Through our Summer youth employment initiative, we were able to hire 15 college and high school students to work directly in our Summer youth program. This year, 12 of the students were first generation college students from the South and West Sides of Chicago. Our youth employment model not only provides direct access to a Summer job, but life on life mentoring and guidance throughout the duration of the job. Through this model we’re able to apply the curriculum, teaching, and on-the-job training in a cohesive and complimentary way with students who are in key moments of decision making, career development, and life trajectory.
This year, one of our stand out summer staff was DeQuan (Quan) Clark. Quan’s father is incarcerated and he was raised by his grandmother. Throughout high school, Quan was encouraged and supported by his grandmother to pursue his goal of going to college and to become an engineer. Quan graduated with honors and was accepted to the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign for the fall of 2017. His grandmother was his biggest champion and support to make his dreams a reality by attending the University of Illinois. Unfortunately, three days after Quan moved to campus, his grandmother passed away.
“My grandmother was also going to pay for the books I needed in my other classes as well, so I couldn’t focus 100% on academics because I had to stress over being prepared for class and how I would pay for my tuition to remain a student. Everyone in my family was aware of the commitment my grandmother had for my education, but after her passing no one was involved or there for support. I didn’t have a positive or healthy outlet for my grief outside of my close friend group, so it became difficult to not dwell about my grandmother.” After the difficulty of not having the necessary resources to complete classwork coupled with the grief of losing his grandmother, Quan was placed on academic drop and withdrew in January of 2018.
When we began working with Quan over the Summer and got to know his story, he was investigating options to pursue going back to school through a City College. We were able to provide Quan with the support he needed to navigate the petition process at the University of Illinois and ultimately, he was able to successfully petition for his first semester’s grades to be retroactively withdrawn and to be readmitted for the 2018 school year with a clean slate. Hope Works was also able to support Quan through purchasing a laptop and his first semester’s books, and a scholarship to cover his account balance.
We’ve been able to surround Quan with the support he needs to in order to pursue his academic goals while attending college. We’re honored to be a small part of his story and supporting him to re-write his future opportunities. Today, Quan is back at school at the University of Illinois where he is pursuing an engineering degree.