The Chicago Housing Authority announced recently that it has awarded 230 prospective and current college students with $268,000 in scholarships for the coming school year. The scholarship winners were notified on July 5 and can use the funds for the 2016-2017 school year to cover costs including tuition, fees, room and board, books and other eligible expenses.
Open to all eligible CHA residents or Housing Choice Voucher holders, the recipients are selected through a competitive process that includes the evaluation of essays, grades and community service. Two-hundred eight of the recipients will receive $1,000 awards; 20 will receive $2,500 and, for the first time, two students will receive $5,000 “Leaders in Community Service” scholarships, created in honor of CHA staff members who passed away in 2015. One winner will be a college freshman this fall and the other is a current college student.
“I am delighted that CHA is able to once again provide this support to our college students so they can focus on their studies, goals and ambitions rather than worry about how they are going to pay for school,” CHA CEO Eugene Jones, Jr. said. “These awards are always important, but even more so in our ‘Year of the Youth,’ where, in 2016, we are focused on providing as many resources and opportunities for our young people as possible.”
Jones said that the awardees this year are as diverse as the city with the youngest recipient being age 17, the oldest 65 and the average recipient being 23. CHA scholarships are open to all eligible CHA residents including adult learners who are working to improve their own and their families’ lives.
“I am impressed and inspired by these students – both the young and the old,” said Jones, who will get to meet many of the recipients personally at August’s CHA “Take Flight” college send-off.
Jones explained that, while scholarships have long been available to CHA residents, three years ago the agency took the program in-house to better understand and refine the opportunities available to students. Since that time, CHA has awarded $850,000 to 534 recipients, who in turn attend colleges across the city, state and nation. Ninety-nine are returning scholarship winners, whose achievements and hard work have resulted in ongoing support from CHA.
Scholarship winner Danielle Coker attends Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee and is a returning scholar entering her third year in college. While the university provides great support for students in need, it didn’t cover all of her expenses and the CHA award has helped.
“There was a gap that the CHA scholarship has filled, so that I wouldn’t have to take out any loans for undergrad,” said Coker, who lives in the Bronzeville community. “It is a stress-reliever, especially considering all of these horror stories I hear about students paying off loans for the rest of their lives. It’s a stress-reliever for my family, too.”
Coker is double-majoring in Communications and Human and Organizational Development. She hopes to go to law school after graduation to become either a corporate or family services attorney.
Scholarships, however, are not the only way CHA encourages and supports the attainment of college degrees. CHA also offers a paid summer internship program to eligible undergraduate and graduate students, and offers students the opportunity to leverage their scholarships by combining funds with other support. The “Partners in Education” program, for example, allows students to take summer courses at City Colleges of Chicago for free, and to transfer those credits to the college or university they attend. On average, students save $1,600 in tuition, books and fees for one three credit hour course, and the majority of CHA Scholarship awards are $1,000.
The CHA scholarship application process opens each year from mid- January to mid-May, with awards provided for the following fall semester. More information is available by visiting the CHA website at http://thecha.org/education.