The story of WGI begins in 2014 in Baton Rouge, the state capital of the US State of Louisiana.
At the time, a then 14 year old named Chance Wilson was halfway through the 8th grade. Chance, who was born and raised in Baton Rouge, had spent his entire life in the local public school system. He was in the final months of 8th grade before transitioning to high school.
During this exciting time, Chance was thinking ahead to his plans for high school and ultimately college. He planned to major in finance and pursue a career in investment banking. He felt that the free market played an important role in the success of America, and he wanted to contribute to that.
These plans were disrupted however when Chance noticed an alarming trend. In a number of his classes, such as theatre or English, there were students who struggled to read. Chance saw that a surprising number of his peers were unable to even read the text from a book or a play.
This reality shocked Chance, as he enjoyed reading and shared this passion with his closest friends. It shocked him even more that students could progress all the way to the 8th grade and be functionally illiterate. Illiteracy was not an issue that Chance was familiar with, but these surprising sights at his middle school made him all too aware of it.
Chance immediately began inquiring about the issue of illiteracy. He talked to teachers, did research online, and even wrote to education officials to understand why his peers were unable to read and write. Sadly, these inquiries only left him more frustrated at the state of affairs in his schools and ones like it.
Angered by the reality he was faced with, and determined to effect change for his peers, Chance turned his imagination to action. He made the decision to start his own organization with an aim of helping students learn to read and write. Chance felt that, with an organization, he could raise awareness on illiteracy and recruit volunteers to go out and do something about it.
Chance decided to name this organization the Wilson Global Initiative. This name was based on President Bill Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative. Chance was inspired by how President Clinton mobilized people and resources to confront serious issues. Chance wanted to accomplish the same thing through his organization for education. WGI was born.
The summer of 2014, after 8th grade and before high school, Chance began organizing WGI. He recruited various leaders in Baton Rouge to sit on its founding board and help drive local activities. Chance identified local schools to partner with in the city and planned various activities. Over the next year, WGI would launch its first programs in Baton Rouge and begin executing Chance’s vision.
In the summer of 2015, Chance made a realization. He recognized that illiteracy was a global issue and not just one limited to his city. He felt a strong desire to replicate WGI’s vision abroad, in order to increase impact and awareness. Using the same model to launch WGI in Baton Rouge, he began planning the launch of WGI in Hong Kong. He identified this city as a major international hub with communities in need of literacy education. This planned launch was successful, and suddenly WGI had gone international.
From this point onward, WGI underwent an incredible international expansion that brought the vision of a then 14 year old boy to communities around the world. Over the 5 years of its history, from 2014 to today, WGI has impacted the lives of thousands of people across three continents. WGI, now active in seven cities, relocated its headquarters to New York City in December 2018. WGI continues to be led by Chance, who still has the same passion as he did when it was founded.