UIC CHANCE STEM Academy students named inaugural ComEd Scholars

Michelle Blaise, ComEd senior vice president of technical services, with UIC sophomores and electrical engineering students Anita Coife and Daniel Flores alongside Kendal Parker, director of UIC CHANCE. Photo by Ty Acierto, Prudence Photography.

Two University of Illinois at Chicago engineering students were chosen to be part of the first group of students to receive a ComEd scholarship that will help fill the tuition gap not covered by financial aid.

The students are members of the UIC CHANCE program’s STEM Academy and will receive the investment in their undergraduate careers as inaugural members of ComEd Scholars, an educational investment that seeks to develop a diverse workforce reflective of the communities served by ComEd.

Rex Tolliver, UIC vice chancellor for student affairs, applauded ComEd for their support of the CHANCE program, which serves to assist UIC with its goal to increase recruitment, retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students.

“It is important that we invest in the lives of students in order for them to be significant contributors to society in the future. CHANCE has been living the type of mission at this campus and throughout this community to help students get a leg up. CHANCE can’t do it without great partners like ComEd who continue to invest in the program and in our students,” Tolliver said.

Anita Cofie, a second-year student pursuing a degree in electrical engineering and Daniel Flores, a second-year student, also pursuing a degree in electrical engineering, were honored at a ceremony on the UIC campus recently. Two other students from the Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech) were also chosen to be part of the inaugural class.

“ComEd’s support of the communities we serve starts with helping students access and attain their educational goals,” said Michelle Blaise, ComEd’s senior vice president of technical services. “It is our hope that this workforce of the future will lead the way in creating new innovations that will help our local communities to succeed.”

Cofie, who is from Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, interned at ComEd last summer and plans to intern again at the utility company next summer. She said she ultimately wants to end up working at ComEd after graduation.

“My dream job is working at ComEd because I really like the company and their mission,” said Cofie, who wants to pursue an advanced degree.

She credits UIC and the CHANCE program with opening up opportunities for her and giving her the opportunity for a excellent education at a great value.

“UIC has made it possible for me to go to school and also to be able to go to school without having to pay that much so that’s very helpful,” Cofie said. “I’ve gotten a lot of great opportunities and experiences that helped me to push forward and encouraged me to do better every day.”

Flores, from the Humboldt Park neighborhood in Chicago, said the financial assistance is a big help for him and his family. He credited the CHANCE program with helping him make the transition from his Chicago Public high school to the college program at UIC. He said his objective is to work in the private sector as an electrical engineer with the ultimate goal of going back to his high school to, “spread my knowledge of electrical engineering there.”

“I’m really grateful to get this scholarship. It really helps me and my family,” Flores said. “Honestly, it’s been amazing here at UIC. A lot has changed ever since I decided to join CHANCE, it became something great for me because it helped me take that first step to get involved with something big here.”

Kendal Parker, director of the UIC CHANCE program, called the scholarship awards to its students an “incredible milestone.”

“Five years ago CHANCE was celebrating its 10th anniversary. We challenged ourselves to create an opportunity that would propel students into forward-facing careers and STEM Academy is the product of that,” Parker said. “To have this significant contribution from ComEd is indicative of our original intention, providing support for students to succeed at another level.”

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