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Marilyn’s Story: Paving the Way for Chicago’s Youth

Marilyn Schatzel, a Chicago Scholar from the Albany Park neighborhood, recently shared her story at the Onsite College and Leadership Forum Luncheon. The Onsite College and Leadership Forum is an annual event where more than 1,000 students and Scholars interview with top colleges and universities from around the country, with some schools offering on-the-spot admissions and merit scholarships.
Marilyn shared her story at the Onsite College and Leadership Forum Luncheon on October, 22, 2019, at Navy Pier.

One year ago, I came to Onsite as a senior in high school. I was nervous and excited to have my college interviews. But looking back now, it’s clear to me that my journey to Onsite and to college began long before that day. It began with my parents.

My mother immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines with only $100 in her pocket and dreams of success for her family. She worked three jobs to make ends meet for us. When I was in the fifth grade, I went to the Philippines to visit where she was from. It was nothing like Chicago—there was so much poverty. People didn’t have shoes. That trip put everything into perspective for me—even though there are struggles in Chicago, we are so fortunate with what we have.

Neither of my parents went to college, and because of that they weren’t able to help me with college applications when I was in high school, but they always encouraged me to prioritize my education and seek out resources. To me, Chicago Scholars has been more than just a resource—it’s been a family. And that family helped me with my college applications. They made me realize what I’m capable of.

Last year at Onsite I interviewed with DePaul University, and at the end of the interview, I was accepted and offered a scholarship for half of my tuition. I started crying when I got the acceptance and the scholarship. My parents cried when I told them. My parents have always believed in me. It meant everything to be able to show my mom that everything she had done for me had paid off.


After her speech, Marilyn welcome Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia to the stage to accept the 2019 Crystal Award on behalf of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

I’m proud to say now that I am a freshman at DePaul. Going to college isn’t just fulfilling a dream for me, it’s a dream for my parents, too. I can’t wait for them to see me get my diploma.

I’m also proud to say that because of all my hard work and passion, I was nominated by Chicago Scholars to join Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s inaugural Youth Commission. It has meant so much to serve as a representative of Chicago’s youth and advise the mayor and her team on issues that impact this city’s young people.

I believe that as a city, we can only be as strong as our weakest neighborhood. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that all students feel safe and are able to nurture their skills and talents. When we are given opportunities to explore what we are capable of, we see the world differently. The world becomes bigger, and the possibilities become endless.

My goal as a member of the youth commission is to help other Chicago youth realize what they are capable of. I want them to know that there’s so much possibility to be had after high school and beyond college. I’m also thankful to the Mayor to be a part of her youth commission — she’s curious about the stories we share and wants to know what we are passionate about. As a woman of color and the mayor of the third largest city in the country, she has shown me what I can be capable of, too. And because of this experience, I’ve learned that if you really want to use your voice for change, you need to first listen to others.