Skip to main content
Collage of nine CPS student Alumni varying in sizes 3 larger and 6 smaller placed next to one another

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

In this series, we explore pathways that are not as frequently publicly explored, including CPS graduates who either delayed enrollment in college, decided not to enroll in college and others who navigated various changes and persisted in college. Their stories push us to expand our understanding of success and imagine how we can support our young people, not just as students but as people.

Read their stories below to learn how they reflect on their schooling experiences and share insights into the relationships and supports crucial to their growth and success during and after high school. We hope their stories inspire you to imagine how we can help schools embrace and support students’ diverse strengths, challenges and aspirations. 

Here is a practitioner guide that outlines a learning experience that school teams and other postsecondary practitioners can use to prompt exploration and discussion of the student stories.

Sean's Story


Sean is a Black college student who went to high school in Bronzeville. He immediately enrolled in a public university in Illinois and is now transferring to a community college in Chicago to develop his trade skills.

Jarfaire's Story


Jarfaire is a Black CPS alumni who graduated from a CPS high school on the West Side of Chicago in 2017. After graduation, Jarfaire immediately joined the army. Although she is grateful for what she has learned from the experience, the idea of going back to school drew her back home.

Mitzi's Story


Mitzi is a Mexican-American, first-generation college student who grew up in Gage Park. She immediately enrolled in a private university in Chicago, took time off, and transferred to a community college to complete an associate degree. Currently, she is seeking to transfer to a private college in Chicago.

Drea's Story


Drea is a Black CPS graduate who is an active member of the workforce and who graduated from a CPS options school in the Pullman neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Proud of her accomplishments, she shares the reasons behind her positive high school experience and explains each factor of her decision-making process.


Syed's Story


After immigrating with his family from India, Syed settled in Rogers Park and graduated high school in 2020. Now a sophomore at a two-year college in Chicago, he reflects on his experience taking a gap year during the pandemic and thinks about his plans for the future.

Kenia's Story


Kenia is a Mexican-American graduate who grew up in Gage park. Having found support in the YearUp community, Kenia has been able to both progress in the corporate world and spend quality time with her son, whom she had in her senior year of high school. Looking back on the four years before graduating in 2019, Kenia describes some of the support she wished she had.

Elijah's Story


Elijah is a Black college student from the Far Southeast Side of Chicago. He took time off from college after graduating high school and then enrolled in a public university in Illinois. After completing several semesters, he again took time off from college before returning to the same university.

Kristian's Story


Kristian is a Black college student from Woodlawn who immediately enrolled in a private university in Ohio. She took a semester off and transferred to an HBCU in Washington D.C., before transferring to a private college in Washington.

Sergio's Story


Sergio is a Mexican, first-generation college student and DACA recipient from the West Lawn neighborhood. He immediately enrolled in a private university in Chicago, took time off from college, and then transferred to a public university in Chicago.

The To&Through Project team would like to express our most sincere gratitude to Elijah, Drea, Jarfaire, Kenia, Kristian, Mitzi, Sean, Sergio and Syed. We appreciate the thoughtfulness, vulnerability and bravery our graduates have demonstrated in sharing their stories.

We also want to give a special shout out to May Malone who originally launched and managed the Student Stories Series in 2021-2022. Under her leadership the series flourished into the final product you see today. We are grateful for her attentiveness, thoughtfulness and passion to honor and celebrate students' lived experience in this project.

Finally, we would to thank Arturo Ballesteros and Ashley Fung who interned for the To&Through project the summer of 2022, during which they interviewed these nine CPS graduates and drafted their stories. They put a lot of care and intention into crafting these stories and we are grateful for their dedication.

Arturo Ballesteros is a class of 2024 student at the University of Chicago, majoring in Public Policy with a specialization in education. Having been born and raised in Chicago, Arturo is passionate about making a positive impact on the South Side and is working to become an educator in his local community in the near future.

Ashley Fung, a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago majoring in Public Policy. Inspired by the interviews she conducted and grateful for the opportunity to write about them, Ashley is currently working on her B.A. Thesis focused on education policy in the context of Chicago Public Schools.