These Students Just Got Life-Changing News — And Their Reactions Are Priceless!

a group of high schoolers celebrating both on and off stage in their auditorium after finding out they can go to college for free through the organization hope chicago

There are lots of scholarship programs available in the United States, but Hope Chicago is raising the bar.

Through the help of funding partners, they’ve been able to raise $40 million that will go toward paying the tuition, room, board, books, and fees of thousands of students in Chicago. How are these students chosen? All they have to do is go to one of the five Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that are partnered with the organization.

That’s right — every single student who attends one of these five schools are able to go to one of 20 partnering colleges or trade schools at absolutely no cost, including the University Of Illinois.

Census data as well as college enrollment and completion statistics helped the organization find and choose the neighborhoods and schools with the greatest need for financial aid — 90% are students of color and 80% are low-income.

“What happens in a lot of these underprivileged communities is that people are trying to get out,” Janice Jackson, CEO of the organization said. “We know Chicagoans love Chicago and we want them to get their education but come back to the communities that poured so much into them and help make the city better community by community.”

To help motivate students to follow through with their education, each child that is enrolled in a full-time program may have one parent continue their education for free as well.

One of Hope Chicago’s founders, Pete Kadens, had the opportunity to be involved in giving this life-changing news to these students, and each time their reactions have been priceless.

The first announcement, which was at Little Village at Benito Juarez High School, the students were so stunned by the news that they went almost totally silent and the principal, Juan Carlos Ocon, had to repeat what he said.

Upon hearing the news for the second time, a celebration began.

“That’s when the auditorium of more than 500 students and parents exploded with energy, hopes and dreams,” Juan said. “You could see the tears in the eyes of our students and parents.”

Each person involved in Hope Chicago is driven by their desire to “reduce economic and social inequity,” something Pete recognizes he was privileged to not struggle with thanks to his upbringing and status. If he’d had different parents or a different skin color, he says, things could have been different.

“This country was built on the notion that no matter where you come from you can become successful and wealthy, Pete said. “That just factually is not true.”

That’s why Hope Chicago hopes to become one of many life-changing organizations to make getting an education easier. In the next decade, they aim to invest $1 billion into sending tens of thousands of students and family members to post-secondary schools.

“A scholarship program of this magnitude has never been done before, but we are betting big on Chicago’s families most in need,” Pete said. “With that in mind, it’s our goal that HOPE Chicago will positively disrupt the post-secondary education system and serve as a potential model for the nation.”

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