According to recent data from the To & Through Project, a reported 75 percent of freshmen from Chicago Public Schools aspire to go to college, but only 20 percent are projected to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years of graduating high school. This means that over 20,000 students each year won’t earn a degree, creating an economic-mobility gap in a system where 78 percent of students come from limited-income backgrounds.
At College Possible Chicago, near-peer coaches help narrow the graduation gap for students throughout the city, starting in the students’ junior year in high school and following them wherever they go to college. “Having College Possible in our school has been transformational for our students,” says Andrew Chipman, the assistant principal at Thomas Kelly College Prep. “Their partnership has greatly enhanced the schoolwide college-going culture at Kelly. Students in the program feel supported as they navigate the daunting world of college admissions. They feel that they belong in college.”
Let’s dive into some benefits of AmeriCorps service at the Chicago site, and see how College Possible Chicago coaches spend their time in and outside of their service hours.
Enjoy an AmeriCorps service year empowering college opportunity
College Possible Chicago offers AmeriCorps service positions supporting both high school and college students to and through college; these roles are called college access and success coaches. Running August through June, this service term averages 40 hours per week, with every Friday devoted to in-office professional development for coaches.
As a college access coach, you work with an assigned cohort of students at one of our partner high schools in Chicago. Your coaching runs Monday through Thursday and may include in-person support, tech-connected support, or both. During a typical school week, you’ll manage day-to-day interactions with students while logging student engagement data into Salesforce to track student progress. Time with students is spent helping them navigate key college preparatory milestones: college selection, test prep, applications, and financial aid. “My high school coaches were the best I could have asked for,” shares Erik, a College Possible student. “They created an environment I wanted to be in and learn from. They also shared their personal experiences as recent graduates, which I found to be relevant and valuable.”
If you’re selected to serve as a college success coach, you’ll support a cohort of college students to stay on track through degree completion – typically with students spanning multiple universities and colleges. In this role, you’ll help students navigate common college barriers by helping them find study groups, directing them to campus and community resources, and strengthening their time-management and budgeting skills. “College Possible has helped me to win scholarships upwards of $13,000 to help pay for college,” says Angel, a College Possible student. “My coach helped me refine my resume and career interests and plan out my first year of college so I’m set up for success.”
Live in exciting Chicago neighborhoods
One of the best perks of serving at the College Possible Chicago site is living in the beautiful, bustling city of Chicago. Known for its iconic summer celebrations and deep-dish pizza, everyone from foodies to festival enthusiasts agree, the Windy City is the place to be.
Most Chicago coaches have found that living with one or more roommates is the most cost-effective housing option in the city, searching for housing in neighborhoods directly north and south of the College Possible Chicago office. If you’re looking to relocate to Chicago for your service year, you’ll receive a $500 relocation reimbursement to offset the cost. Funds can be used for a variety of expenses, including hotel fees while you search for your new apartment in the area, a lease deposit, or a moving truck, just to name a few.
Getting around the city to your assigned schools is a breeze with public transportation. The College Possible Chicago office is located just three minutes walking distance from the Brown Line stop via the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). As a bike-friendly city, affordable bike share rentals are available 24/7 through Divvy Bikes.
Explore Chicago with your fellow college coaches
An AmeriCorps service year with College Possible is one of the best ways to gain invaluable professional skills to jumpstart your career. It’s also a transformative time to build lifelong friendships with your cohort of college coaches. “My best advice for the next generation of AmeriCorps coaches is to be ready to work hard,” says Madeleine, a College Possible coach. “Most importantly, have fun with the students you’re serving and with your fellow AmeriCorps members. This is an incredible time to meet new people and gain invaluable experiences. Enjoy every moment!”
When they’re not working with students, College Possible Chicago coaches can be found enjoying all that the city has to offer. The Lakefront Trail, a favorite of new coaches and tenured Chicagoans alike, spans roughly 18 miles along the Lake Michigan waterfront. With dedicated pedestrian and bike lanes, the trail offers both a safe and scenic, paved transportation route. If you’re searching for the perfect weekend activity, a day on the Chicago Riverwalk is a must. This 12.5 mile continuous path from Lake Street to the lakefront is lined with world-famous architecture, restaurants, shopping and more. Pack a picnic and sit on the steps of the riverwalk and watch the boats and kayaks float by for a relaxing day with your fellow coaches.
If you’re craving greenery amongst the skyscrapers, Millennium Park is the perfect place to spend the day. Home to “The Bean” and the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the park is known for hosting nationally-renowned events like the Chicago Blues Festival and the Chicago Jazz Festival. July through September, Chicagoans enjoy the Millennium Park Summer Film Series, a free movie-screening event hosted every Tuesday night.
A service year at College Possible Chicago offers a unique way to empower college opportunity throughout the city, and it’s an excellent launching pad for those deciding between disciplines for master’s degree programs, or for those seeking tangible experience before entering into the nonprofit or education work field. If gaining invaluable professional skills and making a proven impact in your community sounds like a year well spent, please join us at one of our upcoming information sessions or browse our open positions.