A total of 4,000 students (and their parents) in five Chicago high schools will be getting some life-changing news this week. As part of Hope Chicago’s philanthropic mission of providing a debt-free college education, every student in these high schools will be receiving a full-ride college scholarship. This exciting news is met with great relief as the majority of these families have great financial need.
Benito Juarez is the first Chicago high school to be announced this week, as students and parents packed into the assembly hall for the surprise announcement. After welcoming students and parents, Hope Chicago’s Founder and Co-chair Pete Kadens began by saying, “no one walks out of this room the same today,” as he preceded to explain that every student at that school, from freshmen to seniors, will receive a full-ride college scholarship. The scholarship will cover 100% of tuition and fees, room and board, and books. Students can choose between 20 higher education institutions- universities, colleges, and trade schools- that will participate in this program. The remaining four Chicago high schools will be announced this week.
Hope Chicago’s program also provides the unique opportunity for one of the students’ parents to pursue their degree on a full scholarship as well. This news is especially exciting for undocumented students, who are ineligible for federal financial aid, as it removes a multitude of barriers for their parents to build a career in the U.S.
One student, Diego Garcia, expressed what the news of a debt-free college education means to his mother, Maria. “She was a nurse in Mexico and she’s always wanted to continue education so it brought me to tears to know that she is going to be able to pursue that,” Garcia said. “I’m very excited.”
The Hope Chicago scholarship is designed in part to close the financial gap of higher education for students from communities in need. On average, 61% of students in Illinois leave college with over $29,000 in debt.
To ensure continued success, each of the participating institutions will provide Hope Scholars with multiple levels of support as they pursue their degree. This includes services such as mentoring, tutoring, academic and financial advising, career counseling, and regular check-ins with designated Hope Chicago support staff on campus.
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