Spotlight On: Waukegan to College


Waukegan to College

Navigating the path to college can be daunting for all high school students and their families, but it can be especially arduous for low-income and first-generation students. Waukegan to College, a local non-profit operating out of the Christ Episcopal Church in Waukegan, is removing barriers and helping these students successfully find their way to college.

Waukegan to College was founded because of community concerns that the public education system was not adequately preparing students for or guiding them toward a four-year college degree. So, in 2009, W2C began working on its mission to create brighter futures for Waukegan students, families and the community by helping students prepare to enroll in and graduate from college.

Waukegan to College has had many successes. It has grown from 25 to more than 156 students participating in its program, and its students are outpacing their peers, with a 90 percent college-readiness rate compared to 18 percent within the school district. Since 2010, all W2C’s high school seniors have matriculated to college. Now in its 10th year, Waukegan to College is looking to multiply those successes by the Power of Ten to serve significantly more students and families.
One of the ways Waukegan to College plans to achieve its Power of Ten goal is through its new Parents Educating Parents network, where trained parent mentors lead workshops designed to teach other parents about the college-readiness process based on the age of their children. Parents Educating Parents is a four-part plan that details a road map to college from elementary to high school. The workshops are: Early Age Success for parents of elementary-aged students; High School Options and Transition for middle-school parents; Four-Year Plan for parents of eighth graders and high school students; and Going to College for junior and senior families. W2C offers these workshops at the Waukegan Public Library, local churches, soccer clubs and other community organizations in order to reach more students and families than it currently serves.

In addition to the workshops, Waukegan to College continues to offer its core services such as subject-specific tutoring on Saturdays; math and reading enrichment; whole family academic and guidance counseling; summer enrichment; parent leadership; peer mentoring; monthly mentoring o the college selection and scholarship application process; and graduatio coaches.

Waukegan to College is tearing down academic and information barriers to college entry for its students and families. College is now an attainable option for an increasing number of Waukegan youth who desire to be on their way to first-generation success. W2C hopes to build upon this momentum and extend its outreach by the Power of Ten to help hundreds, if not thousands, of Waukegan students reach their potential.

Waukegan to College Success Story:

W2C has greatly impacted the lives of three generations of the Gaytan family. “My husband and I gave up everything—our home, our business, our friends and relatives—to bring our family to the United States. This ultimate sacrifice was for one reason and one reason only: so that my children and grandchildren could get the best possible education,” said Aurora Gaytan.

Her daughter, Liliana, states that she truly represents W2C’s commitment to the whole family. “They have helped my sister Maria reach her senioryear at Georgetown University. They have prepared and supported my son Carlos as he begins his sophomore year at Knox College. And my daughter is getting the help she needs to apply to colleges. I’m confident that next year, she too will be on a college campus. But, as a daughter, sister, an mother, W2C’s direct impact on me is perhaps the most unexpected benefit of their program. W2C has invested in my personal growth and development. I am a proud member of the Board of Directors. My writing and speaking skills have improved exponentially, and I am now proudly taking college courses.”

W2C By the Numbers: 

W2C has grown from 25 to more than 156  students participating in its program since it
was founded in 2009
In 2018, 13 W2C students earned undergraduate degrees
45  W2C students have graduated from college since 2009 70% of W2C high schooland middle school students
are on the honor
or high honor roll
Since 2010, all
W2C students have graduated from
high school and matriculated to college
110 active volunteers help W2C students succeed

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