Schuler Scholar Program assists under-resourced students

By Beth Kramer, Lake County News-Sun

WAUKEGAN — Without the Schuler Scholar Program, Karina Sabala of Waukegan doesn’t know if her two gifted daughters would be able to pursue a higher education at prestigious schools.

One of her daughters, Kiara Quinonez, 17, is a Waukegan High School junior who was accepted into Schuler as a freshman. The program has exposed Quinonez to cultural experiences like museum trips, college visits and summer enrichment opportunities.

“I could never give her all the things that Schuler is giving her. I am so grateful to Schuler,” Sabala said.

Her youngest daughter, Rebecca Quinonez, 14, will get similar experiences. The Thomas Jefferson Middle School student is among the first batch of students who will start with Schuler in ninth grade.

The non profit prepares under-resourced, high-potential students to succeed at competitive private colleges and universities. Since 2002, Schuler Scholar Program (SSP) has offered a three-year program to Waukegan High School students.

It offers a four-year program at schools it partners with in Lake County, which include Waukegan High School, Round Lake High School, Warren Township High School, North Chicago Community High School, Cristo Rey St. Martin’s and Highland Park High School.

“We are very excited about the opportunity to serve more students in Waukegan and more importantly, to be able to work with students for four full school years to ensure that they are prepared to succeed academically when they get to college,” SSP Executive Director Candace Browdy said.

Waukegan High School is SSP’s first and oldest partner school, Browdy said. She said SSP wanted to work with the school district to make sure the curriculum would be rigorous enough to support the four-year curriculum model.

“It’s moving in the right direction and so we decided this year, we’ll take some ninth- and tenth-graders,” Browdy said.

Nine ninth-graders and 17 eighth-graders were accepted as new Waukegan High School SSP members, Browdy said. Since the program’s inception, 280 Waukegan High School students have gone through the program.

In 2013, Schuler will spend $4.5 million on 368 high school student Scholars and 247 SSP scholars in college. A total of 81 scholars have graduated from college.

This year, four Schuler scholars are graduating from Highland Park High School; five from Round Lake High School; 15 from Warren Township High School and 28 from Waukegan High School.

Waukegan High School Schuler Scholar Jocelyn Santiago, 18, said she had SSP to thank for helping her get to Wellesley College, a private liberal arts college in Massachusetts. She hasn’t decided on a major yet, but said she would be attending community college if Schuler hadn’t prepared her.

She said it was a good idea to expand SSP to four years.

“(Schuler) is probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I found a second family with the Schuler program,” Santiago said.