NAVY PIER — A record number of local teenagers interviewed with colleges face-to-face Tuesday at Navy Pier, and many of them were accepted on the spot.
Nearly 1,000 high school seniors from Chicago attended the Onsite Admission Forum, which brought 176 colleges and universities to meet prospective students from across the city. The college-bound students are among the first in the nation to be accepted to college this fall — even earlier than their peers who applied for schools' early decision process.
The event was hosted by Chicago Scholars, a non-profit that aids low-income and first-generation students here. Now in its 20th year, the organization strives to fill voids for Chicago companies that say they're lacking diversity, president and CEO Dominique Jordan Turner said.
Listen to Dave Matthews describe the happenings at the Onsite Admission Forum.
This year's class of 525 scholars is the group's largest ever, and it hopes to keep growing.
"We know that students want to go to college, we just have to keep up with the pace of students who want a different life," Turner said.
The students at the pier Tuesday are in the first year of a seven-year program with Chicago Scholars, which pairs the teens with mentors through high school, college and the formative years of their careers.
Besides being the first in their families to go to college or growing up disadvantaged, the students are selected based on a rigorous admissions process including essays and in-person interviews. The scholars are also matched with internships while they're in school.
Chicago Scholars says 86 percent of their students graduate from college within six years. Only 14 percent of Chicago Public Schools students do the same.
The scholars were joined Tuesday by hundreds of other students invited by local schools or community organizations. The students only interviewed with colleges they applied to previously.
One of the students was Paris Grubbs, a senior at Baker College Prep who interviewed with Washington University, Denison University and Hope College on Tuesday. Grubbs, of Roseland, wants to be an obstetrican after growing up with the home daycare her mom owns.
"A lot of people from my neighborhood, they move away because of the violence. Chicago is a beautiful city," Grubbs said. "I want to help people."
Another is Carlos Rodriguez, 17, of Gage Park. He said only about 10 percent of his neighbors go to college. Rodriguez was accepted on the spot Tuesday by DePaul University, Valparaiso University and the Illinois Institute of Technology after interviewing with the schools. He wants to study computer science.
"I don't like the negative coverage [where I live]; there's a lot of good things going on," Rodriguez said. "Actions speak louder than words, and a lot of us are taking action."
Students chat before their college interviews Tuesday at Navy Pier. [DNAinfo/David Matthews]
A key goal of Chicago Scholars is to bring the college graduates back to the city, and many of the students interviewed Tuesday planned on returning to their neighborhoods.
One of them was Jennifer Villanueva of Pilsen, who's now weighing offers from Illinois State University, Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
"I nearly cried when they said 'yes,'" said Villanueva, who hopes to become a guidance counselor or work for a non-profit. "Why would I leave Chicago? It's always been my home."
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