First generation advocate sees fruits of her labor

September 10, 2012

By Karen Berkowitz, Pioneer Local

DEERFIELD — Commentators have lamented that young people today may never attain the lifestyle or economic security enjoyed by their parents.

But Candace Browdy can rightly say she’s helping some deserving teenagers gain advantages their parents never had in pursuit of the American dream.

The Deerfield mother of two is executive director of the Lake Forest-based Schuler Scholar Program, which identifies teens early on who would be the first in their families to attend college.

Browdy’s organization then provides the teens and their families support during the high school years so they are well-positioned for acceptance into top-notch colleges and universities. The organization sets students’ sights on highly competitive private schools, which can offer more financial aid and have support systems on campus to help program participants.

Teens benefiting from the initiative since its founding in 2001 have come from schools in Highland Park, Waukegan, Round Lake, DesPlaines, Warren Township and Chicago.

“What we really try to do is level the playing field for students who are coming from backgrounds that aren’t as resource-rich as their peers,” said Browdy, who works with a staff of 55 professionals, including 27 members of the AmeriCorps service program.

“In Highland Park, a very high-performing high school, there is still a high population of students who don’t have the family resources to ensure that they can matriculate to college. While they are getting a good education, there is no one at home that is helping to make sure they are taking the most rigorous courses, or (who) believes that college is attainable. They don’t necessarily have the knowledge to navigate the college admissions process.”

To date, 81 scholars have graduated from prestigious schools, including Amherst, Princeton, Stanford, Williams and Kenyon. Another 247 Schuler Scholars currently are enrolled in college, and 368 more high school students are being prepped for selective colleges.

The program is funded by the Schuler Family Foundation, which was established by Jack Schuler and his daughter, Tanya Schuler Sharman, of Lake Bluff.

Browdy formerly worked as executive director of the Chicago International Charter Schools in Chicago and later was director of the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund. In the latter capacity, she met with Tanya Sharman over lunch one day to discuss the work of their family foundation. In 2007, she was invited to take the position as executive director of the program.

She’s also an active mother of two: Claire, a seventh-grader at Caruso Middle School, and Wyatt, a fifth-grader at Wilmot Elementary School.

Browdy also works to ensure the teens’ parents are on board from the time they first are identified in eighth grade.

“What we don’t want to happen is to create a divide between parents and their children,” she said. “We want the parents to be just as comfortable with the direction in which the child is moving.”

Not only are the families appreciative, scholars who graduate college often want to work with younger participants as a way of giving back. Said Browdy, “It is so fulfilling when that circle closes.”


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