The Gateway Program Welcomes New Scholars

New Gateway Scholars at Daley College
Daley College New Gateway Scholars with Families and Friends

The Gateway Scholar Welcome Events of Spring 2013 are days that I have waited for with great emotion for a long time. As the President of the Gateway Scholars’ Club (GSC) at Richard J. Daley College and a Reinvention implementation team member with the Gateway Program, I can say that these events are why we work with passion the entire semester. It is not just the event that is so important, it is what we can see and feel at the event. I am sure that the new Gateway Scholars and their families and friends that attended the events shared with each other these wonderful experiences. As a student and Gateway Scholar, it is really inspiring to see all the proud and happy faces from the students as they receive recognition certificates for the success in Adult Education courses at the City Colleges of Chicago which allows them to enter this transition program. I could feel the students’ gratitude and the students’ excitement to see their dream of getting a college degree within their reach.

Truman College GSC Welcome Event
Truman College GSC Welcome Event

The Gateway Scholars’ Club helped coordinate the events to welcome the new Gateway Scholars who are transitioning to college from Adult Education. The team at the District Office that is working to ensure their successful transition to college is proud of these students. To become a Gateway Scholar means to dream a bigger dream for yourself than you thought possible. I continue to see that many of our Adult Education students are achieving their dreams and reaching their goals as a result of the Gateway to the City Colleges of Chicago Program. The Gateway Scholars are really interested in participating in college activities and becoming active students on campus. While this program is not for every student, it rewards those who have excelled at their coursework and who have the desire and motivation necessary to be successful. As the Gateway Program continues to grow, I look forward to continuing to welcome an increasing number of Adult Education students making the dream of college a reality.

-Ruth Elizabeth Marquez, Teaching and Learning Task Force

Gateway Scholars Share Special Wishes for Success

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Sometimes someone gives you a gift, something so unbelievably considerate that it takes a few moments to process the depth of the emotion you feel. It is in these rare moments that we experience the true capacity of human generosity and the joy of a being the recipient of such immense thoughtfulness. In this way we are changed a little forever, and more, the gift lives on to inspire and capture the attention of all who encounter it.

This type of experience happened to me a few weeks ago, and as such is usually the case, it was completely unexpected. This semester I have had the fortunate opportunity to teach a Gateway Scholar section of College Success Seminar 101 at Truman College. Every meeting of this class provides special hours to engage a wonderful group of highly motivated students. Having been in the field of Adult Education for many years and working with Gateway Scholars since the inception of the Gateway to the City Colleges of Chicago Program, I have had more than my fair share of incredible experiences, but what happened at Truman on the second Friday of October was nothing short of magical.

As is usual for a College Success Seminar 101 course, I assigned a demonstration speech to the Truman Gateway Scholars at our first meeting. The students could choose the topic of their speech with the goal being to teach the class something as they practiced their public speaking skills. Each student had to decide what talent or skill they would share with their fellow students. My students, Tram Nguyen and Nhi  Nguyen (best friends who share the same last name) made plans to deliver their speech together.

The speech started off standard enough. They shared a Japanese legend of a girl named Hoshi who was disappointed by the falling stars in the night sky. She decided to fold a paper star for each falling star and in doing this would capture the luck of the real star by placing the paper one in a jar. We were then each given a thin strip of colored paper and Tram and Nhi guided us in the folding of star. First, each of us had to write a wish or dream for the future on the white side of the paper strip. Then we started folding the paper slowly into a star shape. Even with excellent instruction, I failed miserably on the first attempt. With the second strip of paper I managed to fold a perfect little star, no more than 1/4″ high. It was so tiny, and with poor eyesight and big fingers, this was a quite an accomplishment.

After everyone in the class was assisted with creating their own star, Tram and Nhi shared the second part of the legend. According to tradition, to have a dream come true and to give the most powerful wish of luck, you must fold 999 stars and place them in a jar. Each star must have a wish and each must be folded with concentration and care. Tram and Nhi opened a little wider the bag on the table in the front of the classroom, and there it was. A glass jar filled near to the brim with colorful miniature stars that Tram, with the help of Nhi, had folded. There were 999 stars in the jar, each carefully folded and carrying a separate wish for a Gateway Scholar and the Gateway Program.

Tram Nguyen and Nhi  Nguyen,  Gateway Scholars, Truman College
Tram Nguyen and Nhi Nguyen, Gateway Scholars, Truman College

Tram and Nhi handed the jar to me. I literally was speechless and totally unable to form the words of gratitude needed in that moment. I have received many precious gifts, selected with great care and thought, but none compares to this. Even now, weeks later, I am still without the ability to truly express my gratitude for this completely thoughtful and selfless gesture. I thought then and do now that the best way to show my thankfulness would be to share the stars.

I took the glass jar of folded stars to the CCC District Office and first shared it with the Gateway Program Implementation Team. We each even attempted to fold our own star. This proved only to show the difficulty and necessary time it would take to fold 999. The jar now sits high on a cabinet and at first glance one would think it was filled with so many colorfully wrapped candies. There is something stronger though about this simple glass jar with its many colored contents that grabs the attention of others,  the way a diamond might in a jewelry store window or a masterpiece on a museum wall. As with these other things, I like to call it magic from within.

Since it was put on display, many  people  have stopped to ask about the jar and to inquire of the contents. Many others just seem to stare at it for a while as they pass by, perhaps a bit shy to ask just what is exactly in the jar. For those who do ask, we share the story of the stars, the students who made them, and the Gateway Program. We have had such a positive response to the sharing of these stars and the story behind them that we decided to write this blog entry. This is how the power of this gift grows beyond the change it has made in my own life to an opportunity to inspire others. For CCC, our students, and ourselves the magic is in the transformation. Like a flat strip of paper changing with each turn of the hand into a star, we are becoming a little better each day.

– Kevin Scavuzzo, Teaching and Learning Task Force

999 Lucky Stars
999 Lucky Star Wishes for Gateway Scholars

Daley College Gateway Scholars’ Club Essay Contest Winner: “Creating a Better Life by Going to College”

The Gateway Scholars’ Club at Daley College sponsored an essay contest with the theme: “Creating a Better Life by Going to College”. Winners were selected by the Club’s Executive Board and received a $50 bookstore gift card and one grand prize winner received a $100 bookstore gift card. The grand prize winner was invited to read her essay at the Gateway Scholars’ Club Shared Success Recognition Dinner on December 5, 2012. Below is the grand prize winning essay:

My name is Karolina Szumal and I was born in Poland. I have four sisters and two brothers. I was born as a middle child. It was a hard place to be born. My older siblings picked on me while I had to take care of my younger siblings. I complained to my parents, but they never did something about that. Still my family is big and we had a lot of fun together. My mother was a housewife, and dad was the one who brought money to the table. The time when I was still in Poland we had a big farm. We had four cows, a few pigs, chickens and a horse. I was going to school and helping my parents with farm work. It was hard work but after a little time I got used to it. My mother was raising us strictly. Since we were little kids she was teaching us hard work and how to take care of ourselves.

I finished high school in Poland and took some of the classes to be a hair stylist. I think no one likes high school. I really liked taking my hair stylist classes and practice in the hair salon. But I had to leave all that life behind me when I was 17 years old. My journey coming to United States started in 2003. In that year my aunt decided that she wanted to help my family. Her exact words were that “We are poor and we need more money and I want to help us”. She was already in the United States and she wanted me and my sister to come to visit. When I heard her plan I did not want to come here. My sister was ok with it she was older than me and not scared at all. But since I was raised that way I did have to do as they pleased. Of course as my life was as it is now too I got a visa and my sister did not.

My drive to the airport was the worst day of my life. I was sad I knew I would lose my friends and family. Saying good bye to my animals was a really hard thing to do. They were my closest friends and my great listeners. The feeling I had was that am losing everyone I know, I love and my whole life. It was like I knew that I am not coming back home ever again, and so far this is true. I would like to say that after this going to college is easy. But I would not be saying the truth. The Gateway Program opened the world of education for me. I am so thankful every day to the people that work so hard to make this program happen. It is changing the lives of the people who enter it. It is the gateway to dreams, possibilities, hopes and goals. I want to give back by holding this gate open for those students who will come after me. I want to say that in a world where we say and hear “no” too much, the Gateway Program is a place you will hear and say “yes”.

– Karolina Szumal, Gateway Scholar, Daley College


Transition Specialists and College Advisors Collaboration: Key to the Success of the Gateway Program

In 2008, I was hired as a part-time Transition Specialist in the Adult Education department at Malcolm X.  At that time, I was one of only two part-time and one full-time Transition Specialists working with Adult Education students at two of the six colleges that offered Adult Education classes.

As a Transition Specialist my responsibilities varied from working with students enrolled in the newly created Bridge, Fast Track and online GED prep classes, identifying and referring students to off-campus resources such as child care, financial assistance and employment; and arranging graduation and homecoming activities, etc. With a total enrollment of 2,930* Adult Education students at Malcolm X, it was impossible to provide even minimal service to the majority of our students.

Fast forward to fall 2012; building on the success of the Truman College Incentive Program, Reinvention has worked with administrators, faculty, and students to pilot and expand the Gateway to the City of Chicago program to all seven colleges and two satellite sites. The Gateway program provides high-level ESL and GED students the opportunity to earn college credits toward the completion of a basic or advanced certificate and/or work toward an associate’s degree at a reduced cost while completing their Adult Education program.

A recommendation of the Adult Education Reinvention Task Force was to increase the number of Transition Specialists district-wide. In addition, their collaboration with College Advisors would be a key part of the college transition goal of the Gateway Program. As of today, there are 11 full-time and 2 part-time Transition Specialists, with at least one College Advisor assigned at each campus to work with the Transition Specialists to foster the transition to college-credit classes.

Transition Specialists are an integral part of the success of the Gateway program and are charged with recruitment and advising. Their primary focus is ensuring that academic and student services are in place to support Gateway students, known as Gateway Scholars. It is important that the Transition Specialists are able to share their success stories, creative ideas and yes, frustrations with one another.

The Transition Specialists and nine of the assigned College Advisors recently came together at the District office to receive program updates and to share best practices. This meeting was the culmination of weekly conference calls that provide the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics, including marketing efforts, current and potential roadblocks, and student successes.

Attendees received updates regarding PeopleSoft, the online application, registration business process and updates to the policy manual. They were also able to share best practices at their individual colleges.

Abdul King, a Transition Specialist at Kennedy-King, shared some of his recruitment tips that included being a self-starter, persistence and to always provide good customer service. Abdul states, “I just want the best for all of the students and I am willing to help them get there if they put the work in.”

Yanet Diaz, an Academic Advisor at Wright has a caseload of more than 600 college credit students, but realizes the importance of advising students in the Gateway program. Yanet shared the following with the group, “Academic Advisors must cater to the needs of Adult Education students as they transition into credit classes because they have different needs from credit students. As an advisor, we must make an extra effort to ensure that they know our names and contact information, schedules and where our offices are located.”

Gateway Scholars are well on their way to securing a quality education and training that can lead to an advanced degree or employment or both. Transition Specialists are now in place to provide the assistance and guidance to help make our students’ dreams of obtaining a certificate or degree a reality.

For additional information on the Gateway program or to contact a Transition Specialist, click on

*October 31, 2008 – ICCB Headcount enrollment includes on-campus, off-campus, and satellite sites.

-Brenda Baker, Student Support and Services Task Force

Gateway Scholars’ Club Welcome Event at Daley College on 10/17/12

The day was gloomy, and the weather was horrible. But that didn’t stop the Gateway Scholars’ Club from hosting an event. It was six o’clock and the event was supposed to take place. No one was showing up and most of the tables were empty. The faces of the coordinators seemed to say that nothing including such a day would ruin their plans for the event. It seemed that the program was going to have a total setback, due to the bad weather. By 6:15 PM people suddenly started to arrive in small groups. Before long the room began to fill.

All of the Gateway Scholars and their guests were invited to eat from the variety of food that was provided by the Gateway Scholars’ Club. After a delicious dinner reception and conversation, the program for the evening began. The ceremony was opened with a welcome speech given by Elizabeth Marquez, the founder and President of the Daley College Gateway Scholars’ Club. She introduced the entire Gateway Scholar’s Club Executive Board. Elizabeth also spoke about her previous experience as a Gateway Scholar and the many benefits that the Gateway Program has given her.

Next it was Mr. Kevin Scavuzzo’s turn, or as we students call him, Mr. Kevin, to deliver the keynote address. Mr. Kevin spoke about the five most important things that he learned from the teachers in his life in and out of school. He shared stories from the first grade through his own college experience and connected these stories to us and our goals. The entire room was silent. Some Gateway Scholars and their family members cried. He offered encouragement to all Gateway Scholars to continue their education and to make their dreams real. Thank you, Mr. Kevin; you are an inspiration to all students.

Then a very special part of the program began. Ms. Janice Mejia, a leader at Reinvention, gave certificates to the Gateway Scholars. After speaking about the Gateway Program and Reinvention, she presented each one of us with our certificate and the opportunity to give a few words of our own and share them with the audience. Thank you, Ms. Mejia for giving us the opportunity to express our thoughts and gratitude. Ms. Mejia closed the event by inviting and encouraging us, as well as the student guests to take advantage of this wonderful program. The room was filled with applause.

At the end of the evening, staff and students took pictures and congratulated one another. There was plenty of food left for everyone and most of us decided to take advantage of that opportunity as well. Despite all the rain that was pouring outside that day, even after the event, nothing could stop the Gateway Scholars’ Club Welcome Event from taking its course. It was a success in every way and we really had a blast! I was excited to learn that in the coming semesters there will be a Gateway Scholars’ Club at all of the colleges with the Gateway Program. The club is an important part of the program because it allows students to share their experiences, connect with other Gateway Scholars, and learn from each other.

-Angel Burgos, Gateway Scholar, Daley College

Gateway Scholars and Mr. Kevin Scavuzzo

Reflections from a Student Task Force Member and New Gateway Scholar Club President

My family and I moved to Chicago six years ago. We moved to a new different world where the culture and the language are completely different. I hardly understood English. Therefore, three years ago, I started to learn English as a second language at Richard J. Daley College. Two semesters ago, I had a wonderful opportunity to continue my education. Thanks to a new Reinvention Initiative, I was able to take college credit courses while completing my English studies in the Adult Education Program. This initiative is called the Gateway to the City Colleges of Chicago Program. The program helps ESL and GED students to transition to college. I could not be thankful enough for such a wonderful opportunity. This program has allowed me to drastically change the way I view myself and education.

​I quickly became passionate about the Gateway Program and wanted to help other students make the decision to continue their education. During my College Success Seminar for Gateway Scholars this summer my instructor, Kevin Scavuzzo, mentioned that the Gateway Program was a Reinvention initiative and students could get involved by becoming Task Force members. This fall semester I became a Task Force member to help develop the program. My first project was to create a student club for Gateway Scholars at Daley College to provide student support current and former Adult Education students that are transitioning to college credit courses.

After completing the application process, the Student Government Association (SGA) officially recognized the Gateway Scholars’ Club (GSC) at Daley College on September 11, 2012. I am honored to serve as the first club president. The GSC’s mission is to provide Gateway Scholars peer support to successfully transition to college programs, graduate with their associates degree, and transfer to 4-year institutions to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree. The club will provide a support system for Scholars to get together and discuss and address the challenges of college transition and find ways to encourage other potential Gateway Scholars. We will host events to inform Adult Education students about the Gateway Program and student support services available at CCC. We hope that by sharing our stories, we can motivate and demonstrate to ourselves and to others that Adult Education students can break the barriers of going to college, and achieve academic success in higher education.

As a Gateway Scholar, and a Reinvention Task Force Member, I want to work to share the necessity of a college education, and the life changing experience that college has to offer. Moving forward with this project, I will be assisting other Gateway Scholars to establish the Gateway Scholars’ Club at their respective colleges across the District. It is our goal to have an active club at each of the 6 colleges offering Adult Education by next fall. The club will allow other Adult Education students like me who are completing their ESL and GED classes to have the support system to go on to college.

-Ruth Elizabeth Marquez, Teaching and Learning Task Force

Wright College Welcomes Gateway Scholars

The Gateway to City Colleges of Chicago Program, a Reinvention Initiative, got its official start at Wright College on Friday, August 27, 2012. Twenty students were welcomed by President Jim Palos, Vice President Cynthia Cordes, Dean of Adult Education Magxima Wageman, Associate Dean of Student Instruction Nancy Koll, Janice Mejia from the Center of Operational Excellence at the District Office, and others.

Gateway Scholars at Wright College Welcome Event

Students enrolled in the Gateway Program are in various phases of their academic careers. Several students are recent GED recipients, with one student receiving her scores just one week before classed started. Others in the class are students from our Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center off-site location that offers GED classes. These students have overcome various struggles to pursue their GEDs and college careers. They will often be carpooling together using the Salvation Army van. Several students are in ESL classes, while the rest are studying for their GEDs.

Gateway Scholars at Wright College Welcome Event

As their first credit class, Gateway Scholars are enrolled in an English 299 (E299), Special Topics in English, course that is being taught by Kathy Calabrese. She has set forth a challenging syllabus. Students will be exploring approaches to writing and reading, while studying from various disciplines. The assignments will connect the students to the college, community, and other resources. Students will earn three college credits upon completion of the class.

Once Gateway Scholars complete E299, they will be able take other credit classes within the City Colleges of Chicago system based on their academic and career interests. During this semester, students will be meeting with a designated college advisor to help them determine their future college credit career.

     – Laura Nitanda, Transition Specialist, Wilbur Wright College

Left to Right: Transition Specialist Laura Nitanda, President Jim Palos, Vice President Cynthia Cordes, E299 Instructor Kathy Calabrese, and Dean of Adult Education Magxima Wageman