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Chicago Scholars March Mentor of the Month

Shanthi Cambala, Mentor since 2021

It’s the start of March, and as of today, our Mentor application is only open for two more months! We’re continuing our Mentor of the month series to introduce you to some of our current incredible mentors, what called them to take on this responsibility, special stories of connection with their Scholar cohorts – and maybe to inspire you to become a mentor too!

Our March Mentor of the Month is Shanthi Cambala, who has been working with our Scholars since 2021. As a mentor, she’s seen firsthand that hardships and challenges can lead to some incredible adventures.

“‘Life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved.’ This was the quote I used to decorate my college graduation cap. At the time, it seemed like a fun homage to the Winnie-the-Pooh books in which it was originally written. Years later, these words hold a much stronger meaning that guide me as a Chicago Scholars Mentor.

“When I started college, I prided myself on having an “iron-clad” plan to declare a major as a freshman and graduate in three years without any distractions. Of course, I didn’t know as much about life as I thought I did at 18, and in the end, most of college did not go according to plan. As college went on, all I could see was a track record of missteps dotted with disappointment, and many of the goals I had set for myself did not pan out as I had hoped.”

Shanthi learned from her own experiences in college that the expectations we set for ourselves can make us feel as though we aren’t making progress towards our goals – but she knows firsthand that progress and success look different for everyone. She looks back on her experience with college to guide her scholars that may be going through the same things.

“If I could go back in time, I would I tell myself that there is no one “right way” to do college, and the world does not end if things don’t go as planned. I would tell myself to celebrate all the hard work that brought me to my success and appreciate the resilience that helped me overcome my failures. I would tell myself to embrace the unexpected and see that I was capable of so much more than what I imagined. What seemed like “mistakes” at the time were actually blessings that led me to some of the most wonderful adventures that allowed me to flourish both personally and professionally and helped me to strengthen my relationships with family and friends.”
“While I cannot go back in time, I hope that I can share this advice with my Scholars, and I hope that these words can help them enjoy their journey to becoming the leaders they were born to be. As a Mentor, I hope to show them that all the hardships are not problems they need to solve, but stepping stones to help them experience their college journey.”

Inspired by Shanthi’s story? Head here to learn more about applying to be a mentor! The mentor application is now open to support our new incoming class of Chicago Scholars – head here to check out the application and apply before the deadline on May 3rd!

Chicago Scholars February Mentor of the Month

Alicia Oladipo, Mentor since 2022

This month, we’re continuing our Mentor of the Month series in celebration of our Mentor application opening! Be sure to come back every month to hear the stories of some of our incredible mentors, what called them to take on this responsibility, and special stories of connection with their Scholar cohorts.

Our February Mentor of the Month is Alicia Oladipo, who has been working with our Scholars since 2022, and has learned that empathy is her most useful tool.

“The most meaningful part of being a Mentor is empathy. Empathy has been a significant aspect of my Mentor journey at Chicago Scholars, as it allows me to lead from a place of authenticity and care. As a Mentor, you must have the ability to view situations from the perspectives of your Scholars. By doing so, you cultivate deeper relationships with your Scholars and provide them with the emotional support they need,” said Alicia.

As Alicia heads into her second year as a mentor, she’s been able to develop lasting bonds with the Scholars in her cohort, making sure they feel supported and heard as they head off to college.

“When a Scholar reaches out to me regarding a tough situation or in need of advice, I try to view the situation from their eyes. I pause, listen, and affirm their feelings, as each Scholar has their own unique background and story. As a fellow first-generation student, I want to show them that this is a safe space, that their feelings matter, and that their experiences are important. With every day as a mentor, I make sure to support my Scholars so that they not only succeed, but thrive.”

Inspired by Alicia’s story? Head here to learn more about applying to be a mentor! The mentor application is now open to support our new incoming class of Chicago Scholars – head here to check out the application and apply before the deadline on May 3rd!

Chicago Scholars featured in Ed News Daily

Chicago Scholars Foundation Aims To Triple Its Reach As It Opens New Community, Leadership and Resource Center.

The organization “Launches, Lifts and Leads” Student Scholars through its 5-Year College Access, College Success and 2-Year Leadership Development Program.

The Chicago Scholars Foundation aspires to be known throughout Chicagoland as the city’s Leadership Accelerator for the business community. The Foundation has just opened the doors to its expansive new workspace that matches its ambitious goal: moving from selecting 350 new students at present, to more than 1,000 college-bound high school students by 2017.

Named the Chicago Scholar Community, Leadership and Resource Center, the 11,000-square-foot facility symbolizes a stepping stone for this critical component of Chicago Scholars growth development strategy. Read More

Chicago Scholars Opened Up a Big New Space to Facilitate Growth in Program

CNN Money recently reported that “The massive gap in college graduation rates between rich and poor is growing even wider.” I don’t think anyone is any less surprised about this, but it is still troubling to hear. Thanks to Chicago Scholars, they are here to identify those deserving students and advocate for them.

Read More.



Jocelyn Vega, Class of 2017


Cornell University, Class of 2017

Air Force Academy High School


Jocelyn Vega embodies leadership and grace. A native of the McKinley Park neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago, Jocelyn grew up in a strong, working class, Latino family. Like many first-generation, low-income students, her entire life she has had to overcome numerous obstacles that have challenged her ability to attend college—her realizing her own potential as a high-achieving, low-income student being one of the biggest hurdles she has had to face thus far. For so long, she constantly had people in her life telling her that she would never be good enough, and that students like her don’t get to go to college; this making it even harder for her to have confidence in herself and her abilities.

“Chicago Scholars was my only safe space in Chicago because of its supportive atmosphere.” Along with the endless workshops and counseling sessions Chicago Scholars offers, Jocelyn says the ability to just talk to anyone in the office whenever she was feeling overwhelmed or anxious was one of the most valuable resources Chicago Scholars provided her with.

At Cornell University, Jocelyn is majoring in Government and Sociology, and is balancing three minors. This summer she will be interning for the Exoneration Project of Chicago and will be in Ghana working as a student teacher for the UN NGO Voices of African Mothers from July until August 2015. Her goal is to continue her higher education so that she can research and engage in social change, domestically and internationally.

She encourages current high school juniors to take time to reflect on their experiences, values, and communities to first understand the person that they are to then determine which college is best for them. Jocelyn admits that she struggled being the first in her family to graduate and attend college, but with Chicago Scholars, she soon realized that she was never alone throughout the process. Now, she happily states that she has all the confidence she needs to tackle the world, and it is all thanks to Chicago Scholars.

Torrence Sorrell, Class of 2015

Determined, passionate, and diligent, are just a few words that can describe Torrence Sorrell, Chicago Scholar class of 2015.  This recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign majored in Journalism is determined to make a huge impact in his community. Growing up on the west side in the Austin neighborhood, he had many obstacles to overcome, which eventually moved is family to the Elmwood Park area.  When Torrence joined Chicago Scholars, he said he instantly felt like he was a part of a bigger community. He says getting to bond with his mentors and the other scholars in his group were some of the best times he has spent since becoming a Chicago Scholar. “I still keep in contact with my mentor and fellow scholars in my cohort! We call ourselves the “College Bound Crew” and we truly are a family.”

The workshops and support from Chicago Scholars also allowed Torrence to be ahead of the competition by putting in work during the summer of his senior year in high school, thus helping him getting accepted into his top choice colleges earlier than many of his classmates.  That drive and diligence has stayed with Torrence through his college years. “As the first to go away to college in my family, instead of feeling alone, I knew Chicago Scholars would always be there for me.”

While in college as he anchored and produce a sports radio talk show, worked at the Residence Hall Library at UIUC, and co-edited for the National Association, all while maintaining a 3.5 GPA. His dream is to become a sports update anchor on the radio and we at Chicago Scholars know that he is well on his way to achieving his dreams.

Torrence’s advice for other students is that they should definitely join Chicago Scholars because it’s the perfect way to get ahead of the game so you won’t stress in your senior year. He also wants scholars to know that they can do anything they set their minds to and should never feel discouraged for any reason. “Statistics say I shouldn’t have been able to get into U of I with a 19 on my ACT. They also say it’s extremely difficult for African-American males who went to a Chicago Public School to graduate in four-years. 

Torrence recently finished an interview with CBS Sports Radio, whom he interned for last summer. He is also currently interning for the Midwest Professional Basketball Association (MPBA), a minor basketball league that has several connections to the National Basketball Association (NBA). He is excited to graduate next year and begin his career.

Chicago Scholars names Milton Rodriguez Vice President of Development

Milton Rodriguez joins the Chicago Scholars Foundation with over 15 years of experience in resource development and nonprofit management. Transitioning from High Jump, where he served as the Director of Development, Rodriguez has a proven record of accomplishments defined by developing impactful funding relationships, yielding increased investment, and driving organizational growth and capacity development.

Rodriguez’s 15 years of experience include leadership positions at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Little Village Chamber of Commerce, The Resurrection Project, Mujeres Latinas En Accion, and the National Museum of Mexican Art. Currently, Rodriguez holds a seat on the University Of Michigan Club Of Greater Chicago Board Of Directors, the Latino Giving Circle, and the J-Def Peace Project. He earned his BA and MSW from the University of Michigan, an MBA from Roosevelt University, and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive.

“The true impact of Chicago Scholars on the City of Chicago will continue to play out in generations to come. By creating opportunities for Scholars to succeed and thrive, Chicago Scholars is nurturing Chicago’s future generations of leaders across all industries and sectors, changing the narrative that has too often been predetermined for our young people”, said Milton Rodriguez.

A native of Chicago and graduate of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, Rodriguez brings firsthand experience and knowledge of the challenges faced by many Chicago Scholars participants and their families, and strives to increase the educational opportunities available for Chicago’s youth.

“I am so excited by what Mr. Rodriguez brings to the table. As a first generation student, he personally relates to and embodies the stories of our Scholars. With his deep connection to our mission and his professional expertise, I believe he will play a critical role in taking Chicago Scholars to the next level”, said President & CEO Dominique Jordan Turner.

Chicago Scholars recently welcomed 425 of the city’s most talented students into the new Scholar Class of 2020. These students will have the opportunity to work in a cohort with peers and mentors as they learn to navigate their road to success to and through college, and beyond. The Class of 2020 is the largest class of Scholars selected in the history of the organization. Over the next 4 years, Chicago Scholars is preparing to accept 1000 students each year, guiding a critical mass of Chicago’s youth into their leadership pipeline.

About | Chicago Scholars Foundation

Founded in 1996 as a scholarship-granting organization, Chicago Scholars has evolved into a one-of-a-kind, 7 year mentoring and support program beginning in a student’s junior year of high school. Its mission is to provide talented, academically ambitious and underserved students from every high school and neighborhood in Chicago with access and success through college and beyond. Our academically ambitious scholars are not only investing in their own career growth and success, but also ensuring that Chicago remains competitive in the global economy.

Mayor appoints Chicago Scholars President & CEO to Board of Education

Chicago Scholars announces Dominique Jordan Turner’s appointment to the Chicago Board of Education. This appointment extends the mission of Chicago Scholars to positively impact the City’s underserved and academically talented youth in every high school and every Chicago neighborhood.

To read more about Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s education initiative please visit the official press release from the City of Chicago.

Chicago Scholars CEO empowers underserved teens with path to college

By Leslie Mann

Dominique Jordan Turner was born to a teenage mother from a Chicago housing project, and she had peers who struggled to avoid the crime that plagued their neighborhood. But Turner (“Mika” to her family) had an advantage — a mother with foresight. She moved Turner and her sister to Niles, Mich., where they thrived within the safety net of an everybody-knows-everybody small town.

“We were parented by all the parents there,” said Turner. “We saw beyond a life of young pregnancies, hourly jobs and no education.”

Turner went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in business from Clark Atlanta University and an MBA from Marquette University, then became a management consultant for Deloitte Consulting. After serving in the Peace Corps in Panama (and becoming fluent in Spanish), Turner sought nonprofit work.

Since 2013, she has been the CEO of Chicago Scholars Foundation, which helps talented but underserved Chicago high-schoolers get into and stay in college.

“Friend-raising and fundraising” consume her day, said Turner, 38, who coaxes donors to give their time and money to the foundation, which receives no government support.

“She’s a charismatic collaborator, tackling huge problems like inequality of education,” said Sarah Berghorst, a nonprofit director who served with Turner in the Peace Corps. “She knows how to help underserved students because she’s been there.”

Turner’s volunteer posts include serving on the IMPACT Leadership Development Program (emerging African-American professionals) in Chicago and on the Illinois Mentoring Partnership’s Program Leadership Council. She founded Black Girls Lead (for female nonprofit directors in Chicago).

Earlier this month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Turner to the Chicago Board of Education. She is one of four new members who will serve a four-year term beginning July 1.

Read more

Chicago Sun Times: Mentoring programs push college-bound students to maximize application process

Written By Jordyn Holman

With college costs skyrocketing, more high school graduates are looking for ways to get the best deals on higher education.

That’s where groups such as the Chicago Scholars Foundation come in.

They help students from low-income or first-generation college families navigate the college application process. Students are urged to have a savvy strategy and aggressively seek scholarships that can help foot the bill.

“It’s like flying for the first time and going to O’Hare,” said Dominique Jordan Turner, the CEO and president of Chicago Scholars. “We help guide the way for them to get to their gate or otherwise they’ll miss their flight.”

That kind of guidance is crucial. The cost of a private college rose 27 percent from the 2002-03 school year to the 2012-13 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In the 2014-15 school year, the average cost of a private university was $31,381.

Arianna Alexander, Kenwood Academy’s valedictorian and a participant in the Chicago Scholars program, secured $3 million in scholarships. Alexander, who is headed to the University of Pennsylvania, received mostly full rides from the 26 universities where she was accepted.

Read more

Chicago’s Got Talent: Newsletter – Q3

We would like to share with you the amazing quarter Chicago Scholars has had through the experience of one of our Scholars. Ruben Bautista, a Scholar from the graduating class of 2016, only imagined what it’d be like to go to a top tier university. He never thought of himself as capable of reaching that level of education. After receiving the Chicago Scholars Education and Leadership Development Grant, Ruben was able to study abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Once his experiences began to expand from beyond the gates of his community, so did his goals.

Ruben says, “Harvard and Yale were universities I associated with movies and guys on T.V. It was a life changing experience being in London and meeting students just like me who attended these Ivy League schools. I now plan on attending Harvard or Yale law post undergraduate.”

Students like Ruben, who are academically ambitious and aspire to reach new heights, are the leaders and believers Chicago Scholars is harvesting. Thank you to all of our supporters who help make our Scholars’ dreams become real life goals. We invite you all to take a look at our 3rd quarter newsletter and witness the great things we are doing to make sure our Scholars succeed.


We uniquely select, train, and mentor academically ambitious students from under-resourced communities to complete college and become the next generation of leaders who will transform their neighborhoods and our city.

Chicago Scholars featured on Univision

Univision was live at the Chicago Scholars 9th Annual Onsite College Admissions Forum and Luncheon where 148 selective to highly selective colleges and universities from across the nation interviewed one-on-one with the College Class of 2020 – comprised of 900 emerging young leaders. Scholars interviewed with up to six best match-fit colleges of their choice with many receiving college admissions and merit aid scholarships on-site.


Chicago Scholars on WVON 1690 Radio

Jaime Garcia, Director of College Access and Scholars were featured on WVON 1690 Radio to speak about their experience at the 9th Annual Chicago Scholars Onsite College Admissions Forum.

Chicago Scholars on WVON 1690 Radio CHICAGO | October 29, 2015 – Jaime Garcia, Director of College Access and Scholars were featured on WVON 1690 Radio to speak about their experience at the 9th Annual Chicago Scholars Onsite College Admissions Forum.

The Pursuit of Excellence: Q4 Newsletter

We are all overwhelmed with gratitude about how incredible this year has been for Chicago Scholars. Thanks to supporters like you, our Scholars are successfully getting to and through college, and fulfilling leadership positions across the city. 2015 has truly been a reflection of the amazing community on which we are founded.

We uniquely select, train, & mentor academically ambitious students from under-resourced communities to complete college & become the next generation of leaders who will transform their neighborhoods & our city. | 2281012

Café Mocha Radio honors Chicago Scholars President & CEO

Café Mocha (the nationally syndicated radio show best known as ‘radio from a women’s perspective) with local Chicago affiliate WSRB-FM 106.3 celebrated outstanding women for their strides to make a difference and empower our community.

Dominique Jordan Turner, Chicago Scholars President & CEO was the recipient of the Salute Her: Community Activist Award.


Chicago Scholars featured on Comcast Newsmakers

During her interview on Comcast Newsmakers, Dominique Jordan Turner, Chicago Scholars President and CEO, discusses the importance of the Chicago Scholars’ program model that supports students not only through the college application process, but also through college to graduation and as they transition into their careers.

Through programs such as Onsite Admissions Forum, Chicago Scholars provides a valuable resource to academically talented, low-income and first generation students by giving them an opportunity to apply and interview with more than 140 colleges and universities at October event. It is a resource valued by the colleges and universities, too.  Admissions representatives for schools from around the country come to Chicago to interview these talented students before their regular admissions cycles.

College Choice Celebration in the News

If you watched the news last night, you may have already heard that last night’s College Choice Celebration was a great success!  Prior to making their college choices, more than 400 Chicago Scholars from the Class of 2020 submitted more than 4,300 college applications, were admitted to more than 140 colleges and universities, and have been awarded more than $29.5 million in merit aid.

Last night we celebrated as our Class of 2020 announced their college decisions. Fox 32 ChicagoABC 7, and Hoy came out to cover the inspiring event, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the stories they produced!

Check out the excellent coverage:

Fox 32

Fox News reporter Craig Wall profiled Class of 2020 Chicago Scholar Christopher Wilson in an segment which follows Christopher from his home in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood to his college announcement (University of Wisconsin – Madison!) at our College Choice Celebration.

Click here to watch to the segment


ABC 7 reporter Cheryl Burton covered the College Choice Celebration and the great impact of the Chicago Scholars program. The segment features Class of 2020 Scholar Daniel Rodriguez, who is headed for Harvard University in the fall, as well as footage from last night’s celebration.

Click here to watch the segment


Hoy reporter Laura Rodríguez interviewed several Class of 2020 Scholars at the College Choice Celebration in a video that was live-streamed on Hoy’s Facebook page.

Click here to watch the video

Chicago Scholars attend Beating the Odds Summit at the White House

On Tuesday, July 19, our President and CEO Dominique Jordan Turner accompanied Scholars Nia Hill and Christopher Wilson (Class of 2020) to the First Lady’s Beating the Odds Summit at the White House.  Nia and Christopher were invited to join 127 other college-bound students from across the country who have overcome significant obstacles in order to get where they are today.

The Beating the Odds Summit is part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher and Better Make Room initiatives, and is an opportunity for college-bound students to celebrate their tremendous accomplishments, get advice from the First Lady and major White House and Department of Education representatives as well as staff from organizations like Google and influencers like Tyler Oakley and Jidenna, and learn tools and strategies for a successful college transition.

Aside from the excitement of being in the White House, Nia and Christopher enjoyed the program. In an interview with Black Enterprise, Christopher said, “I left feeling really motivated by the panels, and as if anything is possible with hard work.”

At the summit, they ran into three other Chicago Scholars – Sammie Shields, Clinton Osei, and Kendrick Rogers – who had been invited to represent other organizations or schools.

Dominique was also able to make a big check mark on her bucket list when she took a photo with Michelle Obama!


We are excited to share with you the widespread media coverage we received surrounding Nia, Christopher and Dominique’s participation at the summit.  Nia and Christopher were interviewed and featured in multiple news outlets, including NBC 5, WGN, US News and World Report, Washington Post, Black Enterprise, Chicago Citizen,  and DNA Info:


Onsite 2016 in the News!


At the Onsite on Tuesday, nearly 1,000 students interviewed one-on-one with 176 colleges and universities from around the country, with many students receiving admissions on the spot.  More than 1,500 offers of admission and more than $53 million in merit aid have been awarded.

We are changing the narrative for young people in our city – and it did not go unnoticed.  We’re excited to share with you the incredible coverage we have received.

We invite you to check out the great stories captured by the Chicago Tribune, WBEZ, DNA Info, and WTTW below.  The Onsite Admissions Forum was also featured on WGN TV’s Evening News, CBS 2 News at 6 p.m., CLTV News: Evening Edition, and ABC 7 Eyewitness News.

As many of our Scholars experienced the exciting milestone of getting into college, Chicago Scholars is celebrating a milestone of our own – our 20th Anniversary. While we reflect on how far we have come in 20 years and look forward to a future of transforming our city through education, mentorship and leadership, we decided it was time to upgrade our look (you may have noticed the new logo at the top of the email).  You can read about our new brand here.


Chicago Tribune

“‘Now I know I’m going to college.’ A day changes lives for CPS students”

by Heidi Stevens


DNA Info

“Chicago Students Get College Acceptance On The Spot At Navy Pier”

by David Matthews



“On Different Paths, Chicago Students Taking 1st Steps Toward College, Careers”

by Matt Masterson



“Hundreds Of Chicago High School Students Interviewed By College Admission Reps”

by Becky Vevea


I encourage you to share these stories with others – these are the stories that we should all be telling about Chicago.

It is because of you that we are able to make Tuesday’s event happen and change hundreds of live in a single day.  Thank you so much for your ongoing support.

Fresh off the presses! Our Annual Report: 2015-2016 is here Catch up on all things Chicago Scholars

It’s been a big year for us, and we’re thrilled to present our latest Annual Report. Get your fill of Scholar stories, charts and graphs, our biggest achievements and so much more!

Click the full screen button to enlarge and flip through the pages.



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Dominique Jordan Turner featured on WYCC’s In The Loop

“If we do not invest in prevention strategies, 20 years from now we will be talking about the same things.”

Dominique Jordan Turner participated in a panel discussion on sanctuary cities, education equity and the CPS lawsuit, and more on In The Loop on WYCC PBS Chicago with Bonnie Allen, Director of Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Ted Dabrowski, Vice President of Policy at Illinois Policy Institute. It aired Thursday and Sunday evenings on Channel 20.



The work we are doing at Chicago Scholars is creating the right kind of change – the kind that gets at the root of the problems our city faces through education and leadership.  We’re excited for these opportunities that allow us to share our vision with a broader audience, and are proud of Dominique’s thought leadership on these issues that impact our Scholars.

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