As the first person in his family to graduate from high school, Jose Caballero-Ortega, 18, thought his college options were limited. He wasn’t sure how to finance community college, let alone go away to a four-year institution.
Being a Schuler Scholar opened Caballero-Ortega’s eyes to a world of possibilities. He just graduated from Round Lake High School and will attend Tufts University, Mass. this fall. He plans to be a doctor.
“Schuler is not just a scholarship — it’s a family. They’re there whenever you need them and they’re always pushing you,” Caballero-Ortega said. “The thing I got the most out of Schuler is ... they know how hard to push so you don’t quit and achieve what you need.”
He attended a summer class at Brown University called “So You Think You Want to Be a Doctor?” He said that class, through Schuler, helped him realize his career plan. He has visited operas, plays and also spent five weeks in Thailand as part of the Schuler Community Service and Travel program.
Caballero-Ortega is among 69 Schuler Scholars to graduate this year. Schuler Scholars will matriculate to 37 colleges and universities across the country, according to Schuler Scholar Program executive director Candace Browdy.
The Schuler Scholars Program (SSP) prepares under-resourced, high potential students to succeed at the most competitive private colleges and universities across the country.
There are eight partnership high schools with Schuler. New this year are North Chicago High School and Collins Academy High School in Chicago.
Waukegan High School, Highland Park, St. Martin de Porres, Warren Township and Maine East in Park Ridge are the other participating high schools.
Browdy said this year’s Schuler Scholars Class of 2012 have higher ACT scores than years past.
“This is also a class of scholars who took advantage of opportunities to explore schools that no Schuler Scholar has ever matriculated to. It was nice to see this class branching out,” Browdy said.
At the close of the 2011-2012 school year, there were 326 Schuler Scholars in high school, 81 college graduates and 256 scholars in college, Browdy said.
SSP has been around for a decade.
“In the early years, we were only at Waukegan High Schoo,l taking a handful of kids. Most of (our) growth has happened for the last three to five years,” Browdy said.
Five years ago, there was an SSP staff of seven. There are now more than 50, she said.
Browdy also noted another growth area for Schuler Scholars.
“These scholars (in 2012), the work they did with Schuler became more than just about getting themselves into highly selective colleges. They were really focused on talking about their experiences and opportunities with their peers in high school and really helped raise the bar,” Browdy said.
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Jose Caballero-Ortega, as featured in the Lake County News-Sun