Hope Chicago Expands College And Workforce Opportunities

Hope Chicago, a two-generation college and career access program, has expanded its institutional partners to include six new colleges and universities. PHOTO PROVIDED BY HOPE CHICAGO.
Hope Chicago, a two-generation college and career access program, has expanded its institutional partners to include six new colleges and universities. PHOTO PROVIDED BY HOPE CHICAGO.

 Hope Chicago Expands College And Workforce Opportunities

By Tia Carol Jones

Hope Chicago launched two years ago, with the mission to offer debt-free college and workforce opportunities to 4,000 Chicago Public School students and their parents. At the time, it had 23 institutional partners working to provide access to the five South and West side of Chicago high schools that are part of the initiative.

 Now, it has expanded partnerships to include six new University partners to its network, as well as one new partnership for its Parent Scholars.

Hope Chicago is a two- generation model that provides college access to Student scholars, as well as workforce and college access to the Parent Scholars, free of charge.

The new partner institutions are Elmhurst University, Lake Forest College, Lewis University, Roosevelt University, Trinity Christian College and Dominican University. The new Parent Scholars partnership program is Rivet School, which is a one-on-one support program that enables participants to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Michele Howard, Chief Program Officer at Hope Chicago, said the expansion underscores that Hope Chicago wants Illinois talent to stay in Illinois. It provides more opportunities and different types of institutions for the scholars to choose from.

“It’s really putting us in a position where we’re giving students and families more options right here, some in their backyard, some a little farther, but in this great state of Illinois,” Howard said.

Howard said Hope Chicago wants to ensure that families and students know they can get a high-quality education in Illinois.  Hope Chicago is trying to expand students’ ability to choose. It is the organization’s goal to give them as many options as possible. Howard hopes the expansion of more Illinois institutional partners shows that Illinois is invested in the Hope Chicago scholars and their families. The new institutions reflect a variety of private and liberal arts education.

Hope Chicago has an open invitation for institutional partners to join. It is looking for schools that can come to the table with what’s necessary to support the Hope Chicago families and have the proven resources to do that.

“This is not just about giving families funding to go into college, or to have these options. This is really about putting them on a trajectory that is going to sustain their success. These institutions have come to the table, they know what we’re looking for,” Howard said.

Some of those resources include support for first generation students, wraparound services for students that are coming in after the pandemic. Hope Chicago is also looking for partner institutions that have a commitment to supporting Black and Latinx students and families. Howard said the institutions went through a process and met the criteria, which includes a focus on student success. Hope Chicago now has 29 partner institutions to help the scholars and their families.

Howard acknowledged that with the Parent Scholars, it was important to bring in partners that are non-traditional. The Rivet School focuses on workforce and education. Hope Chicago is looking for unique partners to support the Parent Scholars, as well as traditional partners for the student scholars. The goal is sustainability for the scholars for the long haul.

“Poverty is often generational.  Our two-generation approach aims to break cycles of poverty in Chicago and really lift up the entire family and community. Everything that we do is really focused around the two-generation family model,” she said, adding that the goal is for the families to lift as they climb.

For more information about Hope Chicago, visit www.hopechicago.org.

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