Free college ride awarded to 1,700 Chicago high school students at Benito Juarez in Pilsen

4 more CPS schools to be surprised this week

Jessica D'Onofrio Image
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
Free college ride awarded to nearly 2K Chicago high school students at Benito Juarez in Pilsen
Hope Chicago surprised students at a Benito Juarez Community Academy with a free ride to college on Tuesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's been a a life-changing Tuesday morning for some students at Benito Juarez Community Academy on Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

"Your college tuition, your room and board, books and fees will be paid for and you will go to college for free," announced Pete Kadens, Founder and Co-Chair Hope Chicago

Hope Chicago, a non-profit that raises funding for college tuition for Chicago Public School graduates made the announcement at Benito Juarez Community Academy.

All of the high school students will receive fully-funded scholarships at one of Hope Chicago's 20 partner colleges, universities or other education programs across the state of Illinois.

This is the first in a series of surprise events. Four other CPS schools will hear the same news this week.

That means a total of 4,000 students will receive debt-free scholarships.

Governor Pritzker was on hand for the event and joined in on the excitement.

"First of all, oh my God!" exclaimed Pritzker. "In Illinois, for those who go to college, the average debt load when you get out of college, when you graduate is $28,000, you're saddled with $28,000 of debt. You won't be."

Hope Chicago is led by former CPS Janice Jackson, who was waving a huge check on stage and celebrating with the recipients of the scholarships and their parents.

The non-profit hopes to raise and invest one-billion dollars in scholarships and other support over the next decade for Chicago students and their parents.

This round of funding totaled $40 million from private donations.

"We were trying our best to save as much as we could when I was little," said senior Anabel Limon-Torres. "But now it's like we were worrying for nothing. But it's like a really happy day for everyone."