Waukegan to College wins national award for excellence

Waukegan to College, a nonprofit organization that helps Waukegan students maximize their academic potential and break barriers to higher education, was honored for its achievements in 2021 by the National Partnership for Educational Access.

The award, which comes with a $5,000 grant, was presented April 8 during the NPEA annual conference, which was held virtually.

Waukegan to College offers comprehensive, educational programming designed to help students reach for higher goals, do well academically in high school, gain acceptance into a four-year educational institution, secure financing and successfully graduate.

Since its start in 2009 with 25 students and two staff members, Waukegan to College has grown to serve more than 400 local students. The organization is on its way to a significant expansion in the next few years, aiming to support 1,000 Waukegan students and their families by 2028.

This year, 21 graduating high school seniors, all of whom worked with Waukegan to College's Scholarship Club, have been awarded a combined total of more than $7.7 million in financial assistance.

Sixty-nine students who participated in Waukegan to College programs have already graduated from a variety of colleges and universities across the country. Their schools include The University of Illinois, Lake Forest College, Northwestern University, Knox College, Georgetown University, Tufts, Duke, Stanford and many more.

"We are truly honored to receive the NPEA award," said Aaron Arnold, executive director of Waukegan to College, "and want to thank our staff and volunteers for their incredible work, especially during the difficult pandemic years. The monetary grant will help us broaden our community engagement and expand our programs to reach many more students."

"As a smaller grass-roots organization, we are grateful to be recognized for years of hard work. I've only been with the organization for a little more than a year, so I want to acknowledge the accomplishments of our former executive director, Elyse Danckers, her staff and board members. They built an incredible foundation for our ongoing success," Arnold said.

"Ultimately, however, it is our students, as well as their tireless efforts in overcoming the challenges facing a first-generation college student, who deserve the most credit. Our students inspire us and amaze us every day. They shine a light on the potential and possibilities of all students, even those who are marginalized and often written off."

NPEA is a national membership organization that connects people with the practices and innovations for eliminating barriers to college educations and career success for underserved, first-generation college students.

Any middle school or high school students interested in opportunities through Waukegan to College can contact Pricilla Uriostegui at or call (224) 628-3067.

Adults interested in volunteering their services or financial support can contact her as well.

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