By Rachel Cromidas, third-year in the College
Photo by Jason Smith

We’re able to create a community of diverse students who love learning that crosses racial, social, and economical lines.”
—Kim Ransom
Director, Collegiate Scholars

When first-year Fabiola Salazar started classes at the University of Chicago, she had already attended Humanities classes in Cobb Hall and science labs in the Biological Sciences Learning Center—and she knew her way around her dormitory like a returning student.

In a sense, she already was one; Salazar’s introduction to the campus came four years ago, when she enrolled in Collegiate Scholars—a University program that places high-achieving Chicago Public School students in summer classes with University professors on subjects ranging from hip-hop music to the Illinois political system, in addition to internships and college application workshops.

Inspired by College Life

Salazar said being exposed to college life as a sophomore in high school, while spending part of the summer in the Max Palevsky dormitory alongside college students, inspired her to make ambitious goals for her college career, including applying to the University. Now she is an economics major, and plans to pursue an MBA.

Salazar also arrived on campus with a friend: fourth-year Roderick Baker, who also graduated from the Collegiate Scholars Program.

“Being on campus and away from home is overwhelming,” Salazar said, “So for me Roderick was the helping hand that guided me through the ins and outs of the University. He’s teaching me what he wishes someone had told him as a first-year.”

Mentoring Relationships

Collegiate Scholars prides itself on the mentoring relationships that develop between alumni at colleges around the country, according to Kim Ransom, the program’s founding director.

“We’re able to create a community of diverse students who love learning that crosses racial, social, and economical lines.”

Ransom said the program, which fields nearly 700 applicants for 45 spots each year, is unique in its ability to connect these students with distinguished University professors like Paul Sally Jr. and Herman Sinaiko.

Top-College Bound

Collegiate Scholars “really gets students thinking, I’m not just going to a college, but to a top college, because I’m a top student,” Baker, a political sciences major, said.

Omar Mesina, a senior at Whitney Young Magnet High School, said he made sure to take as many science classes as possible while on campus.

“I want to go to medical school in the future, or pursue bio-chemistry—Collegiate Scholars as definitely allowed me to expand on that,” he said. Mesina took summer courses in chemistry and biology, and last summer studied Nutritional Science alongside University students in summer school.

“Collegiate Scholars really allowed me to take sciences beyond the scope of what was offered to me at my school,” he added. He expects this preparation will serve him well when he begins attending Harvard University in the fall.

David Williams, a senior at the University of Chicago Charter School in Woodlawn, said the value of the program extends far beyond campus, from an East Coast college tour to cultural outings to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He plans to study Philosophy and Psychology at Carleton College.

Williams, who attended the programs first-ever college tour, said the experience was unmatchable. “We went to New York and saw Hairspray [the musical]. We went to Time Square. It was ridiculous.”

Originally published on June 1, 2010.