A group of Chicago students and their parents were surprised this past week with full scholarships to college, courtesy of Hope Chicago. The program is a new scholarship initiative dedicated to investing $1 billion in scholarships to Chicago students and their parents over the next decade. In total, 4,000 students in 9th-12th grade and their parents at five Chicago public high schools were awarded the opportunity to attend college completely debt-free.
“I know from experience the promise of Chicago’s public school students, as well as what limits the ability of those in under-resourced neighborhoods to go to college and eventually build great careers, start businesses, add to the city’s economic vitality and contribute to the growth, stability and safety of their communities. The city and all of us who live and work here are missing out on so much potential when these students are unable to get the education they want because they do not have the financial resources and support networks they need to make their dreams come true. Now, with Hope Chicago, they do,” said Dr. Janice Jackson, leader of Hope Chicago and former CPS CEO.
The organization visited five schools last week on Chicago’s South and West Sides, surprising students at Benito Juarez Community Academy, Al Raby High School, Morgan Park High School, Noble-Johnson College Prep, and Farragut Career Academy. The initiative is a multi-generational approach to scholarships, aiming at helping entire families escape the clutches of poverty and build economic security, job pathways and higher incomes over time. Research shows that families who are highly educated tend to have three times the income than families who are not.
According to Hope Chicago, 90% of the city’s 9th graders have college aspirations, however, only 63% of that same demographic ends up actually enrolling in college and only 27% of them graduate. Students who make the decision to dropout have cited many of the same reasons, 48% attributing it to financial constraints ranging from housing to transportation. Studies also show that nine out of 10 first generation college students coming from low-income backgrounds will not earn their degree within 6 years of graduating high school.
For those students who do earn a degree, many students report an average of $30,000 in debt, 48% of Black students owe 12% more on average than they borrowed initially four years after graduation and Latino students report owing about 83% of their original loan 12 years after they graduate. Hope Chicago’s mission is to change those stats, requiring no GPA for students to qualify for the program, paying for all of college fully for students, providing pre-mentoring during high school and wraparound support during college and opening the initiative to students’ parents, allowing them to start or return to two- or four-year colleges or attend training or certification programs.
“With Hope Chicago, students can worry less about how they’ll pay for and stay in college or trade school and more time being the best students they can be. Hope Scholars will know that when challenges arise – and that’s life, challenges always arise – they can turn to Hope Chicago and our community partners for the help and support they need to succeed,” said Pete Kadens, co-founder and co-chairman of Hope Chicago.
Kadens’ family foundation has committed $11 million to the organization, alongside a number of other organizations that make up the Executive Leadership Advisory Board including Black-owned beauty company Mielle Organics. Still, the organization is asking for even more support, calling on companies and financial institutions to step up. Hope Scholars will be able to use their fully-funded scholarships at one of Hope Chicago’s 20 partner colleges, universities and educational programs in Illinois. Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez called the initiative transformational.
“Hope Chicago is taking a much-needed innovative approach to investing in the future of CPS students and their futures by transforming how and to whom scholarships are awarded, not only giving them opportunities for a better life, but creating an atmosphere in which all of us can benefit from their talent, skills and leadership. Change is long overdue,” said Martinez.
News Source: BOTWC Written Credits: BOTWC