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53 CPS students earn an associate degree through a partnership with CCC

CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Pedro Martinez, City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) Chancellor Juan Salgado, school administrators and families came together today to recognize the growing number of CPS graduates who are leaving high school with a diploma as well as transferable college credits, up to and including an associate degree. Approximately 5,000 CPS Class of 2023 graduates earned nearly 40,000 total college credits from CCC while still in high school, saving an estimated $5.8 million in total projected college tuition costs.

“We’re thrilled to celebrate with these graduates who not only excelled academically in high school but did so while earning college credits,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “They have set themselves up for future success in college while alleviating some of the financial stress of pursuing a higher education.”

Tuesday’s ceremony was celebrated in the gym at Malcolm X College where more than 600 seniors from 69 CPS high schools received a ceremonial blue cord, which can be worn during a student’s graduation ceremony, for earning 15 or more college credits during their junior and senior years, the equivalent of one semester in college. Another 110 students earned a gold cord for attaining 30 credits or more. Fifty-three graduating students who earned an associate degree in addition to their high school diploma received a plaque commemorating their achievement.

Corliss High School Senior Vincent Smith will not only graduate as the top in his class but he also earned his Federal Aviation Administration drone certification as well as his associate degree – and helped out at home with his younger siblings. The Class of 2023 valedictorian plans to study computer science at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana on a full scholarship.

“There were a few challenging moments,” Smith conceded. “But in the end, it was worth it and it will save me so much time and money.”

CPS and CCC began offering early college courses, also called dual credit or dual enrollment, more than a decade ago and have continued expanding these opportunities throughout the city while forming a unique partnership known as The Chicago Roadmap. The initiative provides access to high-quality programs, advising and supports, career exploration and preparedness in an effort to equitably increase student outcomes in college enrollment, college degree attainment, and employment.

“When we work in tandem with CPS, today’s celebration of dual-credit earners is possible and an incredible example of how the Chicago Roadmap is expanding college access and supporting the college goals of our students,” said Chancellor Juan Salgado, City Colleges of Chicago. “The achievement of attending high school and college at the same time never ceases to amaze me and ensures our city is in good hands with the next generation.”

Five Englewood STEM High School students received associate degrees from Kennedy-King College while maintaining GPAs and heavy involvement in their schools and communities. They are also the first dual-credit graduates from Kennedy-King College.

“Balancing the demands of school and community college while trying to enjoy regular high school activities was tough, but the rewards down the road are worth it,” said Deja Miles, an Englewood STEM High School Class of 2023 graduate. “The support from Englewood STEM and Kennedy King College has been amazing because even when I felt like it was too much to balance, they were there making sure I had all the resources and support I needed to succeed.”

Of the 53 CPS students who attained an associate degree this year, 24 are seniors at Infinity Math, Science & Technology High School, leading the District with the most students at one school earning an associate degree from CCC. In total, CPS scholars earned 100 or more credits at 21 high schools and students earned high school and college graduate milestones at 49 schools.

Many of Chicago’s students still face barriers to college enrollment, college readiness, college completion and economic mobility. Such challenges led to the development of The Chicago Roadmap in 2020 to support students along a seamless path to and through college on the way to their chosen careers. The partnership aims to transform the relationship between CPS and CCC from a successful collaboration to full convergence to help expand access to high-quality programs and supports.

This partnership has helped students like Nylah Sanders excel in their academic careers and beyond. Sanders is the first Lindblom Math and Science Academy student to earn an associate’s degree from Kennedy-King College while still enrolled in high school. Taking her excellence a step further, Sanders also enrolled and graduated from the District’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program at the Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Academy (CPFTA).

“Trying to juggle three schools during my junior and senior years as well as softball was a huge challenge for me,” said Sanders. “I had to study medical terminology and anatomy for the EMT program; Biology, Chemistry, and Math at Malcolm X; and at Lindblom, I had AP Calculus, Probability, and Statistics as well as work as a teacher’s assistant for 8th-grade Biology. Now that I have completed my associate degree on top of my high school diploma, I am so proud of what I have accomplished.”

Across the District, many CPS Class of 2023 students have accomplished more than their high school graduation requirements. Approximately 390 Kenwood graduates earned more than 3,700 early college credits from Harold Washington College. In the Roseland neighborhood, more than 150 students at Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy amassed more than 2,300 early college credits through the school’s recent affiliation with Olive-Harvey College.

Early college courses are advanced courses and can enhance a student’s overall high school GPA. Credits can be transferred to many colleges, but policies vary by school. Dual credit courses are taught by qualified CPS teachers at high school campuses. CCC works with individual high school teachers to ensure lessons meet the same standards as courses taken at a CCC campus. Dual enrollment courses are taught at City Colleges of Chicago by CCC faculty.