Success Beyond High School

Raised in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, Denise Delgado is the second oldest out of four children. All four of her siblings attended or currently attend Noble Street College Prep, which is part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools. She is the first in her family to graduate from college and the first to get a masters degree.

Denise credits much of her and her siblings’ success to their mother, who was always very involved in their education. Before she signed up anyone for school, she did her research. She asked all of her friends and family members with school-aged children about their schools. She found that most sent their children to the neighborhood traditional public schools and more often than not, the children did not feel safe or find academic success. She did not want the same for her children.

She found Noble at a high school fair for Denise’s oldest sister. She loved the family feeling, high expectations, and structure that Noble provided for her oldest daughter, so she signed up the rest of her children as well.

After graduating from Noble Street, Denise attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The college counselors and alumni coordinators from Noble taught Denise the importance of being active on campus and seeking out opportunities. For that reason, she participated in the Puerto Rican Student Association, Latino Graduation Committee, and spoke on various panels. The summer after her junior year of college, Denise interned at Summer Meals, an organization that combats hunger in the Chicago area. These experiences led her to want to work in post-secondary education, supporting the students who would come after her. So, after graduating from undergrad, she got a Master’s degree from UIC in Educational Policy Studies and began her career.

She started her career by working for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission as a Community Outreach Representative. This is a state-wide agency that supports local students through the college application process. She’d go to Catalyst regularly to support their students and was eventually hired there as a Post-Secondary Counselor and is now the Assistant Director of Post-Secondary Success.

Denise’s team works hard and is driven by a mission to ensure that all Catalyst students find success beyond Catalyst. They are also personally driven, with two members having graduated from Catalyst themselves. Her team runs four seminars – one for each high school grade at Catalyst Maria. The freshmen start off learning the professional basics, like the essentials of Word. By senior year, students are applying for college and for FAFSA. In addition, her team runs college trips and brought in 45 speakers last year for the juniors and seniors this past year. Speakers ranged from college recruiters to financial literacy professionals to police officers. One special organization that her team brought in was the CityKey ID. This program issues official government-issued IDs to Chicago residents who sign-up, regardless of citizen status.