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Announcing the 2024 CS Ways Core Values Mentor Award Recipients

Chicago Scholars is proud to recognize four of our mentors as the winners of our annual CS Ways Core Values Awards

The CS Ways Core Values Awards are awarded by nomination from the entire Chicago Scholars community, including staff, Scholars, and mentors. Winners represent one of the Chicago Scholars Ways Core Values: We Show Up, We Keep Our Word, We Dream Big, We Care For Each Other, and We Model The Way. 

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Announcing the 2024 Mentor of the Year and CS Ways Core Values Award Recipients

Chicago Scholars is proud to recognize six mentors as the winners of our annual mentorship awards, Mentor of the Year and The CS Ways Core Values Awards.

Each year, the Mentor of the Year is selected through nominations from high school and first-year college Scholars.   

Mayra Miranda is the Year 2 Mentor of the Year and a Chicago Scholars Alumna (Class of 2013). She said she is grateful to be named Mentor of the Year because it’s proof that her mentees know she is there to support and celebrate them. 

“As I reflect on the numerous ways that mentors have impacted my life, being nominated by my Scholars for this award is an honor,” Mayra said. “As a CS Alum, giving back to the organization that was instrumental during my college experience and receiving this award is a full circle moment. I am so proud to be part of the Chicago Scholars community, a community filled with exceptional leaders that are committed to supporting and uplifting Scholars.” 

For Mayra, the best parts of mentoring with Chicago Scholars are the conversations with her mentees and the ability to collaborate with Chicago Scholars staff. She said the experience has been rewarding.  

The impact of Chicago Scholars is one that I know first-hand. As an alumna of the program, I remember the support I received to help me navigate the college application process. I will never forget my own Onsite experience,” Mayra said. “I encourage anyone that is interested in supporting Scholars to navigate the college application process or is interested in higher education to volunteer. Chicago Scholars is wonderful at providing tools, resources, trust, and support to mentors. Volunteering as a mentor has been a transformational experience.” 

 

Schafaris Turner is the Year 1 Mentor of the Year and a Chicago Scholars Alumna (Class of 2016).  

“It means so much that my Scholars thought so highly of me to nominate me,” Schafaris said. “Many times, I wonder if I’m doing enough, if I’m being supportive enough, or even available enough. This award serves as recognition of the work I have been doing and validation that I’m giving my all to my Scholars.” 

Schafaris said her favorite part of the year is when her Scholars announce the college they will attend in the fall.  

“It’s beautiful to see all of their hard work and determination finally come to fruition,” she said. 

Each year, her Scholars teach her something new about the world and about herself, Schafaris said. In particular, Scholars have modeled the way for showing up as your authentic self in all contexts, a trait Schafaris said she admires. 

“It warms my heart to know that this organization has not strayed away from their mission after all these years,” Schafaris said. “By getting involved with Chicago Scholars, you’ll have the opportunity to be a resource to the next generation of leaders. You will also have the opportunity to network with other amazing professionals that have chosen to volunteer as well.  

 

The CS Ways Core Values Awards are awarded by nomination from the entire Chicago Scholars community, including staff, Scholars, and mentors. Winners represent one of the Chicago Scholars Ways Core Values: We Show Up, We Keep Our Word, We Dream Big, We Care For Each Other, and We Model The Way. 

 

Alleson Knox is a Year 2 mentor and is excited to have two mentees at her alma mater, Howard University. She was recognized for modeling the value “We Show Up.”

“I’m grateful to have supported my mentees in their college application process and transition,” Alleson said. “I realize these relationships will extend far beyond the official terms of mentorship, and I look forward to the many memories and wonderful things they will accomplish in the coming years.” 

Alleson said she encourages potential mentors to jump in and be open to sharing their life experience – especially their mistakes and lessons learned from them.  

Students deserve our unwavering support during such a monumental part of their lives,” she said. “By fostering a culture of mentorship and support, Chicago Scholars not only enhances the college application process for students, but also cultivates a community where aspirations are nurtured and dreams are realized.” 

 

Andrea Syukur has been a Chicago Scholars Mentor since 2017. She said she was surprised to receive a CS Ways Award for the “We Model the Way” value and is grateful to be recognized by her fellow Mentors.  

For Andrea, the best part of mentoring with Chicago Scholars has been working with college Scholars while “knowing the sweet rewards of the long game.” 

“We meet kids at a point in their lives where they’re about to embark on their biggest journey, and then some fall out of touch due to the rhythm of life,” Andrea said. “Then when you least expect it: a text, a Snapchat message, or a LinkedIn message comes in thanking you for all you’ve done to get them through college and where they’re at now because of the experiences they had at school. No reward is sweeter than hearing about the successes of your past mentees.” 

Andrea encouraged anyone who wants to feel hopeful for the future of Chicago should consider getting involved with Chicago Scholars. 

“Chicago Scholars helps you recognize the immense potential of our Chicago community. Our Scholars represent the best and brightest the city has to offer from all of its diverse neighborhoods,” she said. “This work is for those looking to see what our future looks like for our city.”
 

Kiley Kio said receiving a CS Ways Award for “We Dream Big” “represents a significant milestone” in her journey as a young professional.  

I am grateful for the concept of the American Dream, the countless mentors that have imparted their words of wisdom, I am also grateful for the many long hours that have carried me to this very moment,” Kiley said. “This award represents a personal milestone as it validates not only this path I have tried to trailblaze, but also the impact I have seemingly had in helping Chicago’s youth achieve similar life checkpoints.” 

 Kiley’s favorite parts of mentoring with Chicago Scholars have been the relationships she’s built with her mentees and co-mentors and the chance to be a more empathetic leader. 

 “I would strongly everyone – at any age or stage of life – to get involved with the revolutionary work brewing at Chicago Scholars,” Kiley said. “Chicago Scholars is an organization where people are seen, heard, and deeply valued.” 

 

Lovey Marshall is a Year 2 mentor and has been a mentor since 2022. She has been recognized for modelling the value, “We Care for Each Other.”

 “I love showing up and supporting Scholars, but I never thought they were actually paying attention to me,” Lovey said. “ I am honored that they saw me and my contribution to their journey.” 

 The best part of Lovey’s experience as a mentor has been watching her mentees see their dreams come true.  

“Chicago Scholars opens the door wide so Scholars can see the world,” she said. “Sometimes that world is going to a college in California and being able to visit that school. When scholars get into the school they want or a lot of schools and they get the option to chose which one they want, its so fun to see their excitement.” 

Lovey said she has strong relationships with her mentees, even hearing from some that they want to continue checking in with her even after their formal mentor/mentee relationship ends. She said that she would encourage others to become mentors in order to have this kind of lasting impact on a student’s life. 

From my Scholars, I have learned that they desire to impact the world through change and advocacy for the betterment of all,” Lovey said. “Young people who are still in high school and headed into college see the future and how they can impact it….That is amazing.”   

 

The application for 2024-2026 mentors closes on May 3, 2024. Learn more about the program and submit your application here 

A Mentor’s View: Interview with Year 2 Mentor Shanthi Cambala

Read more about Lee’s experience with his CS mentors here.

I believe the students and mentors are the two factors that make CS the special organization it is, although the de facto focus is on the students and our achievements as Scholars both inside and outside of school. That’s why I felt that the mentors should be highlighted first at the end of this academic year.

In my first Launch workshop late 2021, I met my mentor Shanthi Cambala. After a few icebreaker games, I felt far more relaxed and optimistic about how the next few sessions would go. Fast-forward to Spring 2023, and Shanthi is one of my biggest supporters in my academic and creative pursuits.

“After scanning through multiple volunteer sites, I came across the opportunity to volunteer with CS Writing Labs, and given my love of writing, and I was immediately interested!” Shanthi said.  “One student reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to meet with him personally to assist with his creative writing portfolio. That particular student got into his top choice schools. It was after that moment that I knew that I would enjoy being a mentor, and the rest is history!”

“The first year took a LOT of planning, because there were so many moving pieces, especially with the unpredictability of the pandemic at the time. The primary questions that we as mentors asked was, “How do we build relationships virtually and keep everyone engaged?” The year (Year 2) was vastly different.” Shanthi said that Year 2’s less virtual structure gave her the challenge of aligning her own time with that of her five Year 2 Scholars. Once that was clear, her main priority was centered around Scholar wellness. “I really wanted to focus on listening and meeting Scholars where they were at.” To Shanthi, the mentor-Scholar relationship is “rooted in being open with one another…We want to get to know you, and most importantly, we want to be able to help you in your journey!… Mentors are here to guide you through the taught times, and we appreciate the trust that you put in us through such a foundational stop in your careers.”

For me, Shanthi is the perfect example of what makes CS special. When she invests her time towards her Scholars, it is not for the sake of just getting the job done. She wants to get eye level with us. After her monthly check-ins, she will always tell us anytime to reach out to her, no matter the reason. She has a true impact on my life, so I asked her how has Chicago Scholars impacted her life?

“Chicago Scholars has, first and foremost, helped me to feel connected and engaged with the Chicago community.” Shanthi says, “It has been exciting for me to get to know my Scholars and fellow Mentors, and I love hearing everyone’s stories!”

The deadline to apply to be a mentor for the Class of 2028 has been extended to May 17, 2023! Learn more here.

Mentorship, the CS Way

What is the heart and soul of a good mentor? A good CS mentor at that. It is more than asking a student how they are feeling and taking down notes on them. It takes the ability to look past the object lines under the job description and focus on the student.

When I was selected to be a CS Scholar, I had a vague idea of what CS mentoring was. I was apprehensive at first. I was happy to be part of CS, but I didn’t want the program to be a repetitive back and forth of “How are things?” and “Good, what do you need from me?” It certainly didn’t help that our sessions were Zoom and I could only see and hear my mentors, John Smart and Shanthi Cambala, in 2×4 boxes on the corner of my screen. I quickly learned how needlessly worried I was. Shanthi and John created games that sparked conversation between me and others in the cohort, relating to one another’s high school life. They didn’t force themselves into the discussion, but instead chimed in with their own experiences and advice.

Shanthi and John never made me feel any kind of pressure during my college decision process. They never jabbed me for updates on decisions from the admissions offices nor to know which school I was selecting. Instead, they reminded me that I was still human and even though I was in the middle of the most crucial points in my life, they were giving me their full support. I never felt like their care for mentoring me was going to abruptly stop when I graduated and got to college.

I selected Shanthi as my Year 2 Mentor because of how well I related to her. I never experienced mentorship from someone who is relatively close to the same junction I was in at the time. Shanthi is still going on her educational journey as I am, which I personally feel allows us to be more transparent and gives her a better understanding of what I may need help with or where I might be struggling.

I still keep in touch with John on a routine basis. He had recognized that my interest in film and television did not have as many conventional avenues that other scholar interests had. He connected me with an experienced director in the film industry so I could gather some expertise and tips on how to gain experience and notability.

When the formalities of “mentor/mentee” are gone, I believe I’ll have two wonderful friendships with Shanthi and John. The routine we have when it comes to staying in touch and considering each other’s well-being and potential, I confidently think that the foundation has already been laid.

What do you think is the heart and soul of mentorship? Why not develop a connection with a Scholar as a mentor yourself?

The application to become a CS mentor is now due on May 17! Learn more here. 

Jennifer Shimp and Dan Bradley named 2023 Mentors of the Year

Every year, we honor a Year One and Year Two Mentor as Mentors of the Year. While we celebrate the hard work and dedication of every Chicago Scholars Mentor, our Mentors of the Year not only embody our CS Way Values, but go above and beyond for their Scholars every day. This year, we’re thrilled to honor Year One Mentor Jennifer Shimp and Year Two Mentor Dan Bradley. 

Inspired to mentor the next class of Chicago Scholars? Click here to learn more about our application process. 

Jennifer Shimp is a veteran Chicago Scholars mentor and is currently mentoring a cohort of Year Two Scholars. Read her Q&A below to learn more about her experience as a mentor.  

 

What does it mean to you to be named Mentor of the Year? 

Receiving the Mentor of the Year is an unbelievable honor. Chicago Scholars is such an amazing and unique organization and I feel so fortunate to have gotten to know many of the talented Scholars, co-mentors and CS team. It is a privilege to share my time, work and life experience to help in some small way that the dreams and goals of the Scholars become reality.  

 

What is your favorite thing about mentoring Scholars? 

The best part of being a Chicago Scholar mentor is getting to meet the Scholars at New Scholar Orientation (NSO) and see them develop confidence in themselves, learn and capitalize on their unique “superpowers” and provide support as they complete their college and scholarship applications and prepare for their interviews at Onsite. It is so exciting when the acceptances, financial aid and scholarships start coming in which will determine where they take the next step in their college and career journeys. I enjoy staying in touch and continuing to see their growth through college and beyond.  

 

Why should someone become a Chicago Scholars mentor? 

Others should get involved with Chicago Scholars for many reasons, but the most important reason is to support young adults navigate the college access/acceptance process. Supporting their journey changes lives as well as those of future generations. They are the leaders who will be impacting our future!  

I still can’t believe that the Scholars in my very first cohort are just about to graduate from college. I love that the Scholars reach out periodically to ask for advice or just share updates.  

 

Would you like to share something you’ve learned from your Scholars? 

Two of the attributes of the Scholars that have impressed me the most are their perseverance and resilience. Many of them are relatively new to this country, many do not have big support networks, if at all. They have come through the isolation and challenges of the coronavirus and have other struggles but they work incredibly hard and take advantage and support of the Chicago Scholars program to make their future goals come true. It is so exciting to learn about the ways that they plan to make the world a better place.  

 

 

Dan Bradley is a veteran mentor who is currently working with a cohort of Year Two Scholars. 

 

What does it mean to you to receive this award?

I feel very humbled to be recognized with this award as I know how many extraordinary CS mentors — both that I’ve volunteered alongside or interacted with from a distance — are incredibly deserving of the recognition. I hope that I am able to adequately speak on behalf of the inspiring and diverse community of CS Mentors who make it a priority in their lives to encourage, support, and celebrate the efforts and talents of our scholars. It has always been my goal as a CS mentor to offer a positive influence, however small or large, in my scholars’ lives during a critical period of young adulthood. I believe that this award represents that the collective impact of the many contributions CS Mentors offer our scholars is far larger and more meaningful than we may appreciate in the fleeting shared moments together. To me the award also represents the irreplaceable support CS Mentors receive from the tireless efforts of the CS Staff. I would not be the CS mentor I am today without the year-round dedication and investment CS Staff make in both scholars and mentors to prepare us to be successful in our work together. 

 

What has been the best part of being a CS Mentor?

It is a bit surreal to realize the first cohort of scholars I worked with will now be heading into their senior undergraduate year. The years have flashed by. I am so impressed by how our scholars have navigated challenges and flourished as undergraduates. My favorite moments include witnessing the transformation scholars undergo — often between their second semester and the end of the year — when they begin embracing their identity as a college student with newfound confidence. I know it has occurred when scholars begin sharing their outlets to inspire new individuals to pursue educational goals. This drive to inspire and support others is what I believe is at the root of the transformational power of Chicago Scholars. 

 

Why should others get involved with Chicago Scholars’ work? 

The people of Chicago Scholars — scholars, staff, volunteers, and supporters of all types — deeply believe in the transformational mission of the organization. Anyone seeking to experience or contribute firsthand to the incredible impact higher education has on individuals and broader society will find a welcome home in Chicago Scholars. As a mentor you are trusted with playing a critical support role as scholars transition between high school to their first year as an undergraduate. The expectations for mentors are set high because Chicago Scholars attracts people who can meet them and provides the training to set individuals up to be successful. Becoming involved with Chicago Scholars’ work means you will find yourself as a member of this talented, driven community committed to transformation.   

 

What is something you learned from our Scholars or from being a CS Mentor? 

I’ve learned that it is never too early or too late to open yourself up and offer guidance, support, or a caring heart to another person. You don’t need to possess all of the “right” answers — or even all of the “right” questions — to make a positive impression and offer encouragement to another. You start simply by showing up, honestly sharing your experiences, and being willing to learn and grow. Setbacks or missteps are an inevitable part of everyone’s growth and development. These alone should not and will not dissuade anyone with the genuine desire to help people progress toward their set goals.