Through Hope Chicago, an organization founded by philanthropist Pete Kadens, many Chicago teens have received debt-free college scholarships.

On top of fully covering the students’ tuition and fees, the nonprofit also gives one of each student’s parents or guardians the chance to attend college, ultimately impacting over 4,000 Chicagoans.

The initiative was unveiled earlier this year, and it involves students and parents associated with five Chicago-area high schools: Benito Juárez Community Academy, Morgan Park High School, Al Raby School for Community and Environment, Noble Johnson College Prep and Farragut Career Academy.

“The cost of college is out of control and puts postsecondary education out of reach for low-income and first-generation students, many of whom are saddled with debilitating debt whether they earn a degree or not. We’re here to change things,” reads the nonprofit’s website.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Hope Chicago (@hopechicagoedu)

While sending 4,000 people to college for free is definitely a major move, Hope Chicago is nowhere near finished.

The nonprofit’s website states that the goal is to get 30,000 Chicago students and parents to college and vocational programs over the next decade. Additionally, founder Pete Kadens further spoke on the inspiration behind the initiative during an interview with TMZ.

“I created my wealth in the cannabis industry — an industry built by Black and Brown people who grew and dispensed cannabis in basements and garages and they were catalyzed into poverty and the criminal justice system [while] I created a fortune,” he shared. “There’s a moment of reconciliation when you realize that and my reconciliation said ‘I’m not gonna pay it forward — I’m actually gonna pay it backward. Who were all the people who suffered so that I could succeed?'”

It’s worth adding that Kadens started a similar nonprofit based in his hometown of Toledo, Ohio: Hope Toledo.

Through this initiative, founded in 2020, Kadens helped fund the college education of about 200 students and parents associated Scott High School.