University of Chicago Collegiate Scholars Program students visiting Columbia University in New York in an undated photo

The University of Chicago has three college readiness programs — Collegiate Scholars, the UChicago Youth Internship and Upward Bound — that give hundreds of Chicago youth help with the college admissions process.

The Collegiate Scholars Program (CSP) gives Chicago Public Schools high school students three years of free summertime college-level seminar-style courses taught by U. of C. faculty and graduate students — classes are "college-lite," like "a taste of social science," which gives students two weeks each of sociology, economics and political science modules.

CSP students also do workshops and activities around how to find colleges that meet their academic needs, and they visit campuses around the country. Representatives from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission run workshops for students and families about financial literacy and planning for college, including the concept of a return on investment for a college degree. There is monthly programming for parents as well.

Because of pandemic-related disruption, 9th and 10th graders are being admitted to CSP this year. Roughly 98% of students who enroll in the program complete it, and around 73% of students who complete the program graduate from college in four years. (Of all CPS graduates, 50% do.)

The Youth Internship Program is a six-week (June 27 to Aug. 4) summer employment opportunity at the U. of C. for current CPS sophomores or juniors living in Douglas, Grand Boulevard, Greater Grand Crossing, Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, South Shore, Washington Park or Woodlawn. Interns will work in one of several university departments alongside a mentor.

Some students this year will be doing science research with professors. Others will work with university administrators (one last year worked in the Commercial Real Estate Operations department, for instance).

Upward Bound, a larger nationwide U.S. Department of Education program led at the U. of C. by its Office of Special Programs College Prep, provides 9th and 10th grade students living in Douglas, Greater Grand Crossing, Washington Park or Woodlawn or attending Dyett, Hirsch, Hyde Park or Phillips high schools with tutoring, college advising, mentoring, cultural enrichment and workshops on financial and economic literacy.

Abel Ochoa, who runs the college readiness programs in the U. of C. Office of Civic Engagement, said promoting educational opportunities for anyone seeking them is one of the office's biggest strategic priorities.

"This doesn't formally have to be a student who's taking college-level classes like someone who applies to the university or who wants to be a student there, but we're thinking about being a good neighbor and ways in which we can be a good neighbor to our local community members, which includes youth," he said "This is the university's approach to extending educational opportunity and access."

In the case of CSP, which is open to CPS students citywide, that help comes regardless of where the students end up matriculating (even though Ochoa hopes they end up choosing the U. of C. if admitted).

There are 50 students accepted in each CSP class. Upward Bound does rolling admission and has capacity for 118 students a year. The office is scaling up the Youth Internship Program and is looking to hire 30 interns this year.

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