A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

CAAP and Gown

College bridge program leads graduating high school seniors to higher education

by KT Hawbaker (MA 2017)

Mitch Morales photo

SAIC’S College Arts Access Program (CAAP), a three-year college bridge program designed for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students, is already a fruitful outcome of Beautiful/ Work: The Campaign for SAIC. CAAP’s legacy will be felt for decades as its young artists forge ahead through college and their careers.

For CAAP student Muang Htay, the route to Chicago was fraught with displacement and uncertainty. He realized early that art was his means of enduring. “I grew up in the United Nations refugee camp in Thailand, and my family moved to Chicago in 2008 when I was 8,” Htay recalls. “When I was living in Thailand as a political refugee, we were surrounded by jungle, and a lot of the art I encountered was either inspired by nature or political conflicts. I would watch films to escape the reality around me.”

Now a graduating senior, Htay plans to study Fashion Design at SAIC. Thanks to CAAP, he has a leg up on the art-making process. “CAAP has matured me as both an artist and an audience,” he says. “I am so grateful for the resources CAAP has provided over the years; it has presented me with many artistic jobs and careers. As a student that will be attending SAIC this fall, I am more than prepared for the school environment.”

Muang Htay photo

The CAAP program began in collaboration with CPS and with a generous gift from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation. Students take classes tuition free through the School’s Early College Program, with generous scholarships provided to cover costs, academic and financial advising, and mentorship for successful admission to SAIC or other institutions of higher education. The program has been sustained with additional gifts from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, the Grainger Foundation, and Northern Trust, among others. So far 29 students have completed the program, and all have gone on to college.

Mitch Morales, an 18-year-old Pilsen-based artist, says that CAAP taught her how to be confident as an artist. “It’s not just about presenting my work to others, but also about being confident in the process of art making. I sometimes don’t understand when other students at my high school stress a great deal as they begin a new piece,” she says. “I’ve found myself getting into that flow easily—knowing what to do and why I’m doing it.”

The CAAP program is part of Continuing Studies at SAIC. Learn more about Continuing Studies’ courses for youth, high school students, and adults at saic.edu/cs.