CCH awards college scholarships to six first-year students, celebrates seven recent graduates

Six Chicago area high school graduates have won a CCH college scholarship to support them in their higher education journeys. They were celebrated at a luncheon with CCH staff, selection committee members, and limited guests on July 28. 

CCH’s annual award of $3,500 is renewable for up to five years as students work to complete a bachelor’s or associate degree. All first-year winners also received new laptops, made possible with a grant from long-time partner, The Osa Foundation.

Twenty undergraduate students will be supported by the CCH college scholarship program during the 2022 – 2023 school year, including six first-years, six sophomores, three juniors, and five seniors. They are attending colleges and universities in California, Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, and Wisconsin, and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Georgia and Washington, D.C.

Four program alumni now in graduate school will receive $500 stipends for books or other academic materials. Graduate programs being pursued include a master’s in education, law school, and PhDs in sociology and environmental engineering.

CCH is thrilled to share that a number of scholars completed their degrees this year! They include four students who graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (psychology/criminology), Tougaloo College (pre-law), Marquette University (civil engineering), and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (elementary education).

A fifth student earned an associate degree in paralegal studies from Harper College. Two other students earned master’s degrees from DePaul University (social work/gender studies) and Columbia University (nonprofit management).  

The 2022 scholarship winners are:

Allegra Coleman Headshot

Allegra Coleman, Loyola Marymount University 

At Chicago’s Lane Tech High School, Allegra Coleman served as Executive Board President of the Student Council and as Managing Editor for the school paper, The Champion. She was a member of the varsity cheerleading and track & field teams and worked as a freelance journalist and newsletter manager for various outlets. A National Honor Society member, Allegra won both the Top Teens of America Emerging Leader Award and the PUSH Excel STEAM Award. 

Allegra plans to major in journalism at Loyola Marymount University in California.  

“I want to make a difference not only in my community but make an impact on the world through my reporting,” Allegra wrote in her application. 

Ariana Williams Headshot

Ariana Williams, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

While at Rauner College Prep, Ariana Williams served as captain of both the cheerleading and dance teams. She was a member the Current Events Club and track & field team and volunteered as a teacher’s aide. Interested in the field of law at an early age, she completed a summer course on criminal justice through Syracuse University and participated in the Chicago FBI Explorers program.  

An aspiring crime scene technician, Ariana will attend the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and major in chemistry.   

“I have been inspired to further my education because there are a lot of things I have faced within the last 18 years of life,” Ariana wrote in her application. She also shares a Bible scripture that she strives to live by: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).   

Cecil White Graduation Picture

Cecil White, Loyola Marymount University

As a student at Sarah E Goode STEM Academy, Cecil White was active in the Student Council and National Honor Society while maintaining a 4.0 unweighted GPA. He also served two years as a student member of his Local School Council (LSC), which is tasked with approving the school’s academic plan, monitoring budgetary expenditures, and evaluating the principal.   

An aspiring actor, Cecil will study business administration/television this fall at Loyola Marymount University in California. He aims to keep a “balanced mindset” while he earns his degree.  

“I have my nieces and nephews looking up to me,” Cecil wrote in his application. “I have to show them that it is possible to succeed no matter what background you come from.” 

Judith Mendoza Headshot

Judith Mendoza, University of Wisconsin – Madison

While attending Lane Tech High School, Judith Mendoza balanced the rigors of being an honor and dual enrollment student with working part-time jobs to support herself. Judith participated in After School Matters and interned with Keeler Gardens. She also babysat and worked as a lifeguard and cashier.   

Judith plans to study nursing at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and recently received her Community Healthcare Worker certification from Malcolm X College. She became interested in nursing during an AP Research project that centered on nurse burnout during the pandemic.   

“I believe that I can help the nursing community while also helping my own community by breaking barriers such as language and beliefs that affect patients,” Judith wrote in her application. “I want to be a part of that big change that will ultimately help everyone.” 

Mashal Khan, Northeastern Illinois University

Mashal Khan graduated from Chicago Math and Science Academy after moving to Chicago from Thailand for her senior year of high school. As a student she won multiple speech competitions and came in second at a school science fair.  

Mashal will attend Northeastern Illinois University this fall, majoring in political science and minoring in computer science. She plans to continue on to law school. “I wish to become a civil/constitutional lawyer who has the authority to aim for better change for those whose voices have been taken or stolen,” Mashal wrote in her application.   

 She credits her aunt and school support network to her success: “I may have worked tirelessly, but without a doubt, if it weren’t for my teachers and counselor, I would be nowhere near my dream.”  

Nahdia Levy Headshot

Nahdia Levy, University of Michigan

Nahdia Levy graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School where she was a sprinter and thrower for the track & field team. She was a member of the National Honor Society and French Honor Society and has interned at Allstate Insurance and worked at Jewel-Osco as a front-end clerk.

Nahdia will attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in the fall. Though undecided on her major, Nahdia shares, “I’d like to challenge myself and give back to my community while doing so.” Her career interests include pediatric dentistry, policy, business, and law.  Whatever path she chooses, Nahdia plans to return to the Lawndale neighborhood she was raised in, with the aim of creating a mentorship program that connects youth to higher education.

The CCH Scholarship Program is made possible thanks to the generous support of our community. This year’s awards were funded by The Osa Foundation, Susan W. Pearson Memorial Fund, Green Lewis Charitable Fund, and 10 long-time donors giving between $500 and $5,000. The CCH Associate Board also raised almost $12,000 for the scholarship program through its annual variety show fundraiser.  

Scholarships are also supported by the family of Jill L. Meinzer, whose substantial memorial gift in 2020 allowed CCH to increase its award by $1,000 annually, to $3,500. The gift has been placed in a special reserve fund, with an annual allocation distributed as scholarships every summer. 

Anyone interested in supporting the CCH Scholarship Program can donate at chicagohomeless.org/scholars. 

To date, 32 scholarship winners have graduated with bachelor’s degrees, 47% of students eligible to do so and far surpassing national averages for low-income students. Four other students (6%) have earned associate or nursing degrees. 

Serving on the Scholarship Selection Committee are four former scholarship winners: Daihana Estrada is a 2010 winner and UIC and Loyola law school graduate. Gesenia Viviescas, a 2013 winner who won a Fulbright award to teach in Taiwan after graduating from Indiana’s DePauw University, recently earned a dual master’s degree in social work and in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at DePaul. Kristen Lang is a 2014 winner who teaches in the Chicago Public Schools after graduating with honors from HBCU Benedict College in South Carolina. She is currently studying for a master’s in education from National Louis University. Artist Dontay Lockett is a 2016 winner and Columbia College Chicago graduate.   

Also serving on the committee are retired UIC English professor Mary Beth Rose and Patricia Rivera, the founding donor of the scholarship program. Patricia is now retired, but previously served as director of the CPS homeless education program, as well as the founding director of a shelter-based tutoring program, Chicago HOPES for Kids. From our staff, former Associate Director of Communications and Marketing Claire Sloss and Law Project Intake & Support Manager Christy Joyce Beretta serve on the selection committee. Christy, a licensed social worker, also manages the scholarship program.  

The eight-member committee evaluates each application using a rubric to evaluate the strength of applicants’ short essays, transcripts, and recommendation letters. Nineteen high school seniors applied by the May 6 deadline. All semifinalists were interviewed by the committee via Zoom in June.