Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chicago State University and Illinois Institute of Technology Visits

Last Friday, a handful of Cabrini Connections youth joined me for a day of college visits across the city of Chicago. Rather than relaxing at home during a Chicago Public School holiday, the students met me at Cabrini Connections at 8:45am and we made our way down to the end of the Red Line at 95th, where we hopped a bus to Chicago State University, a historically African-American State College. We spent the morning learning about their various programs, exploring the campus and meeting students so that the kids could get a better idea of what it would be like to be a student at Chicago State. We visited everything from the dorms, to the dining halls and workout facilities so that it was easy for the students to look into the not-so-distant future, and imagine themselves going to class, studying in the library, and relaxing in the dorm cafeteria with their friends and classmates. Tashara and Tiffany, both of whom are High School Freshman, were particularly interested in learning more about their pre-med programs, as they both want to go into the medical profession, either as nurses or physician’s assistants or as full-fledged M.Ds. It was especially beneficial for them to be visiting schools so early in their High School Career, since for them, High School is a blank slate, and if they have something to work for, like admission to a particular college, they can work with their mentors to develop short and medium-term goals that will help them achieve that end goal.

After checking out everything Chicago State has to offer, we again jumped on the Red Line and made our way down to 35th, where we found themselves in the midst of the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Bronzeville Campus. We enjoyed lunch and an in-depth explanation of IIT’s many programs and how technology permeates all of their course offerings. Manley Career Academy Junior, Melissa Hale was very interested by their “Business and Technology” offerings, as she is in a special business track in her high school that emphasizes information technology.

We were then taken on a tour of campus, where the students noticed many differences from Chicago State. Since it is a private school, parts of the campus are very opulent, such as some of the newer dormitories that we visited and their new student center, complete with a Rem Koolhaas designed elevated train tunnel that muffles the sound of the green line as it whizzes mere yards above. The kids also picked up on the diversity of the student body, which is much more international than Chicago State’s predominantly African-American student body. This was immediately apparent since as soon as the students walked into the student union, they were inundated with the sights and smells from the nearly 100 countries represented on campus; It was the day of one of IIT’s multicultural festivals.

One thing that impressed the students at IIT was that, though tuition and fees are more expensive at IIT, being that it is a private school, they have a special scholarship for CPS students that pays for full tuition, books and fees! This caught the students’ interest in a big way. Hopefully this will encourage the kids to keep their grades up and study hard for the ACT, as the average student at IIT had a high school GPA of 3.89 and scored between a 25 and 30 on their ACT.

As the students returned to Cabrini Connections, cold and exhausted from the rapidly declining temperatures and a full day of college tours, one couldn’t help but detect a spark of possibility being lit in the students’ minds, one we at Cabrini Connections help fuel and guide, until they can light their own way.

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