CHANCE Program celebrates 50th Anniversary

In 1968, NIU launched the McKinley “Deacon” Davis CHANCE Program, welcoming about 50 African American students from Chicago to the DeKalb campus. Founded by Davis and then NIU President Rhoten Smith, the program was created to offer students access to higher education and provide them with the tools to succeed.

Mission accomplished.

Angela Jones

A half century later, the CHANCE program continues to flourish, having impacted the lives of more than 10,000 students who are now college graduates, like Chicago native Angel Jones.

“CHANCE impacted my life because it did just that; it gave me a chance,” said Jones, who graduated from NIU in 2011. “It’s more than just a special set of classes to help get into the college for the so called unqualified. It is a fully functional support system that truly cares about the success of their admitted students.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, Jones went on to graduate from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry and now is a practicing dentist in the Chicago area.

“I am ever thankful for the CHANCE program and its staff for all their help and guidance,” Jones said.

Jones is just one of many CHANCE success stories.

“NIU took a chance on having this program and has made a 50 year commitment to it,” CHANCE director, Denise R. Hayman, said. “It has given students the opportunity to turn their lives around and has proven to be successful.”

Hayman said that Smith’s vision of providing access and opportunity was embraced by NIU students who also wanted to see a campus that was inclusive and diverse.

“It was a time of significant change at NIU and across the country,” Hayman said. “And 50 years later, CHANCE is still here and is continuing to grow.”

To mark its 50 years of success, the CHANCE Anniversary Recognition Dinner will be held from 6 p.m. -10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Rd. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased online by Oct. 29.

“It’s a celebration of the program but it is also a celebration of all of the folks who have been very supportive over the years,” Hayman said. “CHANCE would not be as beneficial if it wasn’t for the staff that works with these students; it’s a very committed group of people – their hearts are big – and they really believe in providing opportunity and access to higher education.”

In addition, NIU is hosting a first generation Student Success Conference on Nov. 9 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at NIU Naperville Conference Center, 1120 E. Diehl Rd. in Naperville. Aimed at college and university professionals who work with first-generation students, the one-day conference is designed to celebrate the best and promising practices that support recruitment, retention and graduation of first-generation students. RSVP online.

“It’s not where you start; it’s where you end up,” Hayman said. “Everyone here is committed to these students and it is something we are all very proud of.”

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