Dear ILEA Partners,
I am excited to bring you greetings on behalf of your PCC Family. My name is Kim Everett (she/her/hers), and I have the honor of serving as PCC’s second Managing Director. I joined the team in November 2021 and I continue to be inspired and impressed by your unwavering commitment to taking bold action on your campuses in the pursuit of equitable outcomes for first-generation students, students from low-income households, and students of color, particularly Black and Latinx students. Before joining the Partnership for College Completion, I contemplated many of the questions you are grappling with as a student affairs administrator working in multicultural student services. I see you, and I know that the task you have taken on is daunting, but now is the time to roll up our sleeves and act strategically to eliminate the completion disparities and provide pathways to a more promising future for generations of Illinoisans to come.
In the US, February is designated as a time when we honor the lives, legacies, and contributions of Black people and Black communities. Black History Month began as Negro History Week in 1926 to interject the accurate narratives of Black America into the country’s consciousness. Black History Month was officially recognized in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. As we turn the page on the calendar to March, here at PCC, we know that there remains much to contemplate regarding the state of Black people in this country and Black students in Illinois—and so we keep this contemplation alive year-round.
The pursuit of racial equity and socio-economic mobility through higher education has long been a path to a brighter future for Illinois’ Black communities. Past and present, Black college students have been at the heart of many social movements in this country from the civil rights movement to anti-war protests, to the call to divest from the oppressive regime of apartheid in South Africa, to the struggle for reproductive justice, to LGBTQIA+ liberation to Black Lives Matter, and beyond.
Contemporarily, Illinois Black students continue to take their place on campus and raise their voices to seize the attention of college leaders demanding better resources for safe spaces in the form of ethnic studies and cultural centers as well as increased racial representation in the curriculum, faculty, and staff. Off-campus, they joined other movements and seized the attention of the world when they took to the streets and demanded that their very existence be honored and refused to continue to allow the nation to remain desensitized as Black folks were being killed in the street and even in their own homes. This refusal to be complacent with the status quo is a wake-up call to us all and in every space and place. At PCC, we share this value and work to ensure that our state leaders will not be desensitized to the state of disinvestment in our Black students.
While Black students invest time and energy in pursuit of social justice on and off-campus, our state leaders have not invested in ensuring that they have the resources to continue their post-secondary education to completion. As a result, Black students, in particular, have been effectively priced out of Illinois’ public universities. But there is some reason for hope. As we witness our country begin to recognize the sanctity of Black lives with rightful convictions in the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, closer to home we also celebrate the prospect of an historic investment that will support Black futures. We are hopeful that our state leaders will approve Governor Pritzker’s proposed budget that includes an additional $122 million investment in the Monetary Award Program. There is a light on the horizon, but we have to remain steadfast in our commitment.
We must continue to raise our voices to realize this important step toward our vision of a state where equitable opportunities to access and complete a college education lead to greater degree attainment, racial equity, and socioeconomic mobility for Illinoisans.
With that, I’m pleased to share that the Partnership for College Completion and Young Invincibles are organizing our second annual (and first virtual) Advocacy Day for Higher Education.
The virtual Advocacy Day is scheduled for March 9 and will kick off with a rally from 10-11 am, followed by individual legislator meetings for those who are interested. The rally will be a time to convene with other advocates and celebrate our accomplishments while motivating our advocacy journey ahead. The one-on-one legislator meetings that follow will be an opportunity to speak directly to decision-makers about what students need to create more equity-centered policies on Illinois campuses. If you work with students, these meetings will be a great opportunity for students to raise their voices. You can start inviting students and colleagues now via this registration link.
We must capitalize on the momentum that has been built and keep the attention of state policymakers focused on being more sensitive to the potential impacts of this opportunity to reinvest in Illinois students, especially Black students. By showing your face and telling your story at Advocacy Day, your activism can lead to increased MAP funding and equity-centered policies that put students first and support them staying on track to complete their degree.
We would love for you to join us next week as we raise our voices to transform Illinois higher education!
Kim Everett, Ph.D.