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Meet the Scholar: Oscar Cazalez, Class of 2017

“I am proud of all the obstacles that I have overcome, but I am even more excited for my future.” Oscar Cazalez, Class of 2017

Illinois Institute of Technology

When Oscar was 11, he immigrated to the United States from Mexico with his family.  When they settled in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, Oscar and his family slowly grew accustomed to seeing signs of drug use and gang activity, but Oscar made a vow to himself that he would go to college and become a role model for his three younger brothers. He focused on his grades, soccer and extracurricular activities, including participating in a summer enrichment program at UCLA. He graduated from Chicago Bulls College Prep with a 4.0 GPA and in the top 10% of his class.

Despite his good grades and impressive application, Oscar’s future as a college student was uncertain. He was doubtful he would be able to afford to attend college.  He said, “I truly felt that there were no other options but to work in a factory.”

Then, Oscar became a Chicago Scholar.  With renewed confidence, he became active in Chicago Scholars, becoming a Class Officer and perfecting his college applications.  At the Onsite Admissions Forum, he interviewed with an admissions counselor from the Illinois Institute of Technology. Not only was he accepted, but he was awarded the several scholarships he needed to make it possible for him to enroll.

Oscar says:

“That’s all I needed – a chance to continue moving forward – and that’s what Chicago Scholars gave me.

Thanks to Chicago Scholars, I have been able to grow personally and professionally because I take advantage of every single opportunity that they have to offer.”

Oscar’s Vision for the Future  

For now, Oscar plans to complete his bachelor’s degree next year, and has already been accepted as a candidate for a Masters of Science in Finance, which he will complete in 2018. Then, he hopes to find a position with a top finance or technology company. In the future, Oscar hopes to pursue an MBA at a top business school and one day open his own finance firm.

Ultimately, he envisions Chicago as a thriving tech hub that invests and supports students from under-resourced neighborhoods, providing resources and opportunities so that all students can get an education and chance to succeed.  Not leaving this vision to chance, Oscar has already begun to work toward this future – this year, he and four of his friends started a scholarship for students at Illinois Institute of Technology who demonstrate financial need but do not qualify for federal aid. He also frequently volunteers at Chicago Scholars and recently gave the Scholar address at Swing for Scholars.

“I am honored to be trailblazing the way to success for my three younger brothers and to serve as an example to follow for the younger generation of my community.”

About Oscar

Oscar will graduate with an M.S. in Finance from Illinois Institute of Technology in 2018, where he is currently completing his bachelor’s degree and playing NCAA Division III Soccer for the IIT soccer team. In his spare time, he likes to bike by Lake Michigan, try new foods, hang out with friends, and try out adrenaline-boosting activities.

As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we will share a series of Impact stories on the 20th of each month highlighting the many accomplishments realized by our Scholars, alumni, mentors and volunteers. Please visit our website to learn more about our work and get involved in our efforts on behalf of the next 20 years of Scholars!