Miller of the awards.

“2018 winners are pioneers in healthcare, construction, communications, food and nutrition, education, information technology, transportation, fashion, law, real estate, childcare, workforce development, museums and exhibits, nanotechnology and social services.”“We’re extremely honored to have the work of our Careers team recognized in this way and are grateful for the support from the numerous generous Aspire friends and families who helped us arrive at this point,” added Jim Kales, Aspire CEO.

The winning organizations receive a variety of honors including the opportunity to ring the Nasdaq Bell in New York City, and meetings with the Mayor, Governor and Cook County President.

“519 organizations were nominated for this year’s awards,” said Luke Tanen, Executive Director of the Chicago Innovation Awards.  “As a group, these nominees generated over $3.4 billion in new revenues from their new products and services, along with the creation of over 432 patents.  The 25 winners represent the best from this very impressive group.”

The complete list of this year’s Chicago Innovation Award winners can be found at

The Chicago Innovation Awards are supported by Diamond Sponsor Theron Technology Solutions, Gold Sponsors Comcast Business, Wintrust Financial and SMS Assist; Silver Sponsors Exelon, Vedder Price, LinkedIn and others.

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