Courtney Washington, a third-year student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is a student leader dedicated to increasing access to high-quality educational opportunities for low-income and underrepresented minority students in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Over the past three years, she has worked with CPS in various capacities to help expand opportunities for students in underserved schools. She was involved in the creation of the CPS Undocumented Champion Resource Guide, a guide distributed to counselors throughout the district and inspiration for a training dedicated to training staff to respond to the needs of their undocumented students. She has continued this work as a board member of the Chicago Law and Education Foundation, an organization that provides free legal services to Chicago’s underserved communities. On campus, Courtney serves as a member of the Leadership Council for Peer Health Exchange, a student organization that teaches skills-based health education to first-year CPS students. She is also the co-chapter head at UIC and National Education Policy Coordinator for the Roosevelt Network at UIC, where she trains and supports emerging policy leaders and advocates to develop their own student-led policy campaigns.
As an intern with the Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising, I had the opportunity to work with some of Chicago Public Schools’ designated special populations, including Black and Latinx males and undocumented students. Because I am committed to creating opportunities for underserved students, and as an alumna of CPS, I saw my role as essential to building stronger pipelines that ensure CPS students’ postsecondary success. One of the most valuable experiences of my internship was our work with undocumented students, in particular, the creation of the CPS Undocumented Student Resource Guide. Through research, collaboration with local organizations, and the compiling of resources, I co-created a document for counselors throughout the district that helped respond to the gap of knowledge concerning immigrant and undocumented students. I was grateful for this experience because of my direct impact on enabling greater access and agency for the under-resourced population of undocumented students. Not only was I able to offer my knowledge and assistance to this living document, but also I increased my awareness of the needs of underserved students, which will fuel my goal to expand opportunities for minoritized students in urban areas.