26 Chicago high school students celebrate College Decision Day, $11.5M in scholarships

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Some of Chicago's best and brightest Black high school students gathered with their family, friends and mentors Sunday to celebrate College Decision Day. The 26 students, with a collective $11.5 million in college scholarships, are all part of a four-year fellowship called Link Unlimited Scholars, specifically designed to get them to, through and beyond college.

"We're helping to create pipelines for Blacks students enter a work field that they may never have seen anyone who looked like them enter," Kelly Hobson, with LINK Unlimited Scholars. "The goal for LINK is every single scholar knows they are going to graduate within four years. They are going to graduate with the least debt possible, and they're going to be enrolled either in a graduate program or gainfully employed within six months of graduation."

Those accepted into the LINK Unlimited program are not necessarily "A" students, rather, those chosen are the ones who show the most potential for growth and who maybe need that extra bit of help to get them to fulfill it.

"Ever since I was a little girl, Xavier has been my number one choice, so it was like a no-brainer when I was accepted," said Areyana Smith, who will be attending Xavier University of Louisiana. "They are the number one school at producing the most Black doctors."

These are students with big dreams, and thanks to their hard work, their families and their mentors at LINK Unlimited, most are going to school on full rides -- or nearly so. It's a game-changer for many who otherwise might not be in a position to go to the college of their dreams.

"My grandma, she worked so hard for me. She didn't come from the best neighborhood yet she overcame the problems that came with it and she supported me," said D'Jaquan King, from Morgan Park Academy and who will be going to the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "It definitely pressures me to work harder and just do better in school, and it worked out. I'm going to college free."
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