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A collection of CPS students' reflections on their educational journeys, the supports that worked for them, and their hopes for the education system.

The data we report represent individual students, who every day face—and overcome—systemic barriers. The To&Through Project seeks to share Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students and graduates' stories to elevate them as experts of their own lived experiences. The qualitative data resource found below are intended to help user better understand the experiences of CPS students navigating our current educational system and to provide opportunities reflect on how their experiences can improve supports for future CPS students. 

Connecting & Guiding Alumni towards Graduation

The Transitional Youth Leader Program is a near-peer mentorship program that emerged out of the Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising (OSCPA) based in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The program hires CPS alums enrolled in or recently graduated from a 2-year or 4-year college to mentor younger CPS alumni at their college. In this series, we interviewed Transitional Youth Leaders, who reflected on their experiences with mentorship, the challenges students face in college, and their hopes for the upcoming school year.

Growing Pains & Gains Through Middle Grades

We know that being on-track in 6th-8th grade increases students' probability of graduating high school and enrolling in college, but how does this academic foundation support the development of other skills students need to attain their degrees? In this series, CPS graduates reflect on how their middle grades experiences influenced their journeys to college and share the highlights and challenges that helped them grow through adolescence.

Exploring Life Beyond High School

Nine stories of CPS graduates’ unique triumphs and struggles as they navigate various of post-secondary tracks all on the same journey to becoming young adults. Their stories push us to expand our understanding of success and imagine how we can support our young people across all post-secondary pathways, not just as students but as people.

Navigating the Post-Secondary Maze

Our 2021 study on CPS graduates’ post-secondary pathways revealed that the normative view of college — being continuously enrolled at one institution and graduating with a bachelor’s degree — is not typical for many CPS graduates. These findings inspired us to seek out students who have made these transitions to understand more about their experiences. This series shares five of their stories.

Experts by Experience

Experts by Experience is a series of discussions with college students from Chicago who navigating the pandemic-induced rupture in their educational journeys. In each episode, our experts — Black and Latinx college students — reflected on their personal successes and challenges. Our conversations provided perspective on how colleges, nonprofits, and practitioners can better respond to the evolving needs of FGLI students of color. 

Looking for more? Read about the report that inspired our first student stories series, and see how its findings can help education practitioners understand what led Chicago Public Schools (CPS) graduates’ college enrollment rates to increase while college completion rates remained flat. Read more about what CPS students value in school and beyond from this article which shares what middle grades teachers were able to gather from their students’ post-pandemic schoolwork.