This week, the entire student body of Benito Juarez Community Academy was surprised with some very good news.
On Tuesday, a nonprofit organization Hope Chicago told students they were recipients of fully funded scholarships at their choice of 20 colleges, universities, and other education programs across Illinois. One parent of each student’s family also qualifies for a scholarship. Juarez was one of five schools to receive the scholarships.
Juarez High School principal JuanCarlos Ocon says the announcement has made so much more possible for the students and their families.
“The number of students who have stopped me in the hall just to acknowledge the enormity of the announcement, to ask me questions, some of them are still in disbelief, they can’t even imagine it,” said Ocon. “Students who didn’t think that college or postsecondary was a pathway for them at this time are flooding our counseling suites or stopping the administrative team to ask if it’s not too late for them to begin applying.”
Senior Diego Garcia said he felt a “rush of emotions” upon hearing the news that the scholarship was not only available to him, but also his mother Maria, who had started studying to become a nurse years ago.
“When he said a parent can go back to college to continue studying, that’s when it really set in, and I almost cried,” Garcia said. “I turned right away to my mom, and I told my mom, ‘Hey, you can continue your studies, and this is a great opportunity.’ I was just feeling very emotional.”
For Garcia, having his tuition covered means he can focus on studying rather than worrying about money.
“Initially, I had applied to the schools that I had applied to, and I told myself ‘Okay great, this is where it ends, I’m going to apply for scholarships and going to do all this,’ but this completely flipped that on its head,” he said. “I had also planned, you know, ‘I’m going to go to school, what school can I go to and what job can I get to accommodate my studies to fund my books, technology, transportation.’ But now that we have full room and board, meal plan, all of that, the plan has drastically changed to, ‘I’m going to dedicate my entire life to what I’m going to study, and I’m going to dedicate all my time and all my effort to that.”’”