Chicagoan students of color prepare for impact of end to affirmative action as they apply to college

iMentor program helps Chicago high school students apply to colleges

Jasmine Minor Image
Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Students of color prepare for impact of end to affirmative action
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On the early action deadline for college applications, some students are preparing for the impact of the Supreme Court ending affirmative action.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wednesday is the deadline for high school students to apply for early admission into their college dreams.

But, many students of color are facing even more barriers this year.

This is the first college admission cycle since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action. Now, the iMentor program and its mostly students of color in Chicago are preparing for the impact it could have on the schools they do or don't get into to.

Jazmin Perez, a senior at Crane Medical Prep High School, is applying to 19 different colleges, but her heart is set on one.

"Stanford, because it has a lot of medical programs there. And, especially, they're really known for, like, this one surgery program that I really, really do like," Perez said.

Her dream is to become a surgeon, and her mentor, Cassie Buchignani, is helping her get there.

"I think it's really important just to help create some equity and bridge that achievement gap. Something that we also see, especially in medicine, there are those that are underrepresented," Buchignani said.

Buchignani works in the medical student education programs at the American College of Surgeons and is helping Perez with everything from personal statements to teacher recommendations to figuring out financial aid. The iMentor program works with over 1,000 students citywide, pairing them with a career-oriented mentor who can help them through the college application process.

But, the Supreme Court's decision to strike down affirmative action leaves some uncertainty.

"It's not really a leg up. It's really leveling the playing field and allowing students who don't have access to other opportunities to be able to have some amount of access to that," iMentor Program Manager Lauren Hurley said of affirmative action.

An October report by the University of Chicago shows 30% of current CPS ninth-graders will complete a college credential within 10 years. The iMentor program says 66% of their 2022 graduation high school class immediately enrolled in college.

"iMentor is one way that we're trying to provide bring resources to schools to make sure students can reach their full potential, because it's barriers that are not in their control that are getting in their way," Hurley said.

So, students like Perez, who is already balancing a full workload as student body president, gets the chance to give back by becoming a plastic surgeon and making her career a personal testament to the life of her grandmother.

"It makes people beautiful. It gives them like a second chance to re-embrace themselves," Perez said. "I also want to own my own clinic. I want to name it after my grandma. She always told me that I was her personal doctor."