Every other Friday, 25 Chicagoland mothers head to the South Austin neighborhood to participate in an initiative that will help support these young women in their academic careers.

The Academic Coaching program is part of New Moms, an nonprofit organization that provides services and coaching for young mothers around housing, job training and family support.

Since 1983, New Moms began working with mothers who are 24 years old or younger. Each year, New Moms partners with more than 300 young women who are looking to improve their lives for themselves and their families.

In January, the three-year pilot program partnered with the City Colleges of Chicago to increase degree attainment.

“We created the Academic Coaching program with the goal of increasing degree attainment for young moms in Chicagoland,” said Stephanie Held who is the marketing and communications coordinatorfor New Moms. “We believe intentional investment in the postsecondary persistence and achievement of young moms will have lasting positive influences on families and communities.”

In Illinois, 22% of all undergraduates are parents, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Single moms in Illinois who graduate with a bachelor’s degree are 67% less likely than high school graduates to live in poverty and 45% less likely with an associate’s degree.

“Additionally, there is an explicit racial equity piece to our goals because women of color are not graduating from college at the same rate as their white peers, much less student parents,” Held said. “An intentional investment like this program will provide a strong return on investment to families and communities leading to more mothers of color graduating from postsecondary schools and working in family-sustaining, living-wage jobs.”

Over the next three years, the Academic Coaching program aims to understand how a peer network can help support young moms enrolled in college and see what kind of impact monthly monetary support has on student parents, according to Held.

Recruitment for participants was done among New Moms, an existing network including mothers who are co-enrolled in the Housing, Job Training and Family Support programs and alumni from those programs, according to Held.

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The application process included having applicants submit a letter of recommendation and a letter of intention reflecting on how the program would help them persist during their college career.

During the program, the 25 moms will receive a $500 monthly stipend while enrolled in the program, according to the City Colleges of Chicago.

“City Colleges of Chicago is dedicated to eliminating barriers and addressing inequities that impact access to higher education for underserved communities,” Juan Salgado, chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago said in a statement. “The new academic coaching program is a powerful example of our shared investment in supporting young parents as they pursue their education.”

Along with biweekly individual and group coaching, the academic coaching program provides transportation and child care support.

Should a mother take longer than three years to finish their degree, they will still be enrolled in the program and continue getting academic support until graduation and beyond.

“Many student parents will start college and never finish,” Held said. “We want to see the city rally around this underserved and growing group and invest in ways in supporting them.”


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