Two local students whose parents emigrated from South America were the recipients of this year's scholarships from the Computer Systems Institute in Elgin.
Marco Linares, 18, of Elgin, a graduate of Elgin High School, and Eduardo Chirinos, 19, of Lake in the Hills, a graduate of Crystal Lake South High School, received SMART scholarships for CSI's eight-month program networking career program, worth about $15,000, said Tom Claxton, CSI's vice president of career services. SMART stands for "Start, Motivate, Achieve, Reach, Transform."
Linares, whose parents are from Mexico, is the first in his immediate family to graduate from high school. His mother is planning to move back to Mexico, which will make him even more responsible for his younger sister, he said.
"I am always thinking of (my responsibility) as (that of) a pen, and I am the peak. I am always pushing and everyone is behind me," he said. "I want to be an example."
Chirinos said his family, originally from Peru, is in a tight spot financially because of medical bills related to his mother's battle with breast cancer. Her attitude has been an inspiration, he said.
"She's always positive. She has always been strong. When she's in pain, she tries to not show it," he said.
Each of CSI's three campuses -- Elgin, Gurnee and Chicago -- gives two SMART scholarships a year. The institute serves about 1,500 students overall, Claxton said.
The scholarship selection committee was impressed by the two young men, both of whom have family financial pressures weighing on them, he said.
"Marco is active in the community, helping the elderly, and with gardening projects. We felt that he definitely deserved (the scholarship)," Claxton said.
Chirinos was a top prospect for the CSI program and thought he might have to put his plans on hold because of his family's financial situation, Claxton said. "We figured this would be a way to not only help the family, but for the mother to have something to fight for," he said.
Once students graduate from CSI they can work as computer technicians, help desk specialists, desktop support technicians, computer user support specialists, and network support technicians, Claxton said.
Both students said they want to continue their education after they graduate from CSI. Linares might attend Elgin Community College, while Chirinos has his eye on Illinois State University.
"I don't want to stop here, I want to expand my education," Chirinos said.
"I want to be there for my sister and support her financially, so she doesn't have to worry," he said.
As for their future plans, Linares would like to own his own computer business, while Chirinos might go into business with his older brother, both of whom would like a computer-related business.
"I used to have minimum wage jobs, and I hated that," Chirinos said.