Mother-son duo honored for perseverance, dedication in pursuing educational goals

May 15, 2018 02:19 PM

Press contacts:
Office of Communications – Chicago Housing Authority
Molly Sullivan: (312) 786-3344;
Matthew Aguilar: (312) 935-2646;

CHICAGO (May 15, 2018) - Jaegen Ellison remembers the conversation well.

“She was thinking about going back to school,” Jaegen, 25, said of his mother, Louella, 67. “So I talked about Harold Washington College, since I was there at the time. I knew the benefits of what the school was offering. And I encouraged her to act on it.”

So, after 45 years away from school, she did. And today there is not one – but two – Ellison graduates with associate degrees from Harold Washington, thanks to financial help from Chicago Housing Authority.

Jaegen, now pursuing his bachelor’s in acting at UIC, received his in 2015. Louella, soon to be pursuing her bachelor’s in education at the DePaul School of Learning, got hers in 2017.

Both were recognized Tuesday at CHA’s Board of Commissioners meeting for their perseverance and dedication in pursuing and achieving their goals.

They’re just one example of how CHA residents have succeeded in the classroom recently:

  • CHA has awarded over 980 scholarships since 2013, a total investment exceeding $1 million.
  • CHA residents received 2, 417 college degrees in 2016 and ’17.
  • In 2017, CHA’s Partners in Education program that supports residents attending City Colleges with tuition, books and fees, saw 89 students earn Associates degrees – the most ever.
  • And over the past five years, more than 80 percent of students receiving a CHA Scholarship remained enrolled or have graduated.

“When CHA said I could go back to school, I knew that I had to take advantage. It was a real blessing for me that I didn’t have to worry about finances,” said Louella, who lives on a Housing Choice Voucher. “I used to be a teacher’s aide, but after I graduated from high school, I got married and didn’t pursue my college career. I always have liked teaching and being in the educational field. I really felt good meeting with people. After 45 years, I knew it was something I could do. I’m a people person. I fit right in with the students.”

She even fit in with her son.

“It was special because, I’m going down the escalator and he’s going up the escalator, and we’d do a little wave and smile,” Louella said. “It would be nice to see him coming and going.”

Jaegen said: “I’d be going down the escalator and she’d be coming up and we’d say: ‘how are you doing?’ Or sometimes she’d send me a text that she’s getting ready to head out. It was a great experience. She’d even mess with me, saying she was going to follow me to UIC.”

Jaegen became passionate about acting in fifth grade when he performed in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Now, with six roles and five leads under his belt, he is on track graduate from UIC in June 2019. From there, he hopes to land the audition that will send him on his way.

If not, it’ll be back to school to pursue his master’s degree. He’s just as passionate about working with kids and giving back.

“The plan is to stay on my path and go with the flow,” he said.

It pleases Louella to see that her son is pursuing his dream.

“CHA had a lot to do with not having to worry about the finance part,” she said. “They did have a lot to do with encouraging me and my son to continue our education.”

A reminder that the CHA Scholarship application deadline is Wednesday, May 16. Register today on CHA’s homepage

Also today, the CHA Board of Commissioners approved the allocation of project-based vouchers and CHA MTW funds for four developments that will bring a total of 338 units of new or renovated affordable housing to North Side communities.

In the first development, CHA will provide 20-year Housing Payment Assistance (HAP) contracts for 81 units of senior housing at North Park Village Apartments. Developed by Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corp., North Park Village Apartments is a 180-unit building located in the North Park community on the city’s Far Northwest Side. The developer will fully renovate an existing building to provide modern, affordable apartments with amenities for seniors.

In the second development, CHA will provide 30-year HAP contracts for three additional units for a total of 14 CHA supported units at Tierra Linda Apartments and eight additional units for a total of 28 units at Humboldt Park Residences in the Logan Square, Humboldt Park and West Town communities.

Tierra Linda Apartments is a new construction scattered site family housing development with a total of 45 units located across the three communities. The developer, Latin United Housing Association (LUCHA), will deliver a total of 12 buildings with one, two and three-bedroom family units. The buildings are currently under construction and are expected to be completed by the end of 2018. Applicants for these apartments will come from the CHA waiting list.

Also to be developed by LUCHA, Humboldt Park Residences is a 65-unit Single Room Occupancy (SRO) property in Humboldt Park that will be renovated as part of the City of Chicago’s SRO Preservation Initiative. The building will undergo substantial exterior and interior renovations to provide updated apartments for low and very low-income individuals. Amenities include an outdoor green space with flower and vegetable gardens. Four of the units will be fully ADA-accessible and two units will be equipped for the hearing and visually impaired.

Residents at Humboldt Park Residences will have access to LUCHA’s case management and Financial Capabilities program, which works to connect clients to community resources, coordinate services and access to financial literacy training.

The CHA Board of Commissioners had previously approved HAP contracts for other units at both of these developments.

The board also authorized the use of up to $10 million in CHA MTW funds for Oso Apartments to be developed as part of CHA’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. Developed by EREG Development, Oso Apartments, in the Albany Park community, is a five-story new construction building that will bring 48 one and two-bedroom family apartments, of which 32 will be for applicants from the CHA waiting list.

The remainder of the affordable units will be rented to individuals earning up to 80 percent of Area Median Income.