First-generation college triplets, other rising freshmen surprised with laptops from CHA

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Gerald Lumpkins Jr. holds a Chromebook while his mother Silk looks outside the Charles Hayes Center, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The event was hosted by the Chicago Housing Authority and Molina Healthcare. | Pat Nabong/Sun-Times, Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

More than 170 students received a laundry bag of dorm room essentials and new Chromebook laptops at Wednesday’s 11th Annual Take Flight College Send Off

Eighteen-year-old triplets Javier, Gerald Jr. and Miles Lumpkins are days away from heading to college — the first generation in their families to do so.

On Wednesday, their journey was made a little easier when, along with more than 170 other students at the Charles Hayes Center at 4859 S. Wabash, they took part in the Chicago Housing Authority’s annual Take Flight College Send Off.

CHA’s annual event partners with Springboard to Success to provide incoming college freshmen from public housing with dorm room essentials like toothbrushes, laundry detergent and towels.

And this year, families were surprised with new Chromebook laptops for each student.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for the past year,” said Gerald. “I’ve been looking forward to college. I’m ready for living on campus, eating in the cafeterias, those late night study grinds.”

The Lumpkins graduated from Steinmetz College Prep High School and are scheduled to move into their dorms in mid-August.

Miles will move first to the University of Illinois at Springfield, where he plans to major in business and minor in marketing. Gerald will attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to major in biochemistry and Javier will attend Southern Illinois University on a pre-law track.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
From left: Brothers Miles, Javier, and Gerald Jr. Lumpkins show off bags with laptops, lamps and bed sheets they received during the “Take Flight College Send-off” in Bronzeville, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The event was hosted by the Chicago Housing Authority and Molina Healthcare.

“I’m ready for the college experience and to find myself,” Javier said.

But, as excited as they are, they also admitted to being nervous as they head off on their own for the first time.

“We haven’t been apart for more than a day,” Miles said. “I’m kind of sad but at the same time very excited to explore who I am and what I want to be.”

Their mom, Silk Lumpkins, is having the same mixed emotions, alternating between happy and sad tears. But she knew this day would eventually come. From the time the triplets were born, she said, “college was never not an option.”

She added that the supplies from the CHA and Springboard to Success program, particularly the new Chromebooks, will help the triplets succeed.

“There’s a difference between having a computer that works sometimes and having a computer that you can do your work on and get it done on time,” Lumpkins said. “This is the difference between having an ‘A’ grade and having a ‘C’ grade.”

Kristen Hamer, director of corporate and external partnerships for CHA, said the Chromebooks fill an important gap for students in the program.

“A lot of kids may be receiving financial aid, but it’s a lot of those incidentals that tend to break the budget for families,” she said. “Technology is an absolute these days. You need your own personal laptop or Chromebook to be a successful college student.”

While the Lumpkins are staying within their home state, associate board chair for Springboard to Success Jason Carter said others are going as far away as Arizona State University and Georgia State University.

“The bottom line is that we want to make sure our scholars not only take flight and attend college, but graduate from college,” said Carter.

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.

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