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Students from rough areas get second chance at college

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - It is the season of caps and gowns, and thousands of high school graduates don't appear to have the right stuff for college. However, looks can be deceiving if you're only looking at scores and grades.

“It was like, 'no - no homework.' I didn't pay attention in class, I was on my phone texting, anything, anything besides working,” said Tia Peralta.

Peralta recalled being a poor student at Kenwood Academy years ago, having a good time until she ran out of time.

“Oh, my GPA when I graduated was like a 1.9,” said Peralta.

Skye Hendon also graduated with little hope for college

“I never thought anybody would accept me the way that I was acting, and the way that I was doing things, but then Talladega gave me that second chance,” said Hendon.

Talladega College, the oldest historically black college in Alabama, is making a connection with Chicago students who need a second chance.

“And we told them, if you finish your first semester, you have to have a 2.0 GPA to stay. Every single student surpassed the 2.0,” said Hedy Ellison, who runs the Talladega College Tour.

Ellison, a local mother, started the Talladega College Tour three years ago for high school seniors from troubled neighborhoods. She began the program after her own son was robbed and shot in broad daylight.

“Every weekend there were 10 and 15 students being shot and killed, and we just felt like, wait a minute, you know, God saved our child -- who's saving these other children,” Ellison asked.

Low academic performance plaguing students at most of Chicago’s public high schools has city leaders desperate to move the needle, but those doing the work -- like the turnaround team at Wendell Phillips Academy -- say they're looking beyond grades and scores to measure success.

“We’ve gotten away from just [that], to get every student into college,” said Devon Horton, principal of Phillips Academy. “We want you to be able to return, retain and stay in college, and finish the degree in four to five years.”

Tim Knowles of the University of Chicago and the Urban Education Institute had input on the situation as well.

“The best social science research coming out of here, and other places, will tell you that what really matters is educational attainment,” said Knowles. ”Do they go to college, and do they persist when they get there. Without those measures, we're missing fundamentally the most important thing.”

Three hundred Chicago high school graduates, who other colleges wouldn't take a chance on, have now migrated south to Talladega.

They can only stay as long as they succeed, and only a dozen or so have fallen off.

Plus, many are achieving beyond their wildest dreams.

“When I became a college student, I really got my act together and now I’m doing an honor student's work,” said Hendon.

“You are not a number that's on a paper. You are an individual. And you are not the neighborhood that you live in,” added Ellison.

Let’s face it, after you do well in college, no one asks about your high school GPA or ACT score. It truly is a second chance at success, and you can help give students a fresh start with the world's largest trunk party next month.

Make a donation to send these students off to college with all the necessities and their heads held high -- Go HERE.

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