Evonnie Scott will be the first person in her mom’s family to go to college when she leaves for Lincoln College’s campus in Normal.

“Being able to go away to college means everything to me,” said Scott, 18, who grew up in public housing and graduated from Gage Park High School on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

At college, she’ll pursue a degree in criminal justice with plans to one day become a lawyer. She leaves in a couple weeks and, as of Wednesday, is fully prepared with new school supplies and dorm room essentials.

Scott and more than 150 other public housing and Housing Choice Voucher students were gifted a refurbished laptop and other college necessities on Wednesday at the Chicago Housing Authority’s trunk party. About-to-be college students and their proud parents celebrated their college acceptance with pizza, college-theme photo-ops and a large college giveaway.

“This is a blessing,” she said. “With this and the opportunity to go to school and follow my dreams I’ll be able to make a change.”

Evonnie Scott, who will be the first one in her family to go to college when she leaves from Lincoln College this fall, declares she wants to be a lawyer on the CHA's "Dream Board" during its "Take Flight College Send-Off" celebration Wednesday. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Evonnie Scott, who will be the first one in her family to go to college when she leaves from Lincoln College this month, declares she wants to be a lawyer on the CHA’s “Dream Board” during its “Take Flight College Send-Off” celebration Wednesday. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Tyesha Ballard, who leaves for Southern Illinois University in Carbondale on Aug. 18 to study early childhood education, said she is “so grateful” for CHA’s help in preparing her for college.

Ballard said the CHA connected her with various work experiences throughout high school that allowed her to explore her interests. She got a job at a day care through the CHA’s summer youth employment program that influenced her career goals as a teacher.

“Everything they’ve done means a lot to me because I’m the first one in my family to go away to college,” she said. “I’m setting an example for my younger siblings and cousins to let them know that anything is possible.”

The CHA began hosting its “Take Flight College Send-Off” party six years ago with a class of 40 kids from public housing. Since then, the program has more than tripled in size. This year’s class, the second largest since its beginning, included more than 150 students going to more than 70 colleges across the country.

The program is grant-funded by CNA Insurance Co. through the CHA’s nonprofit affiliate Springboard 2 Success, which provides students with resources and guidance to help with college readiness and affordability.

“We want to help current CHA youth to have other housing options, and the most direct way to impact that is through education,” said Kristen Hamer, director of corporate and external partnerships for CHA. “We want as many of [our students] as possible to not only go to college but to graduate.”

Tyesha Ballard, a graduate of Gage Park High School, placed a pin on a map of Illinois showing that she will attend Southern Illinois University this fall. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Tyesha Ballard, a graduate of Gage Park High School, placed a pin on a map of Illinois showing that she will attend Southern Illinois University this month. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times