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More City Colleges Students to Get Graduation Help From Support Group

By Wendell Hutson | May 30, 2014 5:29pm | Updated on May 30, 2014 5:31pm
 The nonprofit One Million Degrees has partnered with City Colleges of Chicago to assist its students graduate with their associate's degrees.
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ENGLEWOOD — City Colleges of Chicago is strengthening its partnership with One Million Degrees, a move Kennedy-King College President Arshele Stevens said will greatly help hundreds or even thousands of low-income students finish college.

"The support services that students receive from One Million Degrees are invaluable. These services will lead to students earning their college degrees and starting a rewarding career," Stevens said at a Friday round table discussion at Kennedy-King with City Colleges students, Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Support services for the 100 students accepted annually into the program include mentoring, tutoring, academic advisement, job readiness and professional development. While half of the 100 students aided by the program attend Harold Washington College or Truman College, the program will soon expand to serve 4,200 students each year at all seven City Colleges by 2020.

The program will also be open to students at Moraine Valley Community College in southwest Palos Hills; Prairie State College in south suburban Chicago Heights; South Suburban College in south suburban South Holland; Harper College in north suburban Palatine, and the College of Lake County in north suburban Grayslake.

One college student helped by the nonprofit is Sabrina Neal, 53, who earned an associate's degree from Kennedy-King College, 740 W. 63rd St., earlier this month. 

"One Million Degrees helped me get through Kennedy-King by getting me comfortable talking in front of people, showing me how to network and create my resume and how to improve my time-management skills."

Neal also volunteers as a computer tutor at Kennedy-King and plans to attend the Illinois Institute of Technology this fall to pursue a bachelor's degree in information technology.

"After I get my bachelor's degree I would like to return as a teacher," she said.

Another student being assisted by the nonprofit is Olasupo Soyege, 19, who graduated from high school in Nigeria before moving to Chicago to live with his parents in Uptown.

"I attend Truman College although I had dreams of going to a big college when I was in high school," Soyege said. "But once I came to Chicago my dad enrolled me in Truman because he knew I needed to get adjusted to college first."

He aspires to become a doctor so he could provide free medical services to needy families in Rwanda.

"After I finish at Truman I plan to get my bachelor's degree in bio-engineering before going to medical school," added Soyege.

Program services do not end after a student graduates from a community college, according to Jessica Rosenberg, a spokeswoman for One Million Degrees.

"We provide intensive transfer advising while they are at a community college to make sure they are picking a four-year institution that is a good fit for them," Rosenberg said.

Beyond in-kind services, such as office space, Rosenberg said it does not receiving funding from City Colleges for its free services to students.

To be accepted into the program students must complete an online application, which requires recommendation letters. Students must also apply online for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

"By applying for FAFSA it helps us determine their household income because the program is aimed at helping low-income students," said Rosenberg.

Emanuel said the one thing that cannot be taken away from someone is their education.

"Once you get it, you own it," he told students. "Never forget that."