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Meet the Scholar: Pauline Kulka, Class of 2016

University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, ’16
Associate Account Strategist at Google

“I hope to contribute to this vision, and pay forward the guidance I received, by being a mentor one day.”

Like most high school students, Pauline found the college application process to be “ambiguous and difficult.” As a first generation American, the process was especially challenging. Since she was the first in her family to navigate the process, her parents were unable to provide the guidance she needed.

As a high school junior, Pauline was accepted into the Chicago Scholars program. Through Chicago Scholars and with the help of her Chicago Scholars mentors – Laura Hlavacek and Kathryn Thompson – she was accepted into four colleges. She chose to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she graduated in May with a Bachelors degree in advertising and a minor in Spanish. In July, began her first full-time position as an Associate Account Strategist at Google in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Pauline says:

“From the moment I became a Chicago Scholar, the organization has changed my life by introducing me to opportunities I would not have otherwise had access to.

Aside from having mentors to ease the college application process, the Chicago Scholars team has helped me apply to competitive internships by keeping me updated on opportunities with their partners, as well as proofreading my resume. Alex Gagnon [then Chicago Scholars Director, College to Careers] referred me to the Leo Burnett internship the summer after my junior year, and Brian Socall [the current Director of College to Careers] supported me through my application to Google’s fall business internship during my senior year.”


For now, Pauline is excited to begin her career with Google and looks forward to growing within the company. Ultimately, she hopes to earn an MBA, and find a career that allows to combine her skill set with her passion for travel. She envisions a Chicago in which more students are able to successfully pursue a higher education.

“I hope that Chicago Scholars continues to grow, because if every student had a mentor to walk them through these processes, more high school graduates would continue on to college.”


Pauline graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May of 2016, with a B.A. in Advertising and a minor in Spanish. She interned with Leo Burnett in summer of 2015, and Google in fall of 2016. She has since accepted a full time position as an Associate Account Strategist at Google and will begin working in July in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She’s originally from the Dunning neighborhood of Chicago, and attending Northside College Preparatory High School. Pauline loves to travel and has already been to 42 countries. In her spare time she writes for her travel blog, at


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 blog to see previous Impact stories and learn how you can get involved here!