is a College Degree for Every Student
We are a non-selective program, working with students from low-income households, guiding them through their college years to graduation
With all the other challenges young people face in low-income neighborhoods, it’s easy for higher education to feel out of reach. In fact, nationwide less than 15% of students from low-income households graduate from college.
Learn more about UtmostU here »
“Our belief in every student’s success is at the core of our values. The comprehensive support provided by UtmostU is a game changer. Over 65% of our college students are on track to graduate—we are beating the odds by more than four times the national average!”
Director of College Success
College admission is no guarantee of success—less than half of low-income students admitted to universities make it to graduation day. College can be an overwhelming experience, especially for first generation college students with no family experience to draw upon. While many excellent college prep schools and organizations exist to help young people get into college, what is lacking is a comprehensive and non-selective program to guide students through these challenging and formative years.
That’s where we come in. A college degree is the goal for every student at UtmostU. We know how ambitious that is, but our comprehensive approach and dedicated staff help make it a reality with the majority of our students on track to graduate.
We are a non-selective program, working with students from low-income households, many of whom will be the first generation in their family to go to college. Working with a high school partner focused on rigorous college preparation, we help manage students’ transition from college acceptance to matriculation, guiding them on their journey to graduation.
By giving each college bound student a smartphone and mobile plan, we ensure they have access to the internet and critical resources such as campus portals and classroom apps. The technology we provide also allows them to keep in touch with their support networks of family, friends and UtmostU staff. Personal UtmostU alumni coordinators keep in close contact with our students from high school throughout college, make regular visits to check in and ensure they are doing well and on track for graduation. We also meticulously track data on our students’ progress and challenges, both academic and non-academic, to help them individually as well as incorporate our learnings to improve support for future classes.
“UtmostU has taught me what to expect in college. College isn’t going to be like high school: there’s going to be all new people and new experiences, and they’ve given me the exposure to succeed.”
Stanford University Class of 2019
Supporting the College Journey
We believe that the more people invest in the wellbeing and success of our UtmostU students, the greater their chance is to graduate college.
“UtmostU is exceptional because they’re invested in their students. They care about their success beyond a high school diploma.”
Chicago Regional Representative,
That starts with our own team of alumni coordinators who work with all the college bound students at our partner high school. Each student is matched with their own alumni coordinator who will work with them for the next four years, regularly checking in with them, arranging on-campus visits, and making themselves available day and night to answer questions and address any issues that surface. Our coordinators go above and beyond to help our students and build lasting bonds with them over the course of their college journey.
UtmostU’s unique smartphone program makes all of this possible. By providing each student with a free smartphone and mobile plan, UtmostU ensures they have access to the internet and the critical student resources they need to succeed. It also enables the students to connect with their alumni coordinator and maintain their support network of family and friends as they go off to live on their own in new surroundings. Communication is critical as our students embark on this new journey and these phones become a critical lifeline for both students and alumni coordinators.
UtmostU also builds lasting partnerships with college faculty, administration and on campus groups to extend our support capabilities and ensure students are surrounded by people who have their best interest at heart. With these partnerships in place, we help students know where to go and who to speak to on campus when they need help.
Finally, we encourage our students to assist and support each other. Many of our older students serve in our Peer Mentoring Program to help incoming UtmostU students at their schools, sharing their experience and advice. These students meet with their mentees regularly throughout the semester, helping them get settled on-campus, improve their studying habits and manage whatever challenges they face in or out of the classroom.
No matter where students’ post-secondary path leads them, UtmostU is there to offer support. Our goal is to ensure that throughout the ups and downs our students will experience as they go off to college, there will always be a supportive community of people invested in their success who they can talk to and ask for help.
Our students are studying at universities across the country. They are amazing individuals and we couldn’t be more proud of their accomplishments. Read more about some of our students below:
Taniesha is studying English Creative Writing and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is a recipient of the First Wave Hip Hop and Urban Arts Scholarship, and after graduation Spring of 2016, she plans to find work in the legal profession while applying to law school to pursue a career in environmental law.
See video of Taniesha’s poem here »
Read Taniesha’s full speech »
“I AM evidence that UtmostU is truly redefining possible. UtmostU is that hand that manually reaches in to unpack the presumption that Chicago’s youth can’t be successful. The UtmostU team believes we can reach our potential, so they provide us with tools and support to empower us to achieve. They come to visit us on our college campuses, no matter the distance, no matter the season, no matter the cause, no matter the excuse; they find a way to continually remind us, we are not alone.”
Arnesia attends Boston College where she is studying Political Science and Government and is a McNair Scholar. Arnesia is interested in politics and public policy and has served as an assistant for both Chicago Alderman Leslie Hairston as well as for the Boston College Vice President of Mission and Ministry. She is considering a future career in either law or religious ministry after she graduates the Spring of 2016.
Read Arnesia’s Article “How I Became the First Person in My Family to Go to College”»
“There were moments when I was at BC where it got really tough for me, so one of my advisors from UtmostU came down to visit me. She motivated me and gave me the confidence I didn’t see in myself. Sometimes that’s what students need—not just all the academics but they need people to care.”
Our students attend some of the best colleges and universities in the country.
If you’re interested in learning more about UtmostU, please contact the Gary Comer Youth Center.