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Back to Our Future First Graduation


Thursday, December 21, 2023

When the COVID pandemic hit, many Chicago Public Schools students stopped attending classes. Staff members did the hard work to track them down and bring them back.

Some of those students earned their high school diplomas Thursday. It was a proud day for Antoniah Starks as she crossed the stage. Graduating high school was the last thing on her mind when she dropped out a couple of years ago, shortly after her sister and close friend were killed in separate shooting incidents. School administrators convinced her to come back and get her diploma. “I really wanna be somebody,” Starks said.

CPS started the program after losing track of a number of students who left school during the pandemic. Convincing them to come back was not easy. “We are relentless,” said Breakthrough Executive Director Yolanda Fields. “Because you say no once does not mean we won’t continue to ask.”

The students named the program “Back to Our Future’.

Alonte Wilson looks forward to the future as a high school graduate. He dropped out after being shot and injured twice and losing several people close to him. “Actually I feel it saved him,” Alonte’s mother, Tequila Wilson, said. “I’m so proud of him.” He now hopes to become an architect. “It was something I needed,” Alonte said. “It was something I was missing that was supposed to be a part of my life.”

CPS began the program about a year ago. While this year was the first graduating class with only about 18 students, there are another 525 students in program.

“That’s why a program like ‘Back to Our Future’ is so important to us,” CPS Chief of Safety and Security Jadine Chou said. “Because it reaches out and says to all of the children, ‘We care about you and want you with us.'”

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See the full original release.