"A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but a wonderful thing to invest in". This was the theme of the District's annual UNCF Campaign, which funds renewable scholarships that make college dreams come true for CPS students.
This year's UNCF Scholars represent CPS' rich diversity, having overcome personal challenges to triumph academically and pursue ambitious goals. During the application process, each displayed qualities of resiliency, determination and reflectiveness that will serve as the foundation for their future success.
In a letter written on Mahalia's behalf, her high school counselor made this statement:
"Meeting Mahalia, you would never guess the challenges she confronts on a daily basis, and that is a true testament to her resilience and strength. I am confident in her ability not only to succeed in any college, but to change the campus with her presence."
The challenge facing Mahalia is homelessness, yet her grit and tenacity allowed her to thrive at Kelly High School. Despite having to move multiple times during her senior year, Mahalia maintained strong grades and is a natural leader who excels at relationship building and self-advocacy. With the help of the UNCF Scholarship, she will attend Tougaloo College this fall to study healthcare administration.
"Seventh grade was one of the worst years of my life. It changed me forever."
This is how Ivanov Ford, a recent graduate of TEAM Englewood High School, opened his essay to the UNCF Scholarship Committee. He described himself as an unfocused youth who cared little about his grades and was always getting into trouble. Then one day, he realized how his behavior was affecting his mother, a single parent since the death of his father when Ivanov was a baby.
"My heart dropped when I saw the tears of my failure drop out of her eyes," he wrote. "I felt my life flash before my eyes and like I wasn't my mother's son at all."
From that day forward, Ivanov began to change the trajectory of his future. He brought his grades up, joined extracurricular activities, and began volunteering at the Gary Comer Youth Center. He is now interning at Northern Trust Bank, and with the help of the UNCF Scholarship, will attend Philander Smith College to pursue a degree in international business.
Like Ivanov, Frank's life changed dramatically at the age of 12. In his case, the pivotal moment was the tragic death of his father. In order to appear strong, Frank concealed his grief, thus he battled periods of loneliness, detachment and depression throughout his early teens.
His awareness of these mental health issues have inspired Frank to pursue a career in psychology and to volunteer at a neighborhood clinic in his community.
"It is not unusual for African-Americans to experience issues with mental health and avoid seeking aid or treatment due to constant fear of being characterized as crazy," wrote Frank in his UNCF essay. "However, pervasive symptoms of anger, anxiety and depression are clearly reflected in communities such as those here in Chicago. This underlying problem has caused me to gain interest in the study of science and psychology so that I may research ways to combat this issue."
With the help of his UNCF Scholarship, Frank plans to attend Morehouse College in the fall – an institution he hopes will allow him to pursue his professional goals while also developing his character, intellect and leadership skills.