Amaya Collins Awarded SIU's Premier Meridian Scholarship

College Decision Day 2022 was particularly special for Amaya Collins, who is graduating from Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep in Waukegan this spring. Ms. Collins announced that she would be attending Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville next fall on a full-ride Meridian Scholarship, offered by the university only to select top students. Ms. Collins will participate in the university's honors program and will work towards a degree in Pediatric Nursing.

Ms. Collins is one of 21 Waukegan area high school students who are graduating this year and heading to college with the assistance of Waukegan to College and its supportive college readiness and college access programs. Waukegan to College is a local non-profit that helps community students maximize their academic potential and break barriers to higher education.

“All my life I wanted to go to college. Waukegan to College helped make it possible,” said Ms. Collins. “Being able to go to college on a full-ride scholarship means the world to me. When I first started high school and began working with Waukegan to College, my goal was to go to college on a full-ride so my family wouldn't have money be an issue. After many meetings, study sessions, workshops, and homework assignments, I've made it through. Without the help of Waukegan to College, as well as my family support, it would not be possible. I thank them all. Now, I'm on track to fulfilling my dream to become a pediatric nurse!”

Waukegan to College assisted the 21 graduating students in submitting a combined total of 209 applications to universities across the country. The majority of applications resulted in acceptance. The students have received a combined total of over $13 million in scholarships and financial assistance, with help from Waukegan to College's Scholarship Club.

The graduating students will be attending a wide variety of colleges and universities. In addition to Southern Illinois University, they include Elmhurst College, Northwestern University, Lake Forest College, Boston University, Davidson College, Macalester College, University of Illinois, Beloit College, Hope College, Vanderbilt University, Brown University New York University, Knox College, Illinois State University and College of Lake County.

Waukegan to College helps local students reach higher than circumstances might otherwise dictate. The organization offers comprehensive educational programming designed to help students succeed academically in middle and high school, starting as early as the fifth grade. The organization also helps students gain acceptance into four-year educational institutions, secure financing, and successfully graduate from college. These services, provided by both staff and volunteers, are not available without cost elsewhere in the community.

Since its start in 2009, with 25 students and two staff members, Waukegan to College has grown to serve over 400 local students. The organization is on its way to a significant expansion in the next few years, aiming to increase community engagement and partnerships among Waukegan stakeholders as a way to significantly increase student participation. Sixty-nine students who participated in Waukegan to College programs have already graduated from a variety of colleges and universities across the country and nine more will graduate this year from colleges across the country.

Any middle school or high school students interested in opportunities through Waukegan to College, please contact Pricilla Uriostegui, pricilla.uriostegui

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