CHANCE celebrates 45 years with gala, awards reception

By Roxana Moraga

CHANCE will celebrate its 45th anniversary this weekend with an awards reception and gala.

Started in 1968, CHANCE is a program that allows students who don’t meet all the requirements for student admission to attend NIU. CHANCE will mark its anniversary with an awards reception on Friday and a gala Saturday. CHANCE Program Director Denise Hayman encourages students to attend and get to know more about the students, alumni and the program. Hayman credits the success of the program to those who have supported it.

“CHANCE is well known throughout the state and has received a tremendous amount of support from state legislators,” Hayman said. “ … We also work with different departments here at NIU, which include the departments of English, math and communications as well as the College of Engineering. All of these work in conjunction with us to help students in the academic arena.”

Students applying to the CHANCE program must go through an admissions process that includes a review of their application file. CHANCE then decides whether to invite them on to campus for an interview and afterward reviews their file for a second time, taking into account other factors. Hayman said the majority of students are “committed to succeeding in their degree.”

The program began with only 50 students admitted but has now grown to admit about 500 students every year. Isabel Contreras, senior nursing major and CHANCE student, said the program is beneficial as it provides opportunities for students who may have struggled to succeed in high school. Contreras was one of those students.

“I know I’m not the only one out there. I know there’s a lot of high school students who don’t meet all the requirements and they’re not sure if they’ll be able to continue their education, and this program gives them that second chance,” Contreras said.

Recently, Hayman applied for a grant through the National Science Foundation in order to increase the number of science, technology, math and engineering majors at NIU. This initiative has become the PROMISE Scholars program, a program that includes CHANCE and traditional students. Hayman said this program has become “a model in terms of academic diversity.”

CHANCE also offers a leadership conference for incoming freshmen to help with the transition from high school to college. CHANCE program counselors and alumni help with orienting students.

However, the CHANCE program is not always seen in the best light.

“The assumption is that these are ‘affirmative action’ programs, which is not the case with the CHANCE program. Unfortunately, these assumptions come from what people hear and not what they know,” Hayman said.

Hector Alvarado, junior chemistry and biology pre-med major and CHANCE student, said there is sometimes a stigma with the CHANCE program that says CHANCE students don’t have what it takes to be in college.

“That perception is completely incorrect; people think that these students aren’t serious about succeeding in college,” Alvarado said. “In fact, there are CHANCE students who are in the Honors program, are very involved on campus and really give back to the NIU community.”

Contreras said these assumptions can sometimes be biased. She said these students “are going to want to prove themselves and make sure to succeed and do the best they can.”

In a recently released statement, DeKalb Mayor John Rey said, “The NIU CHANCE program is to be recognized for the positive impact it has made to help diversify the campus of NIU … CHANCE has been a leader in the state of Illinois in identifying, recruiting and admitting capable students and then providing opportunities for them to pursue higher education.”

For now, Hayman’s goals for CHANCE are equipping students for the work force and continuing to work with STEM students, whom she calls the future.