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Teen Connection at Gads Hill helps teens prep for college

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Gads Hill began 115 years ago as one of Chicago's original settlement houses that helped immigrant families.

Gads is the home of Teen Connection, an afterschool program that focuses on teaching STEM skills -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Program director Bryan Stokes says the programs aim to set students on a brighter course.

"It's really designed to take students who have the potential and the desire to attend a high-quality college and gives them the preparation over the course of four years to make sure they can get there," Stokes said.

The interactive lessons help them build skills and self-confidence. Maria Josemorales is planning to study architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the fall.

"I didn't know that I was interested in architecture until I came here and started looking into schools," Josemorales said. "I'm a student that didn't feel comfortable asking teachers for help as I got to know the mentors, I felt more comfortable asking for help."

"In all the communities that we serve, we serve populations of low-income families. We're serving a lot of families whose parents may have low-literacy levels, low educational achievement, so we really see ourselves as breaking the cycle of poverty," Stokes said.

Antonio Venancio and his two brothers are also enrolled in the program. He says Teen Connection is helping them to become the first in their family to attend college.

"Not many of us went to college, but they want us to go to be the first ones to go to college and I actually want to make my parents proud," Venancio said.

Over the past 11 years, Teen Connection has sent about 100 students to college. Gads Hill will be celebrating its 115th year anniversary this evening with a grand gala. Find out how to attend the gala, or donate at GadsHillCenter.org

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