Organization “Launches, Lifts and Leads” Student Scholars through its 5-Year College Access, College Success and 2-Year Leadership Development Program
The Chicago Scholars Foundation aspires to be known throughout Chicagoland as the city’s Leadership Accelerator for the business community. The Foundation has just opened the doors to its expansive new workspace that matches its ambitious goal: moving from selecting 350 new students at present, to more than 1,000 college-bound high school students by 2017.
Named the Chicago Scholar Community, Leadership and Resource Center, the 11,000-square-foot facility symbolizes a stepping stone for this critical component of Chicago Scholars growth development strategy. The Leadership Center, located at State and Jackson (247 S. State Street, Suite 700) in Chicago’s loop district will house workshops, events, mentor sessions and professional development initiatives that are integral parts of its nearly 20-year-old college success program.
“The Chicago Scholars mission is more than philanthropic – it’s actually much bigger than that,” says Dominque Jordan Turner, President and CEO of The Chicago Scholars Foundation. “Our 7-year success program is an economic strategy for our city, offering under-resourced students access and support to not only get accepted into college, but to graduate, find internships and begin their leadership journey right here in our city.”
Since its founding in 1996, over 1,200 Chicago Scholars have successfully completed the program with 100% college acceptance rate and 88% college graduation rate (within 6 years). The new Chicago Scholar Community, Leadership and Resource Center provides a larger platform for the organization to continue to grow its population of Scholars and further expand its corporate partnerships.
Unlike any other mentorship program in Chicago that helps high school students navigate the college application process, Chicago Scholars is invested in their students far beyond just the admissions process. Scholars come from every neighborhood and every high school across the city, and most from the Chicago Public Schools system, a long-standing partner of the program. Knowing that access to academic resources is an unfortunate hurdle that stands before many of these talented young minds, The Chicago Scholars Foundation breaks down this barrier and guides students through the entire college process.
“As a first generation college student in my family, the college application process was very daunting, but Chicago Scholars provided every resource imaginable,” said Olivia Villarreal, member of the 2011 Chicago Scholars class. Now, having graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with several internships under her belt and aspirations to head to law school, Villarreal is leading efforts to bring alumni of the program together to continue to help support current Scholars. “As Scholars,” said Villarreal, “we must become and grow as resources for ourselves, for our families, and for the people in our community.”
The Chicago Scholars journey begins when students are high school juniors, with individualized college counseling sessions, scholarship application support, and mentors dedicated to each student. The program continues as Scholars begin their college education, with peer mentoring, university partnerships, life skills development, academic planning, degree selection and financial aid counseling. In fact, Chicago Scholars have received more than $80 million in Merit Aid since 2009, a testament to the program’s incredible support system.
Upon graduation, Scholars begin the 2-year post-baccalaureate part of the program, where they gain access to over 65 exclusive career partnerships with employers throughout Chicago, career coaching, and a network leading to internships and entry-level positions.
Companies such as GCM Grosvenor, Argonne National Laboratory, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, The Chicago Cubs, McDonald’s Corporation, among others, play an important role in professional development for Chicago Scholars. Mentors from these organizations provide Scholars with the opportunity to build a network and assist in helping them navigate the Chicago workforce.
Michael Sacks, CEO of GCM Grosvenor, has been a longtime supporter of The Chicago Scholars Foundation and supports the organization on its important mission.
“The skill set that college provides – the socialization, critical thinking, problem-solving – that is the very skill set that American businesses, and our businesses right here in Chicago, need to stay competitive and to thrive in the future,” said Sacks. “I’m incredibly impressed with the important work that Chicago Scholars does in our community. We proudly watch our Scholars get accepted into the nation’s leading colleges and universities. By providing learning opportunities for these high achievers and helping them transition to the next level, we are doing our part to invest in the future of Chicago.”
“Chicago businesses and corporations should view our Scholars as a diverse talent pool of the brightest young minds in Chicago,” continued Jordan Turner. “At full scale, we will have 5,000 students in our pipeline who will become the next leaders of our great city.”
About The Chicago Scholars Foundation:
Founded in 1996 as a scholarship-granting organization, Chicago Scholars has evolved into a one-of-a-kind, seven-year mentoring and support program beginning in a student’s junior year of high school. Its mission is to provide talented, academically ambitious and underserved students from every high school and neighborhood in Chicago with access and success through college and beyond. Our academically ambitious Scholars are not only investing in their own career growth and success but also ensuring that Chicago remains competitive in the global economy for years to come. For more information, visit www.chicagoscholars.org.