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From the Street: Scholarships for homeless

Wed, Jun 22, 2011

Chicago Coalition for the Homeless will award $2,000 renewable college scholarships to five Chicago high school seniors who succeeded academically despite experiencing homelessness.

Scholarship awards will be presented Thursday, June 16, at 5:30 p.m., at Loyola University School of Law, 25 E. Pearson, in Ceremonial Courtroom 1040. The event is open to the public.

In seven years, 25 students have received privately funded CCH scholarships that total more than $65,000. This year’s event will feature remarks from three past winners who finished their bachelor’s degrees this year. They are Shunika Brown (University of Illinois-Champaign), Brandon Dunlap (Kendall College), and Pierre Lewis, Jr. (Northern Illinois University).

One of the 2011 winners, Lee Giles, has spent much of his life moving around, staying in family shelters or unstably housed with relatives. Since his mother died in January, Lee and two sisters have struggled to care for four younger siblings, ages 3 to 15. Now living on the South Side, Lee gets up at 5 a.m. to get to his West Side high school, Crane Tech.

Lee also won a partial scholarship to study sociology at Philander Smith College, an historically black college in Little Rock, Ark. Along with earning a 3.1 GPA and playing four years of basketball, Lee spoke at comic Bernie Mac’s 2008 memorial service. His widow invited Lee to speak because her husband told her that Lee – who’d been his student guide on a visit to Crane – reminded him of himself when he was young.

“I do well in school, I do well in life, that’s how I look at it. I want to be independent and on my own, so I can help take care of my little brother and sisters,” Lee said. “My little brother says, ‘I want to be just like you.’”

Phoenix Military Academy senior Anees’ah Casey found herself on the street with her twin sister after they were forced to leave their mother’s house earlier this year. Anees’ah is one of the top students in her graduating class, with a 4.18 GPA. She is headed to Northern Illinois University, with plans to study psychology.

“Despite all the negative aspects of my life,” Anees’ah said in her application essay, “now I am grateful that I became closer to my sister, and learned how to carry on with life even if it knocked me down every time I tried to get up.”

Family problems forced Michael Young, a Filipino immigrant, to find his own shelter last year, just three years after his family moved to the U.S. and he began to learn English “I started to become hopeless,” he said in his essay. “I thought I was the only high school student who did not have a place to stay. As a student, I was ashamed.”

A four-year tennis player with a 3.46 GPA at Senn, Michael was taken in by a couple who teach Bible studies at his church. Enrolled this fall at the University of Illinois-Chicago, he hopes to become a physical education teacher.

“I still have a long way to go,” Michael said, “but I am learning by being homeless what it means to be responsible and hardworking.”

Other 2011 recipients are Miguel Noyola (Foreman High School), first in his family to finish high school, with plans to study automotive technology at Truman City College; and Edwin Casas (Hubbard High School), who will study drafting and architecture at Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills.

CCH scholarships are funded by the Osa Family Foundation, Student Alliance for Homeless Youth, and private donors. The CCH program is an affiliate of Illinois Dollars for Scholars.


One Response to “From the Street: Scholarships for homeless”

  1. Kalyn says:

    I’m not easily imedrssep. . . but that’s impressing me! :)

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