Higher Ed 101 for Bronzeville Parents

By Marcia Faye
Deborah Young
Photo: Scott Benbrook

Even parents with the best intentions who dream of sending their daughter or son to college may be naive when it comes to understanding how the admission process works or what resources are available to finance their child’s education. Deborah Young, director of new enrollment partnerships in the IIT Office of Student Access, Success, and Diversity Initiatives, says that growing up she was one of seven siblings and “found her way” to college on her own. Spurred on by that memory as well as discussions she had with staff from the Chicago Housing Authority and the Bronzeville Community Action Council, Young established Parent University.

“We weren’t aware of an offering like this for parents in Chicago,” says Young, who is focusing her initial efforts on the Bronzeville and greater South Side communities. “After attending Parent University, parents will be equipped with the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to assist and support their children in achieving academic success.”

The inaugural Parent U was held on March 28 at IIT with presentations by various internal and external organizations, including the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and the IIT Office of Undergraduate Admission. The presentation on the IIT Computer Discovery Camp for Middle School Girls already proved to be valuable to Parent U participant Sally Wall. Her granddaughter, Cassidy, was accepted into the camp being held on Main Campus this summer

“The information that I received at Parent University was very inspiring. I learned how to navigate between the different programs and how to apply for financial aid. I also found out about the summer camp at IIT,” says Wall. “When Cassidy found out that it was a technology camp she told me, ‘Grandma, I’m going to love that!’”

Young introduced a new dimension to Parent U, to be held four times a year, at the June 20 session. Parents were welcome to bring along young children to participate in Kids’ Corner, where graduate students introduced the kids to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) concepts via fun activities using LEGOs, robotics, and more. With children of various ages benefiting from Parent U, Young hopes to bring the program full circle by one day providing parents with their own opportunity to complete a college education that they may have put on hold, perhaps to raise a family.