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Ladder Up

  • Ladder Up
  • 233 S. Wacker Drive Suite 400
  • Chicago, IL 60606
  • 1994

Program Description

When 22-year-old Chicago business analyst and volunteer basketball coach Robert Burke saw how the hardworking families of his west side team were struggling to make ends meet, he took a shot at helping out. With the goal of securing unclaimed tax credits for the people of this underserved but deserving community, he recruited 90 colleagues to prepare tax returns at no cost. The efforts paid off, returning over $150,000 in tax refunds to 120 families.

Since these humble beginnings in 1994, the City-Wide Tax Assistance Program has continued to provide free tax return preparation services and has expanded its free programs to include college financial aid assistance and practical financial education. In 2008, the organization adopted the name Ladder Up to reflect its broader mission of helping people access the financial resources and opportunities needed to climb up and out of poverty.

In total, through TAP and LIFT, Ladder Up has returned over $476 million in economic benefits to more than 263,000 hardworking people across the Chicago area.

Services Provided

  • Financial aid advising/FAFSA completion
  • Other
  • Scholarships and last-dollar grants


Populations Served

  • Academically At-risk
  • Academically High-performing
  • ESL Students


  • More than 75%