Sarah Elizabeth Ippel

Founder & Executive Director

Sarah Elizabeth’s life mission is to cultivate thriving communities. When she was 23 years old, she rode her bicycle to the Chicago Board of Education with a request: to reimagine what is possible in public education. Three years later, in 2008, the Academy for Global Citizenship opened in a former dental tool factory on the city’s under-resourced southwest side where Sarah Elizabeth serves as its Founder and Executive Director. A Chicago Public Elementary School on a global mission that serves 96% minority children and families, AGC is developing the next generation of critical thinkers and mindful leaders to positively impact their communities and the world beyond.

Since its founding, the Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) has become recognized across the globe for its innovative approach to learning combined with comprehensive results, and has developed the first regenerative community hub to serve as a replicable model for the world. As an international learning laboratory and incubator of best practices, AGC has ignited an educational movement by scaling its model through training over 10,000 educators and reaching over five million students to date. Sarah Elizabeth completed a yearlong Entrepreneur in Residence Fellowship with Laurene Powell Jobs’ Emerson Collective where she contributing to authoring AGC’s book titled “Reimagine Education: Designing a School to Change the world” and is continuing this work to build an Institute to disseminate AGC’s evidenced-based strategies.

Sarah Elizabeth also spearheaded the successful construction of AGC’s “school of the future” and community learning hub in Chicago called Cultivate Collective to serve as a prototype for the United States and that demonstrates cutting-edge education and sustainability practices. This $85 million, six-acre project serves as a center for positive social and environmental action, while enabling community wealth generation and lifelong learning pathways. In addition to spurring economic development in a disinvested community, Cultivate Collective provides critically needed access to tuition-free early childhood learning, high quality public education, health care and mental health services, community wellness facilities, neighborhood gardens and green spaces, and a fresh foods market featuring produce from the onsite three-acre urban farm. The net-positive energy project is slated to join only 24 others across the globe that have achieved an unparalleled level of sustainable design and performance through the Living Building Challenge certification and serves as international model for climate resiliency.

Since earning a Masters of Philosophy from the University of Cambridge in England at 21, Sarah Elizabeth has traveled to over 100 countries across six continents, extensively immersing herself in educational philosophies and world languages, as well as creating international alliances that have informed the design and culture of the Academy for Global Citizenship. In addition to studying the application of successful educational frameworks in various cultural contexts across the globe, earlier initiatives included the development and implementation of globally cooperative literacy programs for orphan children in northern Tanzania. Sarah Elizabeth has further completed studies in Nonprofit Management at Harvard Business School.

During her five-year term as Vice President of Education on the governing board of the United Nations Association, Sarah Elizabeth fostered broader implementation of The Growing Connection, an organic gardening initiative established to cross-culturally connect children and educators across continents through technology. She has also served on the Chicago Chapter of the United States Green Building Council Green Schools Advocacy Committee, Chicago Public Schools’ Environmental Action Plan Taskforce, and is a founding member of Conservation International’s Generation Conservation and Adrian Grenier’s Lonely Whale ocean conservation foundation. Sarah Elizabeth's additional leadership and civic contributions have also included executive board memberships with Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the Art Institute of Chicago. She currently serves on Partners in Health’s Summits Education board that is scaling educational models in rural Haiti and is an active member of the NEXUS Impact Society.

Sarah Elizabeth was selected as a United States Delegate to Terra Madre in 2010, where she met with representatives from over 60 nations to discuss the sustainability of our local and global food systems. In 2011, she was named one of Monocle’s Top 20 International Pioneers in Education and visited the White House to receive a national award from the Obama administration. In 2012 and 2013, Sarah Elizabeth was appointed as one of 100 Delegates from 20 countries across the globe who assembled for the G8 Young Global Leaders Summit, preparing recommendations for a communiqué for President Obama and the U.S. Department of State. In 2013, Sarah Elizabeth was recognized by Forbes as one of the nation’s “top five game changers in education”, was the recipient of the GOOD 100 list of “people pushing the world forward through doing”, was named a Bluhm Helfand Social Innovation Fellow and was selected by the Council on Global Affairs as an Emerging Leader Fellow. In 2014, Sarah Elizabeth was recognized as one of the top 100 US entrepreneurs and was honored at the United Nations. In 2017, the British Council honored Sarah Elizabeth as a finalist for the University of Cambridge Alumni Award for her “exceptional contribution and commitment to creating positive social change and improving the lives of others.” Most recently, Crain’s Chicago Business recognized her as a Notable Leader in Sustainability and the Illinois Green Alliance honored Sarah Elizabeth with the 2023 Emerald Award for Individual Achievement as a “path to net-zero trailblazer”. When she is not traveling around the world, speaking about the Academy for Global Citizenship’s vision for systemic change, Sarah Elizabeth enjoys honing her skills as an urban farmer and beekeeper.

Email: sarahelizabeth@agcchicago.org