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Scholarship Offers Catholic Education for Needy Students

By Wendell Hutson | July 19, 2013 8:36am
 A Chicago nonprofit organization is offering a new scholarship for elementary students attending low-performing public schools to transfer to a Catholic school instead.
A Chicago nonprofit organization is offering a new scholarship for elementary students attending low-performing public schools to transfer to a Catholic school instead.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

ENGLEWOOD — A pilot scholarship program by Big Shoulders Fund aims to provide needy, Chicago Public Schools elementary kids living in economically challenged communities, such as Englewood and Auburn Gresham, with an opportunity to attend a Catholic elementary school.

The Brighter Future Award pays up to $3,500 in tuition for students attending a Level 3 elementary school (a school on academic probation) including charters operated by CPS. Scholarship recipients are able to attend one of 76 Big Shoulders Fund elementary schools, including two in Englewood and two others in Auburn Gresham.

The deadline to apply is July 29, and an informational session for parents will be held from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Kelly Library, 6151 S. Normal Blvd. The Chicago nonprofit organization will select 15 to 20 kids through a lottery on Aug. 1, according to Joshua Hale, president and chief executive officer of the Big Shoulders Fund.

"The Brighter Future Award is for families that may be looking for another school option for a wide variety of reasons," Hale said. "Big Shoulders Fund schools offer a quality option for nearly 24,000 students in Chicago, and we would like all families to be able to consider our schools as an option, if they are the right choice for their particular child."

To be eligible for the scholarship, households must meet the income requirements to qualify for a free or reduced lunch; the student and family must reside in Chicago; the student applying must have attended CPS during the 2012-13 school year and their school was either closed or is a Level 3; and the student must be entering kindergarten through eighth grade this fall.

Hale noted the organization has another scholarship for households that do not meet the income guidelines.

"Big Shoulders Fund is also offering the Access Scholarship for students transferring into our schools, which is a three-year renewable scholarship in the amount of $1,500 for elementary students and $3,000 for high school students," he said. "The scholarship has different eligibility requirements than Brighter Future including a higher total income threshold per family. Big Shoulders anticipates awarding 1,100 Access Scholarships."

And Hale added that winning a scholarship does not guarantee admission into a Big Fund school. Students would still have to meet admission requirements at individual schools.

Parents with kids attending low-performing public schools said they plan on attending the July 20 session to apply.

"I hadn't heard about this scholarship until now. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity," said Stacy Robinson, 29, who son attended Garrett Morgan Elementary, a Level 3 school, which was among 49 elementary schools CPS closed this year due to underutilization. "He's not learning anything at CPS anyway. He might as well go somewhere else where at least he will be taught right."

Traci Morrison, 34, who lives in Englewood, said she has always wanted her children to attend a private school.

"At private schools, discipline is stressed and that's what they need since they don't have a daddy," said Morrison, who has four kids that attended Elihu Yale Elementary, a Level 3 school that closed in June and whose alumni include actress Jennifer Hudson. "I work two jobs and don't have as much time as I would like to spend with my kids especially my 8-year-old [son] who wants to act up in school."

CPS officials said they are focused on improving all of its schools especially receiving schools.

"By closing underutilized schools, CPS can redirect our limited resources into higher performing, welcoming schools allowing us to better serve students," said Molly Poppe, a spokeswoman for CPS, the nation's third largest school district with more than 400,000 students. "And we have continued to develop high quality neighborhood school options in communities across the district. CPS is a choice district."