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Student Success at City Colleges

City Colleges is committed to the success of the 100,000 students we serve each year.        

Our faculty and staff are focused on ensuring that students reach their goals, whether that involves transferring to a four-year institution after completion of their degree, securing employment, or advancing in their current career.  

Daley College Success Stories

Lizet Martinez
Class of 2016 Valedictorian         

Lizet Martinez was always taught to try hard in school by her parents. Living without college degrees themselves, they knew a good education was the best way to a better life. Despite always being a good student, Lizet lacked direction after high school. She was unsure of what career path she wanted to take. What she did know is that taking her general education courses at a four-year university would cost a lot of money while she figured out her major. To save money and explore her interests, she chose Richard J. Daley College. She was already comfortable in the environment, having taken a dual-enrollment course in high school.       

At Daley College, Lizet used the Career and Transfer Centers to help find a direction for her next step. It was through working with advisors that she found a career focus in interdisciplinary health.  City Colleges of Chicago gave Lizet what she truly needed from her education. “Daley helped me really find the career path I was passionate about while not costing too much money,” she says.       

Upon completing at Daley, Lizet will be working as a research assistant at Northwestern University before starting her bachelor’s degree program at either UIC or UIUC.​       

Yesenia Mendoza Ocampo
Class of 2016 Salutatorian         

Yesenia Mendoza Ocampo faced struggles in her junior and senior years of high school, nearly causing her to drop out. After graduating, she decided to take some time away from school, marrying and starting a family. The birth of her daughter made her realize though that she needed to be the role model for her family, and demonstrating the importance of education was a part of that.       

With the encouragement of her husband, Yesenia started taking classes at the City Colleges of Chicago. After receiving a D on her first math test, she doubted her decision, but her husband refused to let her give up. She realized she needed better study habits and she began taking advantage of tutoring and writing lab services at Daley. With the changes, she earned straight A’s in her first semester. Her grades gave her the confidence that she could succeed.       

After receiving her Associate of General Studies this spring, Yesenia will finish up her Associate of Applied Science degree in nursing from Malcolm X College, with plans to pass the NCLEX-RN exam and obtain a Registered Nurse license before transferring to the University of Illinois at Chicago RN-BSN program; and ultimately, becoming a registered nurse specializing in orthopedic medicine.​       



Thomas P. Trzpit 
Class of 2015

Thomas P. Trzpit started attending Daley in the fall of 2013. Stuck in a dead-end career, and with no degree due to having left art school (due to financial difficulties), Tom decided it was time to try something new. He chose Daley because it was close to home and because his mother had taken classes there in the past. Tom received his Associate of Science degree in the spring of 2015 with a 4.0 GPA. “Earning my degree was the most difficult, yet the most rewarding, thing I’ve ever done. STEM courses are very challenging, but they helped me to grow as an engineer,” says Tom. “Fortunately, I had a circle of friends who worked together, studied together, and kept each other motivated.” He also credits Professor Tom Kodogeorgiou, of Daley’s Physical Sciences Department, for mentoring and guiding him during his time at Daley.             

While pursuing his degree, Tom served as the president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and worked to re-establish the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) on campus. Through SHPE and SWE, Tom and fellow classmates began a mentoring program with Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy students. In addition, he served as senator, and later as treasurer, of the Student Government Association (SGA), while also working as a student research assistant for the Reinvention 7 Initiative.                 

Tom received numerous accolades during his time at Daley. These honors include a Chicago Scholar Award, a Presidential Scholar Award, the 2014 Emerging Student Leader Award, and the 2015 Legacy Award. This past summer, he was part of a team of students working in the inaugural City Colleges of Chicago / NASA High Altitude Ballooning Fellowship, through which he designed experiments to study the effects of light pollution in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. “The NASA fellowship was a great capstone to my two years at the City Colleges of Chicago,” he says of his experience.                 

After completing his studies at Daley, Tom applied to nine of the top universities in the country in hopes of transferring into a bachelor’s degree program and then graduate school. He was in a state of disbelief when he found out he had been accepted to a school that was on one of his top choices. Tom will begin his first semester at Stanford University this fall. He plans on ultimately completing his doctorate degree in computer science or bio engineering.              



Karla Gama Ramos
Class of 2015 Valedictorian

Karla was raised on Chicago’s South Side, along with her two brothers, by her mother and step-father. Sacrifice is something that she always understood. Her family came from modest means and her step-father worked two, and sometimes even three, jobs to provide for his family. Her parents always encouraged Karla to pursue her curiosity, and that fostered a love of learning.

While proud to be accepted into Whitney Young High School, she never felt like she fit in. Not only did she not have friends at the new school, but her grammar school had left her completely unprepared for the rigors of high school. Karla lost motivation in high school as she saw those around her deciding what to do with life at 16 or 17 while she still had no clue on possible career options. Without goals, she didn’t see four-year universities as an affordable option, and her counselor never offered City Colleges as an alternative.

Armed only with a high school diploma, Karla bounced from job to job for years, wishing she could afford to go back to school. Always pushing her to succeed, her parents offered to pay part of her tuition if she started at Richard J. Daley College. Despite City Colleges’ low cost, Karla understood the financial stress a promise like this meant for them. She was determined that their sacrifice would be worth it.

Starting with the intention of keeping her head down and being a good student, her work quickly drew the eye of her professors. Given the guidance and the support, Karla joined, and eventually took a leadership role in Phi Theta Kappa and the Honors Program. Karla blossomed as a student, and a person. Thanks to her time at Daley, she’s ready to take her next steps. She plans to double major in English and History before using that knowledge to help others follow their dreams; she wants to teach in CPS neighborhoods like the ones she grew up in. She says she wants to show them what City Colleges showed her.

Alexander Dyckman
Class of 2015 Salutatorian

Alexander needed time to k​now what he wanted. After being homeschooled from Kindergarten through the 12th grade, he needed to think about his next step. He stepped away from school for more than a year trying to find what he should do with his life. On his parents’ advice, he began taking classes at Daley College.

Being in his first public education setting was a stark transition for Alex. He wasn’t prepared for the structured environment and he started getting failing marks in his first math class. Almost giving up right then, Alex chose a complete 180. He committed completely and refused to fail. Pulling himself through a class that challenged him that much made him realize he was capable of anything. For him, getting good grades helped him keep getting good grades.

Alex will be interning in the summer before making the transition to a four-year business degree program. He wants to be the absolute best employee he can be before he finally branches out and starts a business of his own.

Linda Boulton 
Class of 2014 Valedictorian                       

While at Daley College, Linda Boulton was a full-time student, a tutor, a mentor, and a health coach. She spends her time working as a tutor and mentor at Chicago Public Schools on the Southeast Side. In addition, she has recently started her own business as a health and fitness coach to help people achieve their health and weight loss goals.​ After graduation, Linda plans to attend Saint Xavier University to pursue her bachelor’s degree in communications.​