2021: 1s to Know


Every day, our students break down barriers to achieve their dreams—and the last 360+ days have been no different. In 2021, we witnessed our students’ successes, whether they gained skills to operate their own restaurants (at age 18!), graduated at the same time as their three children, or overcame hardship to complete their college degrees.

As we reflect on the last year, so many stories of resilience, fortitude, and self-determination come to mind. Below, read a handful of those stories—our ‘1s to know’ from 2021:

Meet Alisa Perry Johnson of Daley College:

This year, Alisa Perry Johnson earned her associate degree from Daley College within just weeks of her three children graduating from college, high school, and elementary school. The family’s unique graduation story was featured by Good Morning America.

Meet Jonathan Macedo of Harold Washington College:

This year, Jonathan Macedo graduated from high school with nearly a semester’s worth of college credits from Early College business classes at Harold Washington College. The 18-year-old is now using those credits to save time and money at DePaul University—and is putting the knowledge and skills he gained to work as the owner of his family’s restaurant.

Meet Monique Harvey of Kennedy-King College:

This year, Kennedy-King College alumna Monique Harvey earned her Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College Chicago debt-free. The Star Scholar overcame obstacles including homelessness to achieve her college dreams.

Meet Ernest Billinger of Malcolm X College:

This year, Ernest Billinger graduated as the salutatorian of Malcolm X College. With his degree, he went on to secure a nursing job at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, where he’s working to break down walls of hesitation for his patients as a Black male nurse.

Meet Angelique Nieves of Olive-Harvey College:

This year, Angelique Nieves scored a meaningful career at Cresco Labs, a national cannabis company, after completing the 16-week Cannabis Dispensary Operations program at Olive-Harvey College. She was able to earn her basic certificate at no cost through OHC’s Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) grant.  

Meet Imran Mohammad Fazal Hoque of Truman College:

This year, Imran Mohammad Fazal Hoque, a Rohingya refugee, Truman College student, and City Colleges’ Student Trustee, was selected to be a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center. Imran drafted six inspiring essays about the challenges faced by Rohingya migrants in the United States as part of his project.

Meet Amir Noormohammad of Wright College:

This year, Wright College alumnus Amir Noormohammad earned the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which helped him transfer to the University of Illinois’ Grainger College of Engineering. Combined with the Star Scholarship he utilized at City Colleges, Amir’s entire Bachelor’s degree journey will be tuition-free. His story was featured in PBS’ three-part ‘Future of Work’ series.