CHICAGO -- Hundreds of high school students in Chicago experienced the surprise of a lifetime Tuesday when learning that they were awarded a free ride to college.
Hope Chicago, a nonprofit that supports fundraising for Chicago Public School graduates, announced that more than 1,700 students at Benito Juarez Community Academy will benefit.
"Your college tuition, your room and board, books and fees will be paid for, and you will go to college for free," announced Pete Kadens, founder and co-chair of Hope Chicago.
All of the high school students will receive fully-funded scholarships at one of Hope Chicago's 20 partner colleges, universities or other education programs across the state of Illinois.
This is the first in a series of surprise events -- four other CPS schools will hear the same news this week. That means a total of 4,000 students will receive debt-free scholarships.
Hope Chicago is led by former CPS Janice Jackson, who was waving a huge check on stage and celebrating with the recipients of the scholarships and their parents.
The nonprofit aims to raise and invest $1 billion in scholarships and other support over the next decade for Chicago students and their parents, according to its website.
This round of funding totaled $40 million from private donations.
"We were trying our best to save as much as we could when I was little," said Benito Juarez senior Anabel Limon-Torres. "But now it's like we were worrying for nothing. It's a really happy day for everyone."