Located in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, almost a third (191) of the 600 students enrolled at Phillips are identified as homeless this school year.
The program’s fifth annual spring outreach event at Phillips, 244 E. Pershing Road, focused on distributing critical information about school fee waivers.
Most public schools charge up to hundreds of dollars in school fees for classes, extracurricular activities, sports, textbooks and graduation. Some schools threaten to bar students from milestone activities, including prom or graduation, if fees are not paid in full.
But homeless students and students eligible for free and reduced-cost school meals are eligible to have many school fees waived, under state law and Chicago Public Schools policy. Many students and families are unaware that they are entitled to request fee waivers, or that they have the right to appeal if they are denied waivers by school personnel.
“It is important to give information to students that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Stephanie Ciupa, a Chase volunteer. “They need to know that these programs are available to them.”
Volunteers distributed 1,026 fee waiver brochures to students, school staff, and local businesses. Staff at Phillips expressed their gratitude to CCH and Chase for taking the time to educate students on their rights.
In fact, Law Project intern Diane O’Connell spoke to a security guard who was very happy to learn about students’ rights to fee waivers. Security guards at Phillips recently pooled their own money to help a student pay fees so that he could participate in graduation, then learned that those fees should be waived. Students were also eager to receive the information,with some approaching CCH attorneys looking for immediate assistance with unpaid school fees.
Said first-time Chase volunteer Michelle McGee, “I volunteer with my church and in my community. I believe in outreach, especially when it has to do with children and poverty. I am always excited to participate in these opportunities through Chase.”
Every Child in School, Every Day is a collaborative effort between Chase and CCH to offer legal aid to homeless youth and to educate students, families and communities on the educational rights of homeless students through extensive outreach efforts. The project is coordinated with Sharlita M. Davis, a CCH Board member and assistant vice president and contract officer in Chase’s IP & Technology Law Group.
– Youth Futures Attorney Beth Cunningham
– Photos by Shruti Sharma