Visitors at the 37th annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition Convention and its first annual Youth Conference were presented with a unique opportunity Tuesday.

For the first time ever, all seven schools of the City Colleges of Chicago instantly enrolled students on site.

Of the 10 most populated cities in the United States, Chicago is currently ranked seventh in educational attainment, with only 30.1 percent of the population having an associate degree or higher. For Chicago to match the educational attainment level of San Diego, the top ranked city, approximately 225,000 Chicagoans would have to receive college degrees.

Tuesday’s Youth Conference at the Hyatt McCormick Place downtown was part of the weekend-long events and activities of the PUSH convention, running from June 28 to July 2.

Prospective students attending the conference were able to get information about the schools or enroll at their particular college of choice.

Nestled among rows of laptops, counselors from every school in the city college system were available to answer questions and to automatically enroll students electronically.

Visitors who found their way down the long hallway to the conference room had positive reactions to what they saw.

“I thought it was a lot of help,” said Nathalie Aviles, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate. “I wasn’t sure what college I wanted to get into so I asked each college to find out information.”

As to which college Aviles plans to attend, she said, “I am going to review my notes and see which one fits with me the best.”

College recruiters also gave prospective students an understanding about the institutional support available to them.

“Even when they begin their academic start with City Colleges, they know that we are willing to go over and beyond to support them and meet their needs,” said Arlethia Mayes, a college advisor at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Van Buren, on the West Side.

Glasetta Barksdale, assistant dean of student services at Olive-Harvey College on the South Side, agreed, explaining that having all seven colleges in a single room is advantageous for prospective students.

“It allows us to come to them,” she said.

According to Michael Mutz, vice chancellor of development for the City Colleges of Chicago, it’s through events like these that the City Colleges hopes to catch up with other U.S. cities.

“This is really unique. There aren’t too many opportunities where students have all these resources in front of them,” Mutz said.

This was the first such event for all the city colleges, and was a learning experience for participating schools, Mutz added.

“If I could re-script I would probably say, ‘You know it would be wonderful for us be right in the middle,'” she said, concerning the room where the youth conference took place-down a long corridor away from the Hyatt’s main conference area. “This is the first year we have done this so my guess is we will learn quite a bit and, hopefully, do it better next year.”

Participating schools

Daley College, Harold Washington College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Truman College, Wright College

For more information about the City Colleges of Chicago, visit: