Being the first person in your family to attend college is no easy feat. According to the Pew Research Center, students who have at least one college-educated parent are much more likely to complete college than their peers with less-educated parents. 70% of students who graduate with a degree have at least one parent who went to college. Only 26% of students who graduate with a degree have non-college-educated parents.
The data is clear: if you’re a first generation college student, the path to graduation is harder. This is partially because of factors like confusion over the college experience, feelings of shame and guilt over having opportunities your parents didn’t, grappling with feelings of imposter syndrome, and, of course, anxiety and stress around money.
Luckily, there are organizations out there who are on a mission to create educational equity one family at a time. In February, Hope Chicago announced they were providing fully funded, debt-free scholarships to 4,000 students at five high schools in the Chicago area. But that’s not all — they were also providing fully funded, debt-free scholarships to a parent or guardian of each student.
By combing through census data, including college enrollment and completion data and other factors, Hope Chicago picked the five majority black and Hispanic high schools to spearhead the initiative.
On February 22, Hope Chicago surprised the students at Benito Juarez Community Academy with the news. According to Benito Juarez principal Juan Carlos Ocon, he had to repeat the announcement when he broke the news because the students and parents were in such a state of disbelief.
“That’s when the auditorium of more than 500 students and parents exploded with energy, hopes and dreams,” Ocon told The Chicago Tribune. “You could see the tears in the eyes of our students and parents.”
The initiative is part of a radical, multi-generational scholarship model that might just transform how the world promotes equity in education. Now, parents and students can equally achieve success.
“Parents are already asking if we can have college application workshops for them,” Ocon told the Tribune. “Many of them are here (from) Mexico and felt that (college) was never a possibility for them at all.”
According to Hope Chicago, their mission is to “redefine the education landscape in Chicago and create pathways to economic success for multiple generations of Chicagoans through equitable access to higher education.”
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson leads Hope Chicago and believes that this initiative has the chance to change Chicago education forever.
“As a life-long educator, I understand the barriers that college students face as they enter the higher education system,” Dr. Jackson said in a statement. “Chicago has a bold vision and an ambitious goal. With the help of the community, civic and business leaders, we have the opportunity to redefine the education landscape in our city.”
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