EPIC Academy, a public, open-enrollment charter high school, serving African-American and Latino students in marginalized communities in South Chicago, hosted their annual Decision Day celebration at Chicago’s South Shore Cultural Center on June 16, 2021. Approximately 100 students, families and staff were in attendance. This year Epic Academy seniors who have endured school 100% virtually, received at total of $3.7 million in college scholarships.
“We are so proud of our Epic graduates. These students have overcome countless obstacles over the past four years, including a global pandemic and yet, have graduated and earned college scholarships,” said LeeAndra Khan, Epic Academy Executive Director.
EPIC High School Senior, Sabine Ramirez is an 18 years old graduate who beat the odds. Sabine helped support her family financially before losing her job during COCID while attending high school in Chicago’s marginalized neighborhoods. Sabine lives with 10 family members and had to take care of her siblings, hold down a job and help clean the house – while enduring 100 percent virtual learning. Despite these challenges, Sabine was Epic Academy’s Valedictorian and have received more than $700,000 in institutional and external college scholarships. Sabine will be attending Purdue University and majoring in Mechanical Engineering in Fall. She has a passion in STEM.
The annual event is a time for seniors to celebrate graduation and announce their colleges of choice and career pathways. Students received certificates of recognition and college shirts. Each student shared with the group a personal reflection and inspirational words to their peers. Food was served, and students were able to connect with staff and peers that they have not seen all year. 90% of student participants had parents or guardians accompany them.
Epic Leadership honored 49 students on Decision Day 2021. Colleges declared include; Alcorn State, Clark Atlanta, Columbia University, DePaul, Eastern Illinois University, Georgia State University, Truman College, Illinois State University, Loyola, Malcolm X, North Carolina A&T, North Park, Northern Illinois, Purdue, St. Xavier, Southern Illinois, Stenson, UIC, and Western Illinois.
Epic is located in the South Chicago community, one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, has a 20% unemployment rate and a childhood poverty rate that is 86% higher than all other U.S. neighborhoods. Epic Academy serves one of the most challenging student demographics in Chicago: 96% free/reduced lunch, 23% of students with diverse learning needs, and 15% English Language Learners.