Inspired by her own teachers, and looking to make an impact of her own

Lila Aouani had already lived in many places before she came to Chicago—Florida, Boston, Ohio, and North Carolina.

“Having to move around my entire childhood was definitely hard, but it pushed me to become stronger,” said Lila, a recent graduate of Truman College’s first S.E.E.D. cohort.

The S.E.E.D scholarship, which stands for Supporting Emerging Educators Development, supports high school students at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) as they prepare to become teachers. It’s provided through the Teach Chicago Tomorrow program, a career pathway partnership between and City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) and CPS.

Through S.E.E.D., students earn funding to help cover their tuition, books, and class materials, and they’re able to take advantage of wraparound support services. S.E.E.D. Scholars who subsequently earn an Illinois Professional Educator License also have priority placement for a full-time teaching job in a CPS school.

Lila found her way to the program during a difficult time. The pandemic impacted her senior year of high school, causing her to “miss so much.” After graduating from Mather High School, she was living on her own and trying to make rent every month while working a minimum wage job. Lila was unsure of how she would achieve her goal of becoming a teacher.

“College is expensive, so when I found out that I could attend Truman College for free because I was a Star Scholar, well, the dark cloud lifted,” she said.

In addition to the Star Scholarship, Lila earned a monthly stipend from One Million Degrees, a nonprofit, which helped her focus on her education instead of worrying how she would afford college and living expenses. Then, she found out about S.E.E.D.

“It helped me immensely,” she said.

Lila explains that when she was at her lowest point, her life was impacted by scholarships from caring organizations that wanted to see her fulfill the dream of becoming a teacher. The resources she received were further supplemented by professors and mentors who wanted to see her succeed, too.

“They made sure I had everything I needed. They even asked me about my living situation, making sure I felt supported,” she said.

Armed with her new associate degree from Truman, Lila is now pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Education at Elmhurst University, where she received another scholarship to continue her education. She was inspired by professors like Qazi Biabani during her time at Truman College to one day teach second grade at Chicago Public Schools.

“My professors at Truman have impacted my life and inspired me to want to teach young children—to make an impact on somebody’s life, just like they did in mine,” Lila said.