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Chicago Tribune: Chicago Scholars helps 1st-generation students make it to college and succeed

David Jeffries smiled — the kind of smile that started small, then instantly spread across his face. It wasn’t even 10 a.m. yet, and the 18-year-old from Rogers Park had two college acceptance letters tucked away in his folder.

“Going to college means everything to me,” he said.

Jeffries and hundreds of other college-bound seniors from Chicago packed into Navy Pier on a recent Tuesday where rows of college recruiters sat in wait. For the overwhelming majority of the students, many of whom swapped out hoodies and tennis shoes for crisp blazers and shiny oxfords, they were determined to become the first in their families to attend college.

Chicago Scholars Foundation, the nonprofit that spent months prepping the students, doesn’t want them to stop there. The organization’s goal is to change the criterion of success from merely getting into college — a cause of celebration for any high school kid — to graduating and finding a job, said Milton Rodriguez, the group’s vice president of development.

“We stay with our students through college and ultimately the first couple years of their career,” Rodriguez said. “That’s one of the things that sets our program apart. We really have a seven-year program.”

Chicago Scholars is one of many area nonprofits to receive financial support from Chicago Tribune Charities, a McCormick Foundation fund…

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