Going to college with a “Hope” scholarship – 60 Minutes
Earlier this year, high school student Desiree Guzman set her sights on college. A senior at Farragut Career Academy High School in Chicago and enrolled in the school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps, Guzman felt a college degree would help him get a better job, which could help his single mother to retire. The only question was how to pay the tuition.
For high school student Violet Pina, college was a way to escape the violence in her Chicago neighborhood. His barrier to enrollment was the money needed to fund a degree.
Johnson College Prep senior Marion Reed turned to higher education to help sort out her potential. Her mother and older sister never attended college because pregnancies had stunted their college ambitions and her older brother had dropped out. But Reed knew college would be a window onto another path, a way to see that there is more to life than what she experienced in her Chicago home — if only she could afford it.
These young women will now do more than live their dream of higher education: they will do it for free. They are among 4,000 Chicago high school students to whom the nonprofit organization Hope Chicago has promised a full ride to state college.
Founded by entrepreneur Pete Kadens and businessman Ted Koenig, the Hope Chicago program covers tuition, room and board, books, fees and supplements at approximately 20 partner colleges and programs. If students choose not to attend one of the partner colleges and programs, Hope Chicago will provide them with a stipend of up to $1,000 per semester.
It is a multigenerational promise. The program also offers this scholarship to one parent or guardian of each high school student. Hope Chicago seeks to help 30,000 Chicago students and their family members earn post-secondary degrees over the next decade. To do so, the organization aims to raise at least $1 billion.
Kadens came to the charity after making his fortune in the cannabis industry. After retiring in 2018 at the age of 40, he acknowledged that the benefits he received in life mainly came from education.
“I strongly believe in paying back,” Kadens said. “People always talk about giving back. But what about the people and communities that propelled me? Those are the places I want to go and get involved.”
For Kadens, that included his hometown of Toledo, Ohio, where he started his scholarship initiative. Since the program launched in 2020, Hope Toledo has paid tuition for approximately 200 families at Scott High School, including students and one of their parents or guardians.
One such Toledo family was mother-daughter couple Adrianne Burnett and Cayla Howard. When Burnett learned last year that Hope Toledo would also be paying her full tuition, she was shocked.
“I was amazed,” she said. “Honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to take it. I just wanted my daughter to fully enjoy it and go to school. But she pushed me. That’s the reason I took it. “
Burnett, who said he is studying commercial entrepreneurship, is aiming for a bachelor’s degree next, followed by a bachelor’s degree in commercial real estate. Without this scholarship, she says, this new path would have been impossible.
“I thought I missed that ship,” she said. “So, no, I wasn’t going to go back.”
In Chicago, where Kadens announced scholarships to five area high schools in February, high school students are already seeing new futures emerging. Violet Pina now plans to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago, while Desiree Guzman and Marion Reed have chosen the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Reed said she was aware of the difficulty of this next chapter in her life, but felt prepared. “I know it won’t be easy,” she said. “You have to be strong in spirit, even if you’re feeling down. Like, ‘Girl, you’re going to school for free. Pull yourself together.’ So that’s what I’m going to do.”
What Kadens is doing is encouraging other philanthropists and corporations to take on the responsibility of providing full scholarships to high school students in their towns. If Hope Toledo worked and is developing Hope Chicago, he wonders, why can’t another millionaire fund a notional Hope Indianapolis or Hope Charlotte?
“It’s my life’s work,” Kadens said. “It’s what I’m going to spend the rest of my days doing because I believe I was put on this earth to allow other people to have the same opportunity and access as I did.”
The video above was produced by Brit McCandless Farmer. It was edited by Will Croxton.