Empowering Communities

Students Learning Skills, Building Confidence for Future

March 6, 2018

The networking skills Rachel builds today in the Exelon-ComEd Stay in School Initiative will serve her well in college and her future career in finance, says the 17-year-old senior at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School on Chicago’s southwest side.

Rachel is one of 72 students in the 2018 Stay in School Initiative, a partnership among ComEd, its parent company Exelon, and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. The organizations have been collaborating since 2005 to help Chicago-area students improve their grades, build leadership and social skills, and stay on track to graduate high school.

The United Way of Metropolitan Chicago selects six partner organizations to offer wrap-around services for students and families; currently the Stay in School Initiative serves students 11 to 18 years old in the Chicago neighborhoods of Garfield Park, North Lawndale, Grand Crossing and Chinatown, as well as the suburbs of Evanston and Cicero.

In addition, the Stay in School Initiative hosts eight mentoring workshops across the city to introduce a chosen group of high school students in the corporate culture, provide an understanding of business basics and prepare them for 14 paid summer internships at Exelon, ComEd, energy products and services provider Constellation, the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and the six community partners.

Employee mentors from Exelon and ComEd teach students how to write a resume, give oral presentations, interview for a job, collaborate in a team and successfully network.

Gus,16, says his mentor helps him set goals that will help guide his journey from high school to college to major in information technology.

“This program helps me learn new things outside of the classroom that I will be able to use in my career,” says Gus, a junior at J. Sterling Morton High School in Cicero.

“The students are learning the skills they will need to be successful in the work world,” says Justine Jentes, the community engagement manager at Exelon. “They also have a great opportunity to meet their peers from all over the city, because some of these students rarely leave their neighborhoods.”

The Stay in School Program brings resources to communities experiencing some of the highest dropout rates in Chicago by providing a yearly $345,000 grant to the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago to share with the six community program partners.

Since its inception, the Stay in School Program has served more than 27,000 students. During the 2016-17 school year, 92 percent of students ages 11 and older who participated in the program were on track to graduate, with 95 percent of participating seniors eligible to graduate high school.