60 Minutes recently ran a story concerning an inner-city Chicago high school known as Johnson College Prep, and the miracle that befell them.
For students of Johnson College Prep, the school has become a “sanctuary,” in the words of Principal Jonas Cleaves. It’s an escape from the gun violence that plagues the streets and provides them with some sense of a permanent home, which one-third of the student body lacks.
Everyone that attends Johnson College Prep has ambitions and works to great lengths to have a shot at going to university. However, not everyone can afford it.
The lengths students go in order to make college accessible show the levels of ambition they’re running with. Some work the night shift until 6 A.M. and immediately attend school afterward. Others are wrapped up in every school program they can get their hands on, hoping to cut down on the cost through scholarships.
Still, many students struggle for a proper education. Beyond not being able to afford college, the number one cause of death among children under the age of 18 in Chicago is gun violence. And the principal has made it clear that he worries when students aren’t under his roof.
“Right now, at least 40% of our senior class have identified either themselves or a very close relative being impacted by gun violence. Like, imagine the trauma associated with that,” Cleaves told 60 Minutes. He continued: “It’s a struggle. You know, when we go on, you know, Thanksgiving breaks or any holiday break. We get those calls when there’s a student who has been shot or assaulted. We receive those calls from parents and students who need support financially with a major bill.”
While Johnson College Prep does everything in its power to ensure the best for students, it was in desperate need of a miracle. And Peter Kadens provided them with just that.
As a serial entrepreneur and dedicated philanthropist, Kadens became a millionaire through a number of businesses, including a company that touts itself as one of the largest marijuana growers in the country. However, this wealth he’s accumulated has only made him feel guilty about his position in life.
“I’m a guy who got really lucky in life. I’m a guy who won a lotta lotteries: the birth lottery, the zip code lottery, the education lottery,” he told 60 Minutes. “And when I think about having won all those lotteries and all the people who are suffering, it’s my chance to give them those same opportunities. That’s who I am.”
And this is exactly what he did for Johnson College Prep. In an assembly, he announced the following: “You are going to walk out of here forever changed today and that is because if you are a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, at Johnson College Prep, your college tuition, your room and board, your books and fees will be paid for. You will go to college for free!”
He furthered this miracle by also announcing he would send one parent or guardian of each student to college as well. A blessing for many who’ve had to put their dreams aside in order to raise families under difficult circumstances.
Furthermore, Johnson College Prep isn’t the only school Kadens is providing this support for. That same week, he made the same announcement at 4 other schools. He plans to send 30,000 individuals to college over the course of the next decade. “That makes this the largest scholarship program in the country,” he told 60 Minutes.
Kadens charity, known as Hope Chicago, is headed by former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Janice Jackson. As she claims, “The idea of parents and students going back to school together, I think that can be powerful and motivating in ways that we haven’t even thought about.”
She furthered her statement with 60 Minutes: “I expect them to get better jobs, that they’re going to be in a position to take care of their families. I was talking to one parent who told me she had two jobs. That is a barrier. So, I think when you strengthen the family, you strengthen whole communities. And ultimately, we’re going to make our country stronger.”