THE LOOP — Jade Cross-French is nervous and excited about the next chapter in her life.
The former Alcott High School student, and current resident of the Chicago Housing Authority's Washington Park Scattered Sites in West Woodlawn, is headed for Shaw University in North Carolina later this month.
"I wanted to go to [a historically black college or university]. And they're religious, which will allow me to continue with my Bible studies," said Cross-French, 18, who sings in her church choir every Sunday.
"I'm trying to narrow down my skills but I want to major in business and eventually open my own business here in Chicago," she said.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Housing Authority held its third annual "Take Flight" sendoff to celebrate students -- and CHA residents -- like Cross-French who are attending colleges outside the Chicago area.
While Cross-French is down South, her friend Hector Perez, 18, of Humboldt Park, will be attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York's Hudson Valley.
"My high school had a culinary program and I decided to enter it. Then I was offered a full scholarship to the [Institute] so I took it," Perez said.
"French cuisine is my favorite type of cooking because everything goes back to the French style," he added.
Perez plans to return to Chicago after obtaining his associate's degree in culinary arts.
"I want to come back and, after working my way up, open my own restaurant and give back to Chicago," he said.
At Wednesday's event, the CHA gave the departing students blankets, extra-long twin sheets, shower caddies, laundry bags, floor lamps and bath towels, which were paid for by private donations.
Any CHA resident who is going to college outside of Chicago was invited to the event, and 60 of the 80 students who signed up for the event wound up attending the sendoff.
"The CHA is more than about providing housing. We are about giving people the tools they need for life," said Charles Woodyard, CEO of the agency.