Over the last week, the student bodies of five Chicago public high schools received a heartwarming surprise to catapult their future careers.

Hope Chicago, a non-profit organization that promotes educational equity, awarded 4,000 students in 9th to 12th grade and their parents with full, debt-free college scholarships, according to a press release. The funding is a part of Hope Chicago’s commitment of investing $1 billion in scholarships to Chicago student-families over the next decade to “redefine the education landscape” across the Windy City.

“I know from experience the promise of Chicago’s public school students, as well as what limits the ability of those in under-resourced neighborhoods to go to college and eventually build great careers, start businesses, add to the city’s economic vitality and contribute to the growth, stability and safety of their communities,” CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said in a statement. “The city and all of us who live and work here are missing out on so much potential when these students are unable to get the education they want because they do not have the financial resources and support networks they need to make their dreams come true. Now, with Hope Chicago, they do.”

The press release shares that the 4,000 Hope Scholars can use their scholarships at one of Hope Chicago’s 20 partner colleges, universities, or other educational programs across the state of Illinois.

Breaking Traditional Scholarship Requirements

Hope Chicago believes all students should have the opportunity to enroll in college, which is the reasoning behind why its scholarships have no GPA requirements. Instead of having a hyper-focus on academic achievements, the nonprofit offers the scholars mentorship to help prepare them for the road ahead.

“With Hope Chicago, students can worry less about how they’ll pay for and stay in college or trade school and more time being the best students they can be,” said Pete Kadens, co-founder and co-chairman of Hope Chicago. “Hope Scholars will know that when challenges arise – and that’s life, challenges always arise – they can turn to Hope Chicago and our community partners for the help and support they need to succeed.”

Helping Parents Back Into School

With the stigma and ageism surrounding the action of going back to school, the Hope Chicago scholarships aim to alleviate its effects by providing parents with the chance to further their education and “not have to put their dream on hold.”