MORGAN PARK — More than 1,000 Morgan Park High School students were surprised with full rides to college Wednesday morning.
Students at the public high school, 1744 W. Pryor Ave., will get full scholarships thanks to Hope Chicago, a nonprofit that funds college scholarships for Chicago Public Schools students. A parent or guardian of each student will also get a scholarship, officials said.
The scholarship covers all costs — tuition, room and board, books and fees — at any of Hope Chicago’s 20 partner colleges and universities in Illinois. The list includes four-year public colleges in the state, two-year City Colleges of Chicago, some private colleges and trade schools.
Students and their parents thought they were headed to the auditorium for a senior-parent assembly. With DJ Mike P and WGCI radio personality Trey White, it soon became clear this was no ordinary meeting.
Then, Hope Chicago founder Pete Kadens and Dr. Janice Jackson, Hope Chicago CEO and former CPS CEO, broke the news: Every Morgan Park student — and one of their parents — was getting a full ride to college.
“You will go to college for free!” Kadens said to a symphony of cheers and as confetti fluttered through the air.
The news left Cara Wilmington, a 30-year CPS teacher and Morgan Park parent, with tears in her eyes. The Wilmingtons had been worried about affording higher education, but now they feel “hope,” the mother said. Her daughter hopes to go to culinary school.
“God is good,” she said after hearing the news.
“I’m in shock, I’m very grateful. This just actually really feels like a miracle,” Wilmington said.
Morgan Park was the third school Hope Chicago surprised with scholarships this week, as students at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Pilsen and Al Raby High School in Garfield Park were surprised Tuesday. Students at two more schools will be surprised before the end of the week.
In addition to the scholarship, students will get a $750 stipend each year to cover expenses.
Many students at Morgan Park High School already have post-secondary plans that are outside of the network of school that partner with Hope Chicago. Jackson said these students will still receive support from the nonprofit with a $1,000 stipend each semester.
As of this month, Hope Chicago has raised roughly $40 million. Jackson championed for the multi-generational scholarship opportunities through Hope Chicago, saying that parents are tied to their child’s success.
“We think that that’s going to serve as a motivating factor for them to complete school,” she said of parents. “We believe that stickiness between a parent and student is just as important at that life transition as it is when you are a baby.”
Principal Stepping Down
The scholarship surprise came with a bittersweet announcement from Principal Dr. Femi Skanes, who told the seniors that she will be stepping down from at the end of year. But she plans to stay in contact with her students.
“I’m actually gonna set up an email account just for [students], so that they can continue to contact me,” she said.
Skanes and her son, a senior at Morgan Park High, were sitting together Tuesday night watching the news. Her son excitedly told her about how he heard that Hope Chicago gave scholarships to students at Al Raby and Juarez.
“He was like, ‘Mom, did you see what Hope Chicago did for all of those kids? Like, that’s amazing.’ And I say really? He was like, ‘for real, they changing lives!'”
All the while, Skanes knew that her son would be blessed with the same news a day later. He was sitting front row, shedding a tear, when he heard the news.
See more photos of the surprise announcement below:
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: