USA

Public housing residents celebrate students heading off to college despite COVID-19: ‘It really means a lot and it motivates me’

Naomi Muuzic, 18, is helped by her father, Doktu Muuzic, as she gets computers and school supplies in the Chicago Housing Authority's 10th Take Flight College Send-Off on Aug. 4, 2020, at the Charles A. Hayes Center in Chicago. Muuzic, of South Shore, plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Naomi Muuzic, 18, is helped by her father, Doktu Muuzic, as she gets computers and school supplies in the Chicago Housing Authority's 10th Take Flight College Send-Off on Aug. 4, 2020, at the Charles A. Hayes Center in Chicago. Muuzic, of South Shore, plans to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

College freshmen are facing unprecedented adjustments this year due to COVID-19. But for 18-year-old Anicia Miller, who’s lived in public housing all her life, the overjoyed feeling she gets thinking about school still hasn’t subsided, despite plans to stay remote for the upcoming semester.

”I still can’t believe it sometimes,” said Miller, a St. Ignatius College Prep School graduate who plans to enroll at Harvard this fall. “To be able to say that I was able to just go throughout schooling and be involved in so many extracurriculars and, really, just be able to be accepted into Harvard is just amazing because of the prestige and all of the opportunities I’ll have as a student.”

Anicia Miller, 18, and other public housing residents get computers and school supplies at the Chicago Housing Authority college send-off on Aug. 4, 2020. Miller, a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep, plans to attend Harvard University with a major in biomedical engineering.

Anicia Miller, 18, and other public housing residents get computers and school supplies at the Chicago Housing Authority college send-off on Aug. 4, 2020. Miller, a graduate of St. Ignatius College Prep, plans to attend Harvard University with a major in biomedical engineering. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

Miller was one of 150 soon-to-be college students celebrated Tuesday morning in a send-off for Chicago public housing residents. The event marked the 10th rendition of the Chicago Housing Authority and its nonprofit Springboard to Success’ annual celebration, which underwent major adjustments this year because of COVID-19.

Students were given dorm room supplies meant to assist them in school, such as Chromebook laptops, and laundry and toiletry supplies. Families picked up their packages from a distance in a drive-thru celebration.

The event “means a lot to me,” said Miller, who plans to major in biomedical engineering in hopes of creating prosthetic devices for children one day. “That still is great that this organization was able to adapt and ... congratulate the students and give them all the necessary things they need in college despite the circumstances.”

Along with Harvard, the students celebrated at the occasion plan to attend schools including various University of Illinois institutions, Boston University, the University of Alabama and historically Black colleges and universities, said Tracey Scott, the CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority.

Tatiana Ramsey, 18, participates in the CHA college send-off in the parking lot of the Charles A. Hayes Center on Aug. 4, 2020.

Tatiana Ramsey, 18, participates in the CHA college send-off in the parking lot of the Charles A. Hayes Center on Aug. 4, 2020. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

The donations were as “normal as it gets” so students could use them wherever needed, Scott said. It doesn’t matter whether students are attending school online or in a hybrid form this year because “the fact that they’re going to school is normalcy” amid the coronavirus pandemic, she said.

”Going to college is life-changing,” Scott said. “We want to support that, we support families moving towards economic self-sufficiency, and so getting their education is a really critical element of making a change in their life and the lives of their families.”

The annual event started a decade ago as a check-in on students in Chicago public housing who returned home for winter break. In its second year, it was moved to August, said Kristen Hamer, the CHA’s director of corporate and external partnerships, who heads Springboard to Success.

“At that first event, we were so excited for kids heading off to school, but several of them pulled us aside and said, ‘Hey, I’m actually not going unless I can come up with $10,000 by next week,’” Hamer said. “And that’s when we kind of began to pull back the layers of additional services that were needed.”

The CHA then added gifts to the events to help support students, Hamer said. This year, the group raised more than $100,000 through its annual spring fundraiser to buy incoming college freshmen in public housing dorm room supplies. The organization also gave students 223 scholarships of $1,000 each, according to Scott.

The fundraiser allowed the group to afford a laptop for each of the 150 students that Hamer said brought tears from some of the families picking them up Tuesday. The $70-$80 cost is “a meaningful resources to our families and allows their limited budget to stretch a little further,” she said.

Lamaria Creamer, 18, a DuSable High School graduate from the South Side, plans to attend Western Illinois University this fall, and said she was “just so grateful” for the gifts, because her family had been trying to figure out how to get supplies like a computer.

“It was just shocking. I didn’t expect them to give me a computer,” said Creamer, who plans to study criminal justice in hopes of helping a family member who is incarcerated. “And then with the toiletries — I really appreciated that because I don’t know what you need (for college), so this is kind of heads-up of what I need to buy.”

Jaden White, 18, was another South Side student celebrated Tuesday. White, who graduated from Urban Prep High School Bronzeville and plans to attend Beloit College in Wisconsin, said the event was unlike others because people he’d never met were clapping for him and “were so happy for me to see me going off for college.”

“As an African American male, given the things going on in society right now, I’m glad that it’s people that actually want me to succeed and go off to college and do great things,” White said. “It really means a lot, and it motivates me to want to do better and be better as a person.”

Football news:

Barcelona's Interest in Isak Increased after Koeman's appointment. Larsson has a high opinion of the player (Mundo Seportivo)
Manuel Pellegrini: When you play against Real Madrid and var, it's too much
PSV and Porto are Interested in Barcelona midfielder PUC. He doesn't want to leave the club
Puyol about Barcelona: If we want to win the championship, we need to perform very well
Schalke sacked Wagner. The team has not won the Bundesliga since January
Iacini on 3:4 with Inter: Even a draw would be an unfair result, given how many chances Fiorentina created
Ramos Pro 3:2 with Betis: the Referee tried his best and didn't do anything intentionally