Eighteen-year-old triplets Javier, Gerald Jr. and Miles Lumpkins are days away from college – the first generation in their family to do so.
Their journey was made a little easier on Wednesday when, along with more than 170 other students from the Charles Hayes Center at 4859 S. Wabash, they took part in the Chicago Housing Authority’s annual Take Flight College Send Off show.
CHA’s annual event partners with Springboard to Success to provide new social housing freshmen with dorm essentials like toothbrushes, laundry detergent and towels.
And this year, families were surprised with new Chromebook laptops for every student.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a year,” Gerald said. “I was looking forward to college. I’m ready to live on campus, eat in cafeterias, those late night studies.
The Lumpkins graduated from Steinmetz College Prep High School and are expected to move into their dorms in mid-August.
Miles will first move to the University of Illinois at Springfield, where he plans to major in business and marketing. Gerald will go to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to major in biochemistry and Javier will go to the University of Southern Illinois on a pre-law track.
“I’m ready for the college experience and to find myself,” Javier said.
But, as excited as they were, they also admitted to being nervous as they left alone for the first time.
“We haven’t been apart for over a day,” Miles said. “I’m a little sad but at the same time very excited to explore who I am and what I want to be.”
Their mom, Silk Lumpkins, has the same mixed emotions, alternating between tears of joy and sadness. But she knew that day would come eventually. From the moment the triplets were born, she said, “college was never an option.”
She added that the CHA and Springboard to Success program supplies, especially 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 job on and get it done on time,” Lumpkins said. “It’s the difference between having an ‘A’ grade and having a ‘C’ grade.”
Kristen Hamer, director of corporate and external partnerships for CHA, said Chromebooks filled a significant gap for students in the program.
“A lot of kids might get financial help, but it’s a lot of these incidentals that tend to break families’ budgets,” she said. “Technology is an absolute these days. You need your own laptop or Chromebook to be successful in college. “
While the Lumpkins remain in their home state, Springboard to Success associate chairman Jason Carter said others will go as far as Arizona State University and Georgia State University.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that our academics not only get off the ground and attend college, but graduate from college,” Carter said.
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a non-profit journalism program that aims to strengthen newspaper coverage in communities on the south and west sides.