Scholar Alpheaus McCoy speaking at a poetry workshop led by author Tara Betts.

“From the speakers, the field trips, and the curriculum itself, Sojourner Scholars is a program that doesn’t just invest in its students’ education, it actively cares about their well-being as people.”

–Ru’Gia Jones, Sojourner Scholars Alumnus


Sojourner Scholars provides high school students from four South Side Chicago Public School high schools the opportunity to take college level courses with local university and college faculty over the course of three summers, beginning the summer following their freshman year.

During the first two summers of the program, students study literature, U.S. history, philosophy, and art history. In the final summer, students embark upon a research-intensive capstone project that draws upon local, community-based archives and resources.

Upon successfully completing all three summer sessions, students earn eight college credits in the humanities that they can transfer to any two or four-year college or university.

In addition to the summer sessions, year-round programming is available to the students in the form of book groups, art making workshops, field trips, internships, and college advising.

Scholar Kaliyah Harris at a poetry reading alongside Professor Christophe Ringer and Professor Miriam Petty. “One of the most memorable experiences from Sojourner Scholars was learning about and researching mass incarceration. Listening to presentations from people impacted by mass incarceration helped me gain perspective about what’s going on in the world and the challenges people face.”

–Amir Camper, Sojourner Scholars Alumnus

Frequently Asked Questions

“One of the most rewarding experiences through Sojourner Scholars has been seeing students feel more confident in expressing themselves as a direct result of the material we’ve worked through with them.”

–Maddy Klein, Sojourner Scholars Intern



Audrey Petty received her B.A. from Knox College and her M.F.A from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has taught creative writing and literature at Knox College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University, and the Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project. Her stories have been published in such journals as African American Review, StoryQuarterly, Callaloo, and The Massachusetts Review and her poetry has been featured in Crab Orchard Review and Cimarron Review. She is the editor of High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing (2013).


Catherine S. Weidner is the co-founder of Sojourner Scholars and Senior Lecturer in History at Lake Forest College. A longtime local historian, she has written, taught, and lectured widely on issues of race, class, community and labor in Chicago. She recently served as President of the Board of Alternatives, Inc., a Chicago-based agency that supports and empowers young people.

Rebecca Zorach is the co-founder of Sojourner Scholars and Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art and Art History at Northwestern University. She teaches and writes on early modern European art, contemporary activist art, and art of the 1960s and 1970s. Her books include Blood, Milk, Ink, Gold: Abundance and Excess in the French Renaissance (University of Chicago Press, 2005); The Passionate Triangle (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Christophe Ringer is an Assistant Professor of Theological Ethics & Society at Chicago Theological Seminary. Professor Ringer’s research interests include theological and social ethics, African American religion, public theology, religion and social sciences, religion and politics, critical theory and African American religion, and cultural studies.

Senior Advisor

Chris Guzaitis is Senior Advisor to the Sojourner Scholars Program and Director of The Odyssey Project at Illinois Humanities. Before coming to Illinois Humanities, Chris served as assistant professor in and department chair of the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department at Scripps College.