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Northwestern Academy celebrates third graduating class of college-bound students

In seven years since its inception, the program and its students have flourished

Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools
Northwestern Academy student Islam Saadeh speaks at the senior celebration.

Northwestern Academy for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) honored 65 CPS students destined for 30 prestigious colleges and universities across the country at its third annual senior celebration Saturday.

From Reed College in Oregon to Smith College in Massachusetts, the 2019 class is venturing further from Chicago than their predecessors.

For the first time, Northwestern Academy graduates will attend Reed and Smith, as well as Bowdoin College in Maine, Pomona College and Pitzer College in California, Franklin & Marshall, Muhlenberg and Gettysburg colleges in Pennsylvania and the Washington University in Missouri.

Three students, Lilliana Mystique, Tomasz Benko and Sebastian Ortiz, will be attending Northwestern University. 

Saturday’s Northwestern Academy Senior Celebration 2019 at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law included a performance by NU Mariachi. Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, Provost Jonathan Holloway and School of Education and Social Policy Dean David Figlio all offered remarks. 

“Our goal has been to prepare you not just to get into college, or succeed in college, but to lead in college,” Figlio told the graduates. “As you hone your passions, develop critical thinking skills and build on your leadership qualities in the next stage of your education, you’ll be able to change lives, communities and organizations for the better.”

A college preparation and enrichment program launched in 2013, Northwestern Academy helps CPS students prepare for and get into competitive colleges and universities. Its first class of 48 students graduated high school in 2017.

Most academy students come from low-income families, and the majority are the first in their family to go to a four-year university or college. 

“One of the most important ways in which universities like Northwestern can serve society is by working actively to expand the pipeline of students from our city schools. That’s why we created the academy,” President Schapiro said. “I’m moved when I listen to academy graduates talk about how much it meant for Northwestern to believe in them, and how that allowed them to believe in themselves. The contribution these 65 students will make to society is, I believe, boundless.”

Chosen through a rigorous application and selection process from non-selective enrollment high schools, academy students often don’t have access to some of the opportunities available to those attending selective-enrollment schools, which provide academically advanced students with an enriched college preparatory experience. The academy helps bridge that gap.

It offers complementary academic and cultural enrichment for the students while supplementing their academic and college advising from CPS. The academy also takes students on college visits across the country and helps parents navigate — many for the first time — the college admission process. Students attend summer classes taught by CPS teachers in reading, writing and math at the academy’s state-of-the-art headquarters in Abbott Hall on Northwestern’s Chicago campus.

On Saturday, June 15, Northwestern Academy for CPS will host its annual induction ceremony to welcome the 2022 class. This year, for the first time, every student offered a spot in the program accepted.

“Seeing the Northwestern Academy students walk across the stage and 'reveal' their college affiliation was powerful. Their excitement for their own future was an affirmation of higher education’s transformative potential," Provost Holloway said. "It is deeply gratifying to know that Northwestern has played an important role in guiding these bright young minds toward places that will challenge them and help them to become the very best versions of themselves.”

Northwestern Academy is one of numerous partnerships created to help expand access for Chicago students to world-class educational opportunities and an extension of the Good Neighbor, Great University initiative. A similar program, Northwestern Academy — Evanston, provides multiyear college access programing for Evanston students. Northwestern underwrites the academy programs through donations from Northwestern alumni.

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