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Tag: college access

My NSO Experience: McKenzie Young, Class of 2029

McKenzie Young is a Class of 2029 Chicago Scholar. 

On Friday, May 3rd at 4:12 p.m., I received an email that would change my life forever. I’d been waiting for this letter for six months and my dream finally came true – I had been  selected as a Chicago Scholar.

I felt overwhelmed with joy and a deep sense of accomplishment. I knew that this was going to be the start of something truly remarkable and I was determined to make the best of it. As a first-year Scholar, I was looking forward to meeting my cohort and mentors. Considering that a substantial number of people from my school were in the program, I knew that the New Scholar Orientation (NSO) was a space to branch out.

Learn more about the Chicago Scholars seven-year program model

The first day of NSO was an evening Zoom meeting. Frankly, I was surprised by the number of students on the call, but I was thrilled. The executive team behind the program kicked us off with the CEO sharing an inspirational message about the journey ahead with a slideshow presentation. An hour later, I was split into a breakout room with the rest of my cohort. We played icebreakers to get to know each other and talked about what activities we wanted to do throughout the year. Initially, I was worried about who would be placed in my cohort because I wasn’t sure if we would mesh well together. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the diverse range of people in my group. We all had different strengths and interests, which allowed us to learn from each other and grow together. As the meeting came to a close, I was able to connect with some of the Scholars and exchange contact information in the Zoom meeting group chat. I was looking forward to the next day so I could finally see everyone in person.

I woke up the next morning brimming with excitement. On the way to Roosevelt University, I wondered what the second day would bring. As soon as I got out of the car, the energy in the air was palpable. There was a line wrapped around the building! As I gathered for the day’s activities, I was eager to embark on this new chapter of my life. Walking into a lecture hall with people that I didn’t know was quite intimidating at first, but I quickly took a deep breath and stepped inside. I could feel the anticipation in the air as everyone filed in. I knew that I was surrounded by people who were just as eager to make the most out of their time in Chicago Scholars as I was. I met everyone in my cohort and we played more icebreakers. The real fun began when we started playing Jeopardy. To say that the competition was intense…is an understatement. It was a riot! People were shouting at each other, getting up out of their seats, etc. I’m just happy that my team won. Shortly after, all cohorts gathered in the gym for the final ceremony, where we did a group activity in which we got to be vulnerable by sharing our “superpowers” with each other. The activity allowed us to recognize our strengths and weaknesses, which gave us a better understanding of how to work together. We were all able to go home feeling inspired.

Even though the rest of the week was optional, I still wanted to seize the opportunity by going to the workshops at the CS headquarters. CS has one of the best office spaces that I’ve ever seen. To be brief, all the workshops I went to were phenomenal. I got to learn about leadership opportunities within Chicago Scholars that I definitely will be applying to. I met tons of people and the CS staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming. I left the workshops feeling confident that I could make a difference in the organization.

In essence, NSO was an amazing experience and a fun way to kick off the year. I feel so motivated about the college application process. I can’t wait for the next seven years of my life in the program and beyond!

See Chicago Scholars’ impact on college access and economic mobility in Chicago and beyond.