Thousands of CPS students — and some parents — get full college scholarships: ‘This is life-changing’ – Natural Self Esteem

Parents and students packed the auditorium at Benito Juarez Community Academy High School Tuesday for a gathering on activities for seniors, such as B. Completion Requirements.

But they quickly realized something else was afoot. Television cameras lined the back wall before students were told to take out their phones because history was about to be made.

Juarez school principal Juan Carlos Ocon noted how much the pandemic disrupted the lives of the seniors, but then told the crowd, “Today we bring you some good news.”

After Ocon announced elaborate plans for prom and graduation parties, philanthropist Pete Kadens took the podium for the big reveal: Each student would receive a full scholarship to college.

Former CPS CEO Janice Jackson, who resigned from that post to run Hope Chicago, at a Tuesday morning gathering at the Benito Juarez Community Academy High School.

Student Kimberly Lopez immediately started crying. She is top of her class and wants to be a mechanical engineer, but has five siblings at home.

Her mother, a blue collar worker, told her she would work extra hard to get her through college, Lopez said.

“But now the burden has been lifted,” Lopez said. “Well, I think I can.”

The non-profit organization Hope Chicago provides all 1,671 Juarez students with a full scholarship to any of 20 Illinois colleges or training programs of their choice.

And in an unusual twist, a parent also gets the chance to go to college or vocational training for free.

“It’s a way for you to lift up the whole family and the whole community,” said former CPS CEO Janice Jackson, who resigned from that post last year to run Hope Chicago. The idea is to fight intergenerational poverty by giving both students and parents an opportunity to find better jobs.

Benjamin Arroyo said he’s excited his mother also has the chance to go to college. She came to the US from Mexico to give him a better life. “Now she’s getting a chance to experience that,” he said.

Hope Chicago was founded with $20 million by Kadens and fellow philanthropist Ted Koenig. Jackson works to raise $1 billion over 10 years to eventually provide scholarships to 24,000 students and 6,000 parents.

The Juarez High School in Pilsen was the first of five high schools where all students and their parents will get the news this week. Students at Al Raby High School in Garfield Park also received word Tuesday that they were eligible for the program.

“It changes life. This will change the lives of my families and my students, it will mean the world to them,” said Ocon.

Jackson said the grant program is trying to solve one of the problems she couldn’t solve as CEO of CPS. Under her leadership, more students have graduated from high school, more students have entered college, but still fewer than half of those students graduate from college.

Jackson said students kept saying they returned home because they couldn’t afford to stay.

And while almost all students in these high schools are considered low-income and therefore likely eligible for financial aid, Jackson said this scholarship will “bridge the gap” between financial aid and the full cost of attending college, including room and board, Fees and other unforeseen costs.

“That’s what makes this … such a generous program because we know that sometimes those fees or emergencies are the reason a lot of our kids come home from school,” she said.


Students at Benito Juarez Community Academy High School respond to news that Hope Chicago will be awarding full scholarships for college or vocational programs on February 22, 2022.

At Juarez, approximately 81% of students graduate from high school, and 55% of those who graduate enroll in college immediately. But only 44% of those who go to college earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, according to the University of Chicago’s To&Through Project.

In addition, Ocon said some of its students are undocumented and therefore do not qualify for financial aid. I hope Chicago will fund her college as well.

“When our undocumented students realize the enormity of this news … they’re going to be so excited,” Ocon said.

Jackson said the schools chosen are places where the percentage of students who enroll in college and graduate is low. These high schools receive success coaches to support students, and the partner colleges have agreed to provide on-campus resources for Hope Scholarship students.

Hope Chicago isn’t yet announcing the 20 partner colleges and programs, but they include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Illinois State University. Students who choose not to attend one of the partner colleges and programs will receive an annual stipend of $1,000 for incidental expenses.

Jackson said she is working to start more partner schools, initially focusing on historically black colleges and universities.

Sarah Karp covers the training for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.

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