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$1.2M awarded to continue helping Transform Lake County with free tuition

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Nov 18, 2020

More Lake County residents will have the opportunity to better their lives through a free college education thanks to a renewed grant received by College of Lake County (CLC). The college was first awarded the Workforce Equity Initiative (WEI) Grant in Oct. 2019 by the Illinois Community College Board, and used it to create the Transform Lake County full-tuition scholarship. This new injection of $1.2 million will allow eligible students to earn a certificate in one of five programs:Photo of Jose Garcia 

State Rep. Rita Mayfield, who represents District 60 and is a member of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, helped to make this program possible by working with other state legislators to secure funding for the WEI.  

Students who received the first round of scholarships recently completed their programs and are starting to find jobs. Jose Garcia (above) is one of the inaugural recipients. 

“I want to show my daughter I can finish college to set an example for her,” said Garcia. 

It’s a strong sentiment any parent can relate to and one found at the core of CLC’s mission to advance the communities it serves. The scholarships link to a handful of CLC’s short-term certificate or vocational programs such as the one Garcia enrolled in: automotive collision repair. 

Photo of Jose Garcia and instructor“It was fun and hands-on, said Garcia. “The opportunity helped me develop the skills and experience to become more confident in myself and auto repair.” 

Working in the automotive field is a dream Garcia always wanted to pursue.

Photo: Garcia and instructor diagnosis a vehicle malfunction in class

“Ever since I was small, I've been into cars,” recalled Garcia. “I was about two or three when I took my aunt’s car keys. Luckily we had another car behind that car when I turned it on.”  

While he had taken some auto repair classes in the past, he was unable to finish. Prior to receiving the scholarship, he was working intermittently as a painter trying to keep bills paid and food on the table. 

“I don’t think I could have done it without the scholarship,” said Garcia. “I didn’t have the support or funds to continue with the pandemic and not being able to work.” 

Grant coordinator, Marissa Greathouse, knows firsthand how great the need is for scholarships like this. “We’ve on-boarded students who were literally homeless. We’ve on-boarded students who were struggling single parents. We’ve on-boarded even some DACA recipients as well and with those students it’s extremely hard to secure financial aid or just be able to afford to attend school even with financial aid.” 

Approximately 1,800 individuals applied for the first Transform Lake County scholarship. Grant funding provided 182 students with all tuition and fees, course materials, textbooks, industry exam fees and even some living expenses. The second round of funding will provide the same opportunity to 82 county residents. 

“It was a great response from the community and we have a lot of people asking for more scholarships,” said Greathouse. 

Under the grant requirements, most of the recipients must be African American and from underrepresented populations. Additionally, the grant stipulates recipients will successfully complete their program of study and either be employed in a full-time job paying at least $17.34 per hour (30 percent above the regional living wage) or be registered for continued training or education by October 2021. The first round of funding had similar requirements, and for Garcia that meant continuing into the apprenticeship program. However, he’s not stopping there.Photo of Jose Garcia

“The program brought me hope for my future,” said Garcia. “The program has inspired me to continue studying at the College of Lake County and complete my associate degree. As a first-generation college student, earning my degree means a lot to my family.” 



About College of Lake County: 

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. The College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.