Northeastern Illinois University teamed up with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) to host the HACU Youth Leadership Development Forum for middle and high school Chicago Public Schools students on Friday, October 25. To close out the day’s events, Northeastern announced that the 400 students in attendance would receive a $1,000 scholarship if they chose to attend Northeastern after high school.
“The promise scholarship from Northeastern is what these students need to realize their college dreams,” said Wendy Stack, director of the Chicago Teachers’ Center at Northeastern. “It makes the path to college real for them because now they have some money for college and a university that wants them to enroll.”
“This event has inspired me because I can actually go to this university, and I didn’t know that before,” explained Evelyn Cueto, Irene C. Hernandez Middle School student. “It has shown me what I want to be and that I can actually come to Northeastern and do what I want.”
The 400 middle and high school students attending the conference were all part of a GEAR UP program coordinated by the Chicago Teachers’ Center at Northeastern. There were 200 each from Irene C. Hernandez Middle School and Eric Solorio Academy High School.
GEAR UP, which stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is about making college a real possibility for CPS students. More than 14,000 Chicago students and their families participate in the program, which strives to improve student academic performance, increase college and career awareness, and increase the college going and graduation rate.
After attending the event on Friday, Marilu Lara, a student at Irene C. Hernandez Middle School said, “I’m inspired because I want to go to college, and now I feel like it’s a possibility.”
The Youth Leadership Development Forum focused on science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. In addition to a college fair, students participated in multiple student-led STEM workshops. The 30 students who led the workshops were all part of another program run by the Chicago Teachers’ Center, called the TRIO Upward Bound Math and Science program.
“These workshops were offered by other STEM students, so that gave my students excitement that they might be able to conduct a workshop some day,” said Raul Bermejo, principal at Irene C. Hernandez Middle School.
The TRIO Upward Bound Math and Science program is designed to strengthen the math and science skills of participating students. The goal of the program is to help students recognize and develop their potential to excel in math and science and to encourage them to pursue postsecondary degrees in math and science, and ultimately careers in math and science professions.
“Upward Bound Math and Science and GEAR UP are giving first-generation, low-income students the support and knowledge in their future,” said Jeanette Morales, assistant director for K-12 initiatives at HACU.
Sharon Hahs, president of Northeastern, added, “Northeastern Illinois University is committed to extending outreach to the local community. Through our programs at the Chicago Teachers’ Center, we help young students prepare for college-level coursework, encourage them to apply and enroll in college, and demonstrate that careers in math and sciences are within their reach.”
Students described the day as inspiring. Stack added that the students’ eyes lit up as they listened to a motivational and personal story, experienced a college campus, participated in STEM activities, attended a college fair, and, ultimately, learned they had been given a promise scholarship for their freshman year of college.
About Northeastern Illinois University
Northeastern Illinois University is a fully accredited public university serving more than 11,000 full and part-time undergraduate and graduate students in the Chicago metropolitan area. NEIU engages its diverse campus community in a rich environment of teaching, learning and scholarship. The University offers more than 80 academic programs in the arts, sciences, education and business. Newsweek magazine has named Northeastern Illinois University the sixth best investment among all universities in the nation and number one in Illinois. The University also is recognized as one of the most diverse universities in the nation and is federally designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution.