Krystal Roberts is a working mother whose son, Ky’mani, is a junior at The Chicago Academy for the Arts. She said an Invest in Kids scholarship through scholarship granting organization Empower Illinois has allowed him to pursue his passions at his dream school – a chance she never got. Now she’s worried state lawmakers will fail to extend the scholarships past 2023.
“My son’s name is Ky’mani and he’s a junior this year at The Chicago Academy for the Arts in the theater department.”
“My background with [Invest in Kids] started when he entered school. I can’t remember if the first year I was eligible, because we had just moved to Illinois, but I filled out the application numerous times.”
“I can say that without the Empower scholarship, I’m not sure I would have been able to pay for his tuition. I would have had to work a whole lot of other jobs, given the nature of the economy right now. We’re still rebounding from COVID and being off work for so long.”
“I still pay some tuition now but it’s not as much as I would if we didn’t have the Empower scholarship. As a matter of fact, this year we’ve gotten the most help to where we’re paying the least for tuition out of pocket for school in some time and that has been a blessing for us.”
“It’s so important to me that Empower stay in place, so I hope it doesn’t sunset permanently.”
“I remember when I was going into my first year of high school, I wanted to go to The Chicago Academy for the Arts myself. My uncle took me to see this play called ‘For Colored Girls’ and I just fell in love with the school.”
“When I left the school, I was telling my mom, ‘This is where I want to go. This is for me.’ So I auditioned and got into both the music and theater departments. I was ecstatic.”
“Unfortunately, at that time, there was no Empower scholarship. There weren’t a lot of options then so my mom couldn’t afford the tuition.”
“For my son to be able to attend CAA meant the world to me. And it still means the world to me. I’m so grateful for the school. The school really does save kids in a way that they didn’t really even know they needed.”
“If the scholarship goes away, I’ll do what I have to do but it will make it very difficult to stay. My other two children also want to go to CAA or another school with arts programs like it. But without the scholarship, that’s going to make it a lot more difficult, too.”
“This scholarship really has helped my family and specifically my son so much. It has been a tremendous blessing, and it would just be a shame for it to go away.”
“There are already so many other things that kids have to choose between and sometimes, these kids end up at a public high school which isn’t so great. Those kids might need a little bit more but those schools that have a little bit more have tuition costs.”
“It’s unfortunate that these schools aren’t accessible to everybody simply because of tuition. I think every child should be able to access the things that make them the most comfortable, feel most safe, give them purpose and drive their purpose.”
“But since the scholarships help cover tuition and help more kids attend these schools, I think that is the best thing that can be there for them now.”
“I’m lucky because my son is a junior going into his senior year. But if [Invest in Kids] expires, instead of me saving and putting more money away for his college or so he won’t have to work through his first year of college, I’d have to be putting that towards tuition.”
“I’ve been picking up more kind of side hustles throughout his time at CAA even though a lot of the tuition is covered. I drove Über, I drove Lyft, I did DoorDash. I have other part-time jobs, too, and I’m a therapist. I’ve done all of these things and I’m still juggling to maintain the tuition that I do cover. But I have no complaints about that. Every bit of time is worth it for each of my kids.”
“If my other two kids decide to go to the school as well without the scholarship, it would mean a lot more work. It means a lot more stress. It means less ability for him to have a little more support his first year of college and probably means more student loan debt.”
“I’m really hoping that it doesn’t sunset permanently, for my son and other families. I mean, I have a little bit more flexibility to have these side hustles, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for people who can’t.”
“I want people to think about if they were in my shoes. Think about your kid struggling throughout high school or struggling in middle school, trying to find a place to fit in and finding purpose. Think about all the kids who could be able to find their purpose and be able to move into something positive because of this scholarship.”
“The Empower scholarship has done such a great thing for my family and for my son and really opened doors to opportunities that we would have never gotten had we not had that tuition assistance for him to go to a selective school.”
“I would encourage everyone not to be weary and keep trying everything that you can think of within reason, to keep advocating for their kids to find their purpose. This program may seem like something small on the grand scheme of things, but this really does mean the world to us.”
“I wasn’t able to go to the school of my dreams and I can’t imagine how much my life would have been different had there been a tuition assistance program for when my mom was in that situation.”
“My son is having a blast. He’s learning. He’s loving everything he’s doing there, and my younger children want to go there. But that all goes back to being able to afford tuition.”
“Sometimes, there are things you come across in life that you’ll never forget. This scholarship is something that I’ll never forget.”
Social worker, mother of three
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