Each year, we give scholarships to well-qualified and financially deserving students from the Chicago Public Schools.
Read about our talented scholarship recipients below, and consider if you can support our scholarship program »
Letter from Riki Lopez Barajas, our 2022 scholarship winner
It has now been two months since I took a plane from Chicago to Los Angeles. Two months since I began the newest chapter in my life. Initially, the realization of being completely alone in an unfamiliar area petrified me. The first couple of days on campus were the toughest, and I spent them cautiously exploring the university. The environment her at USC us incredibly welcoming, and I’m always meeting new, amazing people wherever I go. Luckily, it wasn’t long before I adjusted and even made good friends in my classes. The fact that the majority of classes are within my major is positively thrilling. I may only be halfway through my first semester, but I truly feel like I have learned so much about computer science and the gaming industry. Oftentimes I find myself wanting more homework after completing my C++programming assignments. I wake up every day motivated and excited to attend my classes and get one step closer to my goal of becoming a video game developer!
My Interactive Media class has already assigned us about three prototype game projects, one of which was individual. These projects are invaluable experiences, which have introduced me to the concepts of game design in the form of board games. I have never felt as ecstatic and proud as when my individual game project caught the eye of my professor, who is the chief operations officer at a virtual reality game development studio!
I want to express my lasting gratitude for the Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area for helping me get to where I am today! I am already making big strides and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for me!
October 21, 2022
Letter from Jose Muniz, our 2020 scholarship winner
My time at Northwestern and as a college student has been quite an adventure thus far. My first year had an unexpected start as the pandemic raged on throughout the world. However, despite the virtual environment we have become familiar with, finding community was not hard. I quickly found home in Northwestern’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE)
chapter. I became the Outreach Co-chair for this organization which means that I have worked with high school students and younger generations in underrepresented communities to help them find a passion for education and help them see themselves in a university such as Northwestern. Apart from that, I have created a large network of hard working and bright individuals not only at a local level at Northwestern. But on a national level as well given that SHPE is a national organization. I have even gotten the opportunity to be interviewed by top companies for internships and potentially a future career in their industries. These companies include Accenture, Medtronic, Siemens, 3M, and Walt Disney Imagineering. I am currently waiting for their decisions which should be released by next week.
Being a First-Generation Low-Income (FGLI) student at Northwestern is not easy. Getting interviews with the companies mentioned came with a lot of hard work. Thankfully, I have been given a lot of support from the community around me. Finding ways to help my
parents pay for my education was not a challenge thanks to the generosity of the Phi Beta Kappa scholarship. I have been able to focus on my studies without the need to take on a part time job during the academic year. My life long mission is to give back to my community. To be able to inspire younger generations and to show them that there is no limit to what they can accomplish. My time at Northwestern has allowed me to move towards that goal. I continue to work with local high schools and to provide resources to the youth to find their passion for learning. At the same time, I am learning valuable skills to help even more people through technology, innovation, and engineering.
Announcing our 2022 Scholarship Winner – Ricardo Barajas-Lopez
This year’s winner is Ricardo Barajas-Lopez, a senior at Back of the Yards High School. An excellent student, he is also active in both the gaming and poetry clubs. He will be attending University of Southern California in the fall.
Here is Ricardo’s letter to our scholarship committee:
Ever since I was three years old, I’ve had an unfathomable passion for video games and I knew that I wanted to become a video game developer. My ultimate goal has been to work for Nintendo, whose video games are the reason behind my interest in computer science and programming. Video games are becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives, and I would love to work with the gaming giant to inspire others to pursue the field. However, to work in such a prestigious company I knew I would need to stand out.
Once I was in high school, I began searching for colleges that offered programs that would make my dream a reality. The University of Southern California was everything I wanted. The computer science games program USC offers is like none other. From game design to 3D modeling, it covers many of the aspects that go into development and combines two of my interests seamlessly – computers, gaming and art. 3D modeling is essential because it is the framework for the visuals, and can be one of the first impressions an audience has of a game. I believe the courses offered there will be rigorous enough to fully prepare me to become a successful game developer. I am most especially excited about the semester long gaming projects, which will truly put my knowledge and creativity to the test.
I have always treated school as a gateway to opportunities far beyond my wildest dreams. All throughout high school and middle school, I have given my academics my full attention and earned outstanding grades on every report card. The fruits of my labor came in the form of an acceptance letter from USC. This university offers one of the best programs in the country, but has a very expensive tuition. Financial aid from USC and FAFSA were not enough to cover full tuition and that’s where Phi Beta Kappa swooped in to save the day.
With all of the gratitude in my being, I accept the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Chicago Area scholarship. I had always known that paying for college was a challenge my family would face. I feared the financial burden tuition would have on us, yet the PBKACA has made attending the University of Southern California a reality.
Ricardo Lopez Barajas
Announcing our 2021 Scholarship Winner – Karely Ramirez
This year’s winner is Karely Ramirez of Senn High School. She will be attending DePaul University in the fall. She plans to pursue a career in medical sciences.
Here is Karely’s letter to our scholarship committee:
Dear PBKACA Scholarship Committee:
I want to begin by saying thank you very much for this opportunity. As a younger kid growing up in a low-income household with immigrant parents, the thought of pursuing higher education after high school was terrifying. I knew I would be the first one to attend college as well, which only added to the uncertainty. Questions ranging from, “How am I ever going to pay for college?” to “What if I am not as informed as I should be?” surfaced constantly.
Nevertheless, I have always been one to challenge not only myself, but also my circumstances. With the COVID-19 pandemic striking toward the end of my junior year and lasting into the entirety of my senior year, I knew I had to adapt to this new situation. My father unfortunately lost both of his jobs as a cook, leaving my mother as the only one providing a stable income. Knowing the financial burden this would put on my family I began working as a cashier not only to aid in costs but to alleviate any stress my parents may have felt about paying for college in such difficult times. Being granted this scholarship is a tremendous help.
During my elementary and high school years, my parents have always supported me in becoming involved with my personal interests, which allowed me to discover my passion for science, the community and the arts. It means a lot to me that I had the space to nurture my creativity. I hope to continue to make my parents proud by pursuing a career in medical sciences. I am forever grateful for the opportunities this scholarship has brought me. I will utilize it to enhance my knowledge at DePaul University and to become more conscious of the ways to better the world around me through my future career.
Announcing our 2020 Scholarship Winner – Jose Muñiz
This year’s winner of the Phi Beta Kappa Area of Chicago Association is Jose Muñiz of Back of the Yards High School. He will be attending Northwestern University in the fall and plans to major in mechanical engineering.
Here is Jose’s letter to our scholarship committee:
My name is Jose Muñiz and, apart from going to Northwestern next year to study mechanical engineering, I am also this year’s PBKACA Scholarship recipient. Receiving this award is such a great honor both to me and my parents. This scholarship not only means that my hard work throughout the past four years of high school have paid off, but also represents a sign of hope.
In the midst of the current global issues, receiving that call of congratulations was a relief and lifted a great weight off my family’s shoulders. My parents both came from Mexico during the 1990’s and, having little schooling in their homeland, they pushed education on both my sister and me. They have also supported every one of my wildest dreams. From wanting to be a train conductor to an astronaut to a scientist to a mechanical engineer, they always told me I can do it and encouraged me to do my best, not just in my academics but also in my community. Receiving this wonderful scholarship means that their hard work raising me also paid off and that they will not have to stress over how they are going to pay for my studies after high school. This is my way of thanking them for their countless sacrifices. My goal is to make my parents proud to see their first child go off to college in the U.S. This scholarship has made their smiles wider and made them even more proud.
The scholarship means hope. The world is experiencing some tough times right now, but receiving this money means that I am now able to work hard and focus on my studies to become an engineer and make this world a better place. Innovation is critical during these times and I feel that being active not just in our studies but also in community is absolutely necessary if we want to continue to make human life easier and more enjoyable. I will not have to worry about the struggle to find money to continue studying. Focusing on my goal to help the world out is now my only priority thanks to this generous association.
Once again, I would like to thank everyone who forms part of this amazing association and those who sponsor it. I will not take this opportunity for granted and will continue to work hard to make a difference.
Jose M. Muñiz
Announcing our 2019 Scholarship Winner – Yailin Benitez
This year’s winner is Yailin Benitez of Prosser High School. She will be attending the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign in the fall. She plans to major in education and then go on to become an elementary school teacher.
Here is Yailin’s letter to our scholarship committee:
Thank you for giving me the honor and privilege for being this year’s scholarship recipient. I guarantee that the money I have been gifted will be put towards financing many educational opportunities that will make you proud. The revelation of being this year’s scholarship recipient has come as a great surprise, a miracle truly.
PBKACA has changed my life for the better in two ways, by offering financial support as well as empowering me as a young female. Like many students in Chicago, I come from a low-income minority family. One of the biggest challenges I face due to my situation is that my future has always been uncertain. Not because of my potential or academic capabilities, but rather the ability to financially support my endeavors. I have always been eager to learn, and I knew from a young age that I wanted to go to university. While I studied vigorously to succeed academically, I dealt with self-doubt and anxiety. In the back of my mind, I persistently feared my efforts would be fruitless. I always knew that my family would never be able to afford university tuition fees. My mind is now better at ease with the financial support PBKACA has given me. I am extremely grateful that my dream to further my education has become a reality.
In regards to PBKACA empowering me as a young female, the Scholarship Committee highlighted the power and impact a woman can have in the modern world. One of the first things I noticed during my interview is that the organization itself is lead by strongly independent, compassionate, intelligent, and hard-working women. In a male-dominated society, it is truly inspiring to see women having important and prestigious positions in the workforce. It has made my ambitions to one day achieve great things to become more realistic in my mindset. I am more motivated and hopeful that I too can one day inspire young people to pursue furthering education to make their dreams a reality. With the $5,000 scholarship, I will be able to pursue my dream of becoming an elementary school teacher, a job in which I can cultivate and nurture the goals and ambitions of generations of young students.
I am excited to attend the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign this fall and to see how the next four years will unfold. The money I have been given will go towards purchasing books, school supplies, housing expenses, studying abroad, etc. Thank you again Phi Beta Kappa Association of the Chicago Area Scholarship Committee for the honor of receiving this year’s scholarship.
With best regards,
Announcing our 2018 Scholarship Winner – Catherine Oliva
This year’s winner is Catherine Oliva. She is the valedictorian at VonSteuben High School and will attend Northwestern University in the fall. She plans to major in chemistry and then go on to medical school.
Here is Catherine’s letter to our scholarship committee:
I want to genuinely thank you for awarding me this scholarship. Growing up, my mother taught me that money doesn’t mean everything, and I agree. For example, I realized that the love and support of my loved ones was worth more than green paper. However, in some cases, money seems to be the only resort. With that being said, I’ve seen my mother work sixteen hour shifts to both pay the bills and give her family luxuries in life. She would either come home late at night from work or return the next day. I recall how much my heart ached from seeing her work that hard to provide.
Thus, I grew up seeing my mother as my role model. I knew I couldn’t work while going to school, so my repayment to her was working hard in school to achieve her dream for me: becoming valedictorian. Through the four years at Von Steuben, I was faced with late study nights, while balancing extracurricular activities, such as dancing, National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society. Despite having a full schedule, I knew that seeing my mother’s face as I was named valedictorian was worth all the restless nights. Unfortunately, I didn’t think being valedictorian would automatically guarantee me entrance into college, because of how many other qualified applicants there were.
Little did I know that the PBKACA scholarship would answer my prayers and help me pay for college. However, did more than that. Now I am able to attend Northwestern University (my dream college since I was a little girl) and alleviate the financial stress for my family. I am eternally thankful and will use this scholarship to further my education at Northwestern as chemistry major on the pre-med track.
I am actually writing this statement sitting in my dorm room at Northwestern, since I am part of Bio & Chem EXCEL summer program. Without PBKACA and guidance of my family, who knows how I would be spending my summer? However, because of both, I am able to get an early start and pave an even more permanent stance in dreams of becoming a doctor. Just like my mother, I hope to make my mark in the medical field and work to especially aid those in underprivileged areas.
Trenati Baker Update
I am going into my second semester of my sophomore year at Amherst College. I’ve officially declared both my Black Studies and Political Science majors. I’ve nearly completed the Black Studies major, and I’m working hard to plow through Political Science.
This school year, I took on more leadership roles on campus. In addition to being a part of the Dance and Step team and the African and Caribbean Dance troupe on campus, I am working as a Resident Counselor of the Black Culture House and a Diversity Intern with the admissions office. This semester I will also start working as a research assistant with Professor Drabinski in the Black Studies department, and I will serve as the Event Coordinator of the Black Students Union.
Although this past semester was tough socially as my friend groups changed and I experienced a higher volume of academic stress, I am doing well at Amherst and have matured and grown more than I think I ever have in the last year and a half. I’ve learned the importance of self-care and the importance confronting mental and emotional health.
This semester, I look forward to more learning, more good times, and larger social networks; however, I feel anxiety about the summer. I really want to be back home in Chicago this summer (I stayed on campus this past summer and worked as a tour guide). I am working on several summer job applications—hopefully I get a good one back home. On the flip side, I feel excited about junior year. I’ve been speaking with my advisor, and I really want to study abroad all next year! Right now, Trinidad, Brazil, Cuba, and South Africa all seem cool.
All in all, everything is going well, and I am super appreciative of this scholarship and the opportunities and growth it has helped give me access to at Amherst. Thank you!
Update from Zobia Chunara, 2012 Scholarship Recipient
My time as an undergraduate at Yale passed by quickly, with many highs and lows, self-discoveries, new friends, and late nights spent studying. After graduating, I worked in a clinical research lab through the Yale Program of Applied Translational Research where I learned about the intersection of heart failure and renal dysfunction. This internship afforded me the opportunity to work with patients at the hospital, and here I realized my interest in medicine. I proceeded to apply to medical school, and now I am a first year student at the University of Illinois College of Medicine.
I would like to thank the PBKACA for awarding me their scholarship so many years ago. Because of their belief in me, and their generous contribution to my education, I was able to attend Yale without having to worry about the financial burdens it would create for my family. I hope that in the future, I too can help students attend college and give back what PBKACA gave me.
Yale University ’16
University of Illinois College of Medicine ‘22
Announcing our 2017 Scholarship Winner – Pablo Romo
Pablo Romo will begin his studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, this fall. He has been awarded the 2017 PBKACA Scholarship. We are thrilled to provide assistance to this young man who we know has a bright future studying mechanical engineering.
Pablo provided PBKACA with the following letter. Meet Pablo Romo, in his own words…
I have grown up in Chicago as the son of two undocumented immigrants. My childhood might have not been the easiest, given the situation, which profoundly affected me and my family financially; however, we have been able to overcome our difficulties and move on as a family raising their children. My parents are my biggest source of influence and motivation for my goal of having a career through college. I have seen firsthand what a life of brutal physical work can do to someone, how it can basically deteriorate someone’s health over time. Seeing this, I have been motivated to go to school to pursue a career for myself where I am paid for what I know, not what I can do physically, while at the same time having a passion for my work and a choice of where I do it.
I myself am no stranger to how terrible physical labor can be. Having worked in landscaping since I was about fourteen, my experience of harsh conditions has further fueled my desire to pursue a career through a college education. At the same time, I value the hard work I have done. I would do it again if I could because I have been able to help my family financially and learn very valuable lessons, especially through working with machines. Being exposed to machines, I have built a passion for them, which has made me pursue a career in mechanical engineering. It will be no easy feat, but I know with my skills, I can meet the challenge.
Announcing our 2016 Scholarship Recipient – Trenati Baker
Trenati Baker will begin her studies at Amherst College this fall. She has been awarded the 2016 PBKACA Scholarship. We are thrilled to provide assistance to this young woman who we know has a bright future.
Trenati provided PBKACA with the following letter:
To Phi Beta Kappa Scholarship Committee,
It is with humility and profound gratitude that I accept the 2016 Phi Beta Kappa Association of Chicago Area scholarship. I am deeply honored to be this year’s recipient of the scholarship.
Currently, I am a senior at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School where, among many things, I am a part of the work study program with an internship at Salesforce, the Chicago Students Union, Freshman Mentors, Zumba Dance Club, On The Money magazine, and Fit4You, a nonprofit organization that I co-founded four years ago. In the coming weeks, I will graduate high school with high honors as a result of my favorable standardized test scores and grades. The fall marks my transition into college. I will attend Amherst College with an intended double major of African American Studies and Political Science. My interests lie deeply in law and policy-making and come from my desire to resolve the issues in America.
This scholarship will ease some of the financial burdens of pursuing my post-secondary education. It will allow me to focus on my collegiate learning experience rather than worrying about how I’ll pay for it. Additionally, it will allow me to continue fight for and encourage food justice, financial literacy, and educational equity. Simultaneously, this scholarship will allow me to immerse myself into new organizations at my college campus, like the Black Students Union, Amherst College Outing Club, and WAMH (Amherst Radio).
All in all, the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Chicago Area scholarship will remove financial stress and worry which will allow me to have more energy and time to be a more multi-dimensional student. This alone will allow me to be more successful in reaching my dream of becoming a lawyer, and, one day, a Supreme Court justice.
Positive change can be made by anyone. I plan to make positive change in the future, and this scholarship will greatly help me along that path. Thanks again for this generous and meaningful scholarship and honor.
Update from our 2015 Scholarship Recipient—Anthony Zhao
I am writing from the midst of my freshman fall semester, and yet, there is so much I can talk about. I was nervous coming into this school year. I am far from my friends and family and the thought worried me; I had never truly been alone. Luckily there were others like me who I met through icebreakers scheduled by the dorm. These connections helped me get through each week. We spent most of our time together, and my new friends made me feel comfortable here. Because of them, the university has grown on me, and I consider this my home.
There is more free time here in college. My courses however, take a majority of my time. I have needed to hone my time management skills in order to involve myself outside of academics. I allocate some of the remaining time to a fraternity I pledged to. I am also hoping to pick up another extracurricular, but I am not entirely sure which to choose from. I checked out a couple of the clubs and those I do not see myself wanting to stick with. I am hoping I find something, though now might be a difficult time to do so. Most clubs are highly invested already. If I cannot find something soon, I am targeting the spring semester. I have high hopes that it will work out; out of the absurd amount of extracurricular activities offered, I believe I will find a gem.
I am ecstatic here at Urbana-Champaign. Yes, there may be rough patches here and there but ultimately I love it here. I must give thanks to PBKACA too since their generosity is a big factor in why I can enjoy myself here. Their belief in me has enabled me to focus solely on college. I hope to be able to live up to their expectations as I look to make the right choices for my future.
Freshman, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Announcing our 2015 Scholarship Recipient – Anthony Zhao
Anthony Zhao will begin his studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this fall. He has been awarded the 2015 PBKACA Scholarship. We are thrilled to provide assistance to this young man who we know has a bright future.
Anthony provided PBKACA with the following letter:
I was able to meet the other finalists for this same scholarship and we discussed simple matters-where we would be attending college and activities we participated in throughout high school. When I left after my interview session, I was uncertain if I would be the recipient of the award based on the credentials of the other finalists. The organization however saw something in me that I hope I can live up to, if not exceed their expectations. I am grateful for being chosen for the Phi Beta Kappa Award and my thanks cannot truly be expressed.
I had been a very naïve child. In elementary school, the smaller student body made friendships easier to come by. I went into high school thinking that the atmosphere would be the same. It soon became quite apparent that I was wrong; I found myself alone quite soon. I had to ask myself, what is it that I want? I concluded that I had to gain friends in order to eliminate this loneliness. One day I heard school announcements about the track team and figured it was worth a shot and it was one of the best decisions of my life since it brought me friends. I see the value of extracurricular activities and I will dip my feet into many more in college.
I will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for business for the 2015-16 school year. I hope to be selected into their accounting program when I am able to apply. As a student at UIUC I have high hopes for the future because my past has taught me who I wish to become and that someone is proactive. Proactive me intends on being involved more throughout the school and community. I am looking to devote more of myself to the community. This world is shared but the circumstances differ per person. Some are born more fortunate than others so any aid goes a long way to those who are in need. Furthermore there are problems with our planet’s health and the environment can use all the help it can get. I am uncertain what exactly I may end up doing in regards to service but I am going to make sure I help in some way. By being a recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa award, it helps me facilitate my interest in helping the community more while receiving a great education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
PBKACA 2015 Scholarship Recipient
Update from our 2014 Scholarship Recipient—Davit Ksor
Dear PBKACA members,
Once again it is my honor to be a part of this esteemed scholarship program. The first semester of college is often the hardest I’ve been told by many of my seniors on campus, but also the most fun. This is a fact I have experienced firsthand. I have enjoyed nights out attending colloquiums given by professors or eating frozen yogurt with my TA. I have also stayed up late studying for tests or finishing homework that I didn’t quite get at first.
The struggles and joys I’ve experienced this semester are numerous and I cannot wait to start anew in spring. People tell me that physics is the hardest subject on campus, and that it requires ten times more effort than every other major. I’ve managed to succeed so far and I have no intention on stopping. College has certainly opened my eyes to the way the real world works.
I look forward to the upcoming challenges because I know I have many people who are supporting me and hoping for my success. This support has kept my morale and prospects for the future in good standing, I can never thank the members of PBKACA enough.
So here’s to all the hardships and success that come with college.
Update from our 2013 Scholarship Recipient—Juan Carlos Castrejon
Finishing the first semester of my sophomore year, I have come to realize how close the end of my college experience lies. Fortunately, I have finally settled with majoring in statistics. Entering Columbia University with my mind set on financial economics and later realizing that it was of no interest to me, I could not feel more fortunate for having found an academic study that gives purpose to my time at university. Having settled on statistics, I have realized that I have enough space to pursue another area of study. Although I was initially interested in political science or theater, I am now leaning towards computer science.
On a different note, I have been participating in two clubs/organizations on campus. One club is the Voice Acting Club, which was created just this year by a student who was in my acting class last fall. Some activities include voice preparation, rehearsals for live performances and recordings for performance releases on the campus radio station. Also, I have been a part of the Chicano Caucus Organization, which has created a close-knit community in which students feel comfortable to speak out about issues important to them. At least to me, it is a community in which I feel more than comfortable to be open with the other students about things that other students might not entirely understand.
In all, the first half of my sophomore year has been great! I have been able to explore academic areas, which in turn has led me to set my mind on statistics. Also, I have had time to participate in two of the clubs I enjoyed most (of those I tried out, of course). Next semester, I intend to take another theater class for fun, but a lot of these plans and free time to explore the academics and life on campus would not be possible without PBKACA. So, I could not be more grateful to the organization for that.
Juan Carlos Castrejon
Announcing our 2014 Scholarship Recipient—Davit Ksor
Davit Ksor, a senior in the Chicago Public Schools who will begin studies at the University of Illinois this fall, has been awarded the 2014 PBKACA Scholarship. We are delighted to help this intelligent and determined young man to achieve his own goals.
Davit provided PBKACA with the following letter:
Dear Ms. Strauss-Lipkin and members of the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Chicago:
Please accept my profound gratitude for choosing me as a 2014 recipient of the Phi Beta Kappa Award given to one graduating senior in the Chicago Public Schools. This generous stipend offers peace of mind that is difficult to describe because it is so badly needed. Equally important is the honor the award offers because of its source. I am keenly aware that the Phi Beta Kappa Society has represented the pinnacle of intellectual achievement for more than two centuries and arose from the initiative of students who came of age during the American Revolution. That’s humbling, and the award inspires me to dedicate myself to showing my own initiative to uphold the Society’s high standards.
Coming to the U.S. as a five-year-old refugee from Vietnam, I went through my own revolution as I adjusted with difficulty to learning English, making friends, and figuring out the customs of American children. My parents were not able to be a bridge to our new culture. Although they also were challenged by their new lives in this country, they knew that I was their future, and they insisted that I exhibit perfect behavior and study hard. They seemed to know that if I absorbed the positive aspects of our new nation—free education and the chance to develop my talents—I would prosper and they would too.
I tried to follow what my parents said, not only out of respect but also to ensure their health. You see, both my parents are disabled. My father has only one leg, and my mother’s body is scarred from an accident. These circumstances pushed me to adapt to American life as quickly as possible to be my parents’ bridge to the benefits of this great nation. I must say that America has proven to us that it is truly the land of opportunity. I never thought that after only thirteen years here, I could win such a large and prestigious scholarship. As my parents expected, I have studied hard and enjoyed considerable academic success, but this city has so many amazing high school students that I am deeply appreciative for the Phi Beta Kappa Society having selected me. Once again, thank you.
I will be going to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to study physics. I seek to follow in the footsteps of physicists—some great and some unknown—who have given us every technological breakthrough of this century and the one just ended, affecting the lives of people all over the world. My goal is to contribute significantly to the creation of new sources of energy so that the human race can stop relying on a finite supply of decayed animals and plants. I know from my origins in Vietnam, which has limited sources of energy, how frightening it is not to have enough power to improve the lives of its people. No country is immune from the threat of insufficient resources, both natural and manufactured. I want to help provide the world with energy to help solve one of the world’s most urgent problems. When I manage to achieve this, and when I am asked who helped me make it possible, I will say, “The generous people at Phi Beta Kappa.” Thank you for your belief in my talents.
With utmost gratitude,
Scholarship Reception honors talented recipients
PBKACA members, scholarship recipients, and their families attended our Scholarship Reception honoring the recipients of our annual PBKACA college scholarship. This initiative, begun in 2006, awards a college scholarship to a high school graduate of a Chicago Public School. The students shared remarkable stories of what they have accomplished in college and beyond.
Support our scholarship program »
The reception, held on August 6, 2014, was hosted by Loyola’s Phi Beta Kappa Chapter, Kappa of Illinois.
Update from Juan Carlos Castrejon, our 2013 Scholarship Recipient
I could not be more satisfied with how my first year here at Columbia has, so far, turned out! It is definitely what I expected—challenging, demanding, and intense. I have learned that this is where I belong, aware that I made the right decision in attending this institution.
Let me begin by saying that it is surreal to think that merely a couple months ago I was anticipating my arrival to campus. Now, I am here and could not be more excited for the imminent experiences to come. Being here has allowed me to take full thought into what I want my future to look like and what it is that I want to pursue academically. Entering Columbia with my mind set on majoring in financial economics, I thought my mind was fixed on what I wanted to do with my life, who I wanted to become. I had no doubt that economics was for me, considering I thought it was the very essence of my interest. However, I have had a change in heart; economics is not something I would like to pursue throughout my four years at Columbia. This was definitely a profound change in mind; it was nothing I expected coming to college. I admit, I was distressed at the idea that I now do not know what it is that I want to pursue. However, I have now realized that PBKACA has given me the opportunity to retrieve this realization. Due to the scholarship awarded to me, I have the time to decide what it is that I want in life, what it is that I want to study. Of course, I am leaving open courses my following semester to make a decision—taking a political science and potentially an urban globalism course. However, none of this would be possible without PBKACA. This change in heart occurred because I did not have to focus my time on working, giving me the ability to truly discover myself academically. That, I am truly grateful for!
On the other hand, I am currently participating in Heights-to-Heights, a mentoring club aimed to assist students in developing their English skills. I was assigned a mentee who emigrated from the Dominican Republic a couple months ago. My mentee is a Spanish-only speaker, and it is difficult for me to see him struggling with understanding the lectures given during the program. However, I realized that I am ultimately making a difference in this child’s life, not only by being his mentor but also his friend: someone he can confide in and trust. Being a part of this club has enhanced my notion on the importance of receiving an education; it should be an essential part of everyone’s lives and something everyone should be open to.
Once again, my freshman year has been, by far, amazing. Exploring New York City has definitely been an integral part in my experience. Going to Broadway shows, walking around Times Square, eating out, or simply going to class (especially my fun theatre class), conglomerate to describe my experience. Much of this, though, would not be as is without PBKACA; it has removed a huge financial burden off my back, allowing me to not only enjoy my time here at Columbia but also allowing me to find myself.
Juan Carlos Castrejon
PBKACA 2013 Scholarship Recipient
Update from Sana Iqbal, our 2011 Scholarship Recipient
With more than half of my undergraduate career completed, I am happy to report that with the thoughtful financial contributions from Phi Beta Kappa, I have been able to get the most out of my time as a student. My classes and my extracurricular activities have allowed me to gain a better understanding of my interests and my future career plans.
One of the many advantages of attending Loyola University Chicago is that as a liberal arts university, Loyola opens its doors to a wide array of academic areas of knowledge. Although I started as a student of biology on a pre-medical track, after taking courses that skewed away from the natural sciences I realized I did not want to limit my focus on courses such as physics and chemistry. I experimented with classes in my second year and discovered my interest in history, which encouraged me to add it as a second major. In fact, my favorite class this semester is the History of the Holocaust and Twentieth Century Genocide, which taught me that because genocide is something so prevalent in the contemporary era, we have so much yet to learn about humanity.
While I’m greatly enjoying my courses on campus, the experience is no different outside the classroom. This summer, I interned as a research assistant at the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Biological Sciences Department. I joined a team of several researchers and assisted them with research on the Hospitalist Project, an ongoing study at UCMC that aims to improve the quality of care of hospitalized patients along with the cost of hospital care. Working on this study allowed me to gain insight on healthcare in action, further reinforcing my passion to become a medical doctor.
My classes at Loyola as well as my research experience from UCMC has been a fascinating and rewarding learning experience that is an essential part of attaining a holistic undergraduate education. I am very grateful for the generous support from the Phi Beta Kappa and the ambition it has instilled in me to explore and pursue my dreams.
PBKACA 2011 Scholarship Recipient
Announcing our 2013 Scholarship Recipient—Juan Castrejon
Juan Castrejon, a senior at Edwin G. Foreman High School, has been awarded the 2013 PBKACA Scholarship. First in his graduating class, Juan has participated in a number of extracurricular activities, including both National and Hispanic Honor Societies and the University of Chicago Young Scholars Program for Mathematically Talented Youth. He will be a freshman at Columbia University in the fall and plans to major in financial economics.
His counselor describes him as having an inspirational and positive spirit. Juan’s own words illustrate this spirit: “I hope to set an example for many of the people around me. I want to be the individual that allows others to believe in themselves and fathom that success is possible if one strives and devotes themselves to their goals.”
We are delighted to help this intelligent and determined young man to achieve his own goals.
Juan provided PBKACA with the following letter (download the .pdf):
Coming from a community where education is not placed on a high pedestal, I initially found it difficult to commit to my academics. Fortunately, I have always possessed an inherent drive to learn, to retrieve knowledge. That innate motivation has allowed me to graduate at the top of my class at Foreman High School and has led me to where I will be attending this fall: Columbia University in the City of New York.
When I reflect on my past four years of high school, I come to realize how strenuous it was to plan for my future. I did not know where I wanted to go or who I wanted to become. Although my family members made it obvious that they cared about my future, it was difficult for them to understand my situation in the academic sense. Therefore, I felt alone. That was when I decided to join a plethora of extracurricular activities, ranging from the Academic Decathlon to volunteering at my neighborhood hospital. Exploring various activities and academic disciplines allowed me to discover myself in both the academic and career-related aspects. Now, I am committed to majoring in Financial Economics.
Receiving this scholarship, though, has allowed me to realize that I am not alone. There are organizations like Phi Beta Kappa that truly care for the academic success of students. Because of this prestigious scholarship, I will be able to eliminate a huge financial burden and focus 100-percent on my academics at Columbia. While attending the institution, I will be able to gain a great education not only in business but also in the liberal arts. Reading classic literature, studying art and music, taking core science courses, and gaining a good understanding of the business world will allow me to understand my surroundings in a completely new perspective. With such education, I will be able to connect with individuals from various academic backgrounds.
Once again, it is truly an honor to receive this award. It will allow me to focus on my academics and engross myself into the Columbia community, giving me the opportunity to explore my passions in greater depth. I could not be more excited for the imminent events I am set to experience.
With sincere gratitude,
2013 Update from Zobia Chunara, our 2012 Scholarship Recipient
My first year at Yale passed by quickly, with many highs and lows, self-discoveries, new friends, and late nights spent studying. To say the least, my first year at Yale was difficult and challenging, yet rewarding.
In the beginning, the adjustment to college was a great one, since I had never been away from my family for such a long period of time. Class work quickly multiplied as I was getting settled into the college lifestyle. I found myself missing home and wondering why I had taken such a risk to come to Yale. After a grueling first semester, I was tired and worn out, ready to go home.
It wasn’t until I went home for winter break that I realized that I missed Yale. Yale had become my home, and I hadn’t even realized it. After spending time with my family and reevaluating what was most important to me, I went back to Yale with new goals and a different attitude altogether. My friend group solidified, and I had developed relationships with people I could count on. I knew what my professors expected in my classes, and was able to do better in my academics. Finally, I made time for extracurriculars such as the Yale Journal of Public Health and the Asian American Student Association at Yale. I ended the second semester with a proud sense of accomplishment, and with a greater feeling that Yale was my second home.
After my first year in college, I have decided that I will complete the pre-med requirements for medical school while double majoring in Spanish and Biology.
This summer 2013, I secured a fellowship that is allowing me to do research at Yale. I am currently doing research on pulmonary hypertension at the Yale School of Medicine in the Cardiovascular Department. In addition, every Saturday I volunteer with the Free New Haven Clinic (FNHC). FNHC is for patients who do not have medical insurance but need medical attention. These patients come to the clinic on Saturdays, but virtually all of them do not speak English, and there is a great need for interpreters. I help out at the clinic by using my Spanish and Hindi/Urdu speaking abilities to translate between doctors and patients. I hope to continue volunteering even next year!
I would like to thank the PBKACA for awarding me their scholarship last year. Because of their belief in me, and their generous contribution to my education, I was able to attend my freshman year at Yale without having to worry about the financial burdens it would create for my family. I hope that in the future, I too can help students attend college and give back what PBKACA gave me.
Yale University, Class of ’16
2012 Update from Ramon Lee, our 2006 Scholarship Recipient
It has been quite some time since I have last written to PBKACA, so I hope you still remember me! I certainly remember your generous contributions that helped launch my academic career. The last update letter I wrote was in 2009 and many amazing things have happened over the past three years.
In 2010, I graduated from the Johns Hopkins University with a degree in neuroscience. I still vividly remember my graduation day when I reflected back on four years of undergraduate study. Those four years were immensely formative in my transition from a — at times — naive teenager to a dedicated young adult, looking to make an impact in society. My college years were hallmarked by a greater appreciation for science and health through courses and research experiences, and a developing affection for photography which cumulated in an 8-month long photodocumentary on a men’s homeless shelter in Baltimore. I am also very proud to say that I was inducted into the Johns Hopkins University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
After graduating from Hopkins, I decided to take a gap-year and remain in Baltimore to conduct research at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. I had the opportunity to work full-time in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care under the guidance of Dr. Marek Mirski. The year was a wonderful experience that provided crucial knowledge in undergoing rigorous and challenging research that will prove invaluable in the future. I was about to assist in studies that ranged from improving intraoperative cerebral oxygen saturation during cardiac bypass surgeries to measuring the effectiveness of new biomarkers of brain injury in patients on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. During my gap-year, I was extremely fortunate to be surrounded by great mentors and colleagues that pushed and encouraged me in my endeavors.
And in the fall of 2011, I have the extraordinary privilege to say that I began my first year at Harvard Medical School. It has been nothing short of a dream this past year to be able to train as an aspiring physician at such an institution with tremendous faculty. And even though many stereotypes about medical school of fast-paced learning and long nights of studying are more or less true, I have been able to go through this medical school process with some of the brightest and most dedicated people I have met. I finished my first year at Harvard Medical School in June and now am currently conducting a summer research project in Hong Kong aiming to improve HIV and syphilis testing for marginalized populations.
That is a much abbreviated summary of the past couple of years, but I am glad that I am able to share it with you. I remember when I was applying for the scholarship back in 2006 and I voiced my desire to pursue medicine and dedicate my life to caring for others. It makes me so happy to see that I am still on the road to fulfilling that passion and that I am growing as a person along the way. As I am still currently financing for my education, I am continually appreciative for your support in the past. And more importantly, I am thankful that you recognized my potential and drive and took the chance of awarding me the first PBKACA College Scholarship.
Thank you once again.
2012 Update from Sana Iqbal, our 2011 Scholarship Recipient
It’s hard to believe that I’m well on my way to becoming a sophomore at Loyola University Chicago. My first year flew by, and it was well above my expectations. I enjoyed my classes, whether they took place in large lecture halls with world-renowned guest speakers or in small discussion classrooms where I had the opportunity to analyze the nuts and bolts of major theories. Although it’s just a few steps away from home, Loyola’s campus felt worlds away. I met all kinds of people that introduced me to new studying techniques as well as new restaurants to try. With early morning classes and late night club meetings, Loyola has transformed into my new home, which is something I’ve never experienced before. I’ve spent days exploring the campus and admiring the breathtaking view of the lake, but I still feel like there is so much more to learn about the university and myself.
At the beginning of my second semester, Mrs. Patti Ray contacted me regarding the Phi Beta Kappa Chapter at Loyola. I attended the first official meeting where I had the opportunity to meet its members and learn more about this honor society. Mrs. Ray, a Phi Beta Kappa member, and I organized the first Phi Beta Kappa Information Table at Loyola, which was held later in April and turned out to be a huge success. We had several goodies on the table, including information cards about the society (that I designed), magnetic clips, and delicious cookies with a picture of the Phi Beta Kappa key. It was an honor to meet the executive committee of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Loyola, and I look forward to continue working with them.
During my summer vacation, I am working with a Biology professor at Loyola doing research in his lab. I was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Research (WISER) Fellowship, which allowed me to be paired up with a Loyola faculty member and research with them for the summer. I am very excited to get started on that, and I will keep you updated on any major discoveries I make!
Once again, I would like to offer my sincere appreciation for awarding me the PBKACA Scholarship. It was because of your generous gift that I did not have to worry about any financial burdens for my first year of college. I had the opportunity to immerse myself into Loyola’s community and set the groundwork for not only the next three years of my education but also the rest of my life.
Announcing our 2012 Scholarship Recipient—Zobia Chunara
My name is Zobia Chunara, and I will be a freshman at Yale University this fall. Over the past four years at Northside College Preparatory, I have made high school my own by doing what I wanted to do: play badminton, report for the school newspaper, and give back to my community. Over time, I learned that to be a leader, I first needed to find what I was passionate about, and that would motivate me to push the boundaries and extend my efforts from my school to the community. My ability to effect change has been demonstrated through my enthusiasm for the school paper and volunteering in my community.
As editor-in-chief of my school paper, I shared my passion for journalism with my peers, and encouraged members on my staff to become reporters for The Mash, a Chicago Tribune high school newspaper. My staff and I visited the Associated Press twice a year and continuously pursued investigative stories in our community, such as contacting Mayor Rahm Emanuel about longer school day conflicts in Chicago Public Schools, highlighting students who fundraise money for a teacher who had a brain hemorrhage, and shedding light on accusations against Northside staff for stealing student funds. My passion for journalism not only inspired my reporters to learn about the community and relate it back to Northside; it also allowed students and faculty members to read about, learn, and participate in community efforts and even worldwide efforts.
Pursuing my dedication to volunteering allowed me to strengthen the bond between my school and my community. I have completed over 650 service hours by tutoring elementary school students in Spanish at Hibbard Elementary School, organizing blood drives for Red Cross Club, and participating in a program that helps people with Alzheimer’s disease. I especially love volunteering at Misericordia, a community for individuals with mental disabilities. When I volunteer there, I feel that I give those I interact with a greater feeling of independence. These experiences not only allowed me to pursue my interest in medicine but also to pursue my passion for volunteering and inspired me to expose other students to giving back. I enlisted Northside’s Red Cross Club and National Honors Society to set at least ten dates when we all visited Hibbard and Misericordia. By volunteering, I and my peers learned how others rely on us, which in turn enforced our understanding of the importance of responsibility and commitment.
Football Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Individual commitment to a group effort — that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” My dedication to organizations and teams provided me with the opportunity to interact with remarkable people, nurture my interests, and expand my contributions to my community, bridging the gap between my school and the community. As I mature, I know my passions will evolve, but I am confident that one part of my identity will remain the same — my dedication to what I care about. It is the basis of who I am.
Announcing our 2011 Scholarship Recipient—Sana Iqbal
PBKACA is proud to announce our 2011 PBKACA Scholarship recipient, Sana Iqbal. Sana provided PBKACA with the following letter (download the .pdf):
Dear PBKACA Scholarship Committee,
In 2001, when I was a curious 7-year-old girl, I sat on a plane that brought me to the United States, the land of opportunities. As I write this letter to the Phi Beta Kappa Scholarship Committee, I can sincerely admit that there are in fact many opportunities for those who wish to succeed. However, attaining them requires hard work, perseverance, and most importantly motivation.
As an immigrant from Pakistan, coming to Chicago felt like I was entering a whole new world. Although my parents had stable jobs in Pakistan, they knew America offered world-class education for their children. I watched them abandon their dreams so my siblings and I could achieve ours. In a plunging economy, they began working late hours, sometimes even two jobs. Seeing them work so hard, I knew I wanted to grow up to live a comfortable life where I could pay them back. Education was the key. That was when I developed my passion for learning. I enrolled into the International Baccalaureate Programme at Nicholas Senn High School. Surrounded by students who I now call my second family, I challenged myself to take college leveled courses while writing long papers and participating in numerous community service projects around Chicago. There, I discovered my passion for the sciences, especially biology because of its relevance to the human body and our everyday lives. Within four years, I transformed into a well-rounded, motivated student, graduating as valedictorian of Senn’s class for 2011.
With the help of PBKACA, this fall I will take my enthusiasm for learning to Loyola University Chicago. I listed myself as an undecided major in their liberal arts college. This is because there are various subjects within the sciences that interest me. I would like to study them before I chose one as a major to become an expert on. Additionally, IB has allowed me to have international-mindedness. Because of this, I enjoy learning about different cultures and religions. At Loyola, I plan to take advantage of the numerous courses offered to study Spanish and take part in religious studies.
After Loyola, I see myself going for further education in graduate school. I am determined to study science mostly because the field of medicine has always intrigued me. It would be my dream to be a part of it, whether I am a doctor or a scientist researching and making discoveries.
My parents always wanted to have their children grow up to live happy, successful lives, and I am determined to achieve that. I am certain that I possess many of the qualities that make a well-rounded college student. My capacity for learning is endless. With the support of my family and scholarships, I will be able to reach my goals that will not only make a difference in my life, but also in the lives I wish to change with my education and research.
2010 Update from Alexander Langendorf, our 2009 Scholarship Recipient
This Fall term I took classes in the philosophy, music, and mathematics departments. Social and Political Philosophy was a discussion-based class on justice as it relates to the state. The subject was examined through a succession of philosophical paradigms, beginning with libertarianism and ending with postmodernism. I profited greatly from the varied insights of my classmates. Musical Cultures of the Caribbean was a freshmen seminar, one of several into which freshmen are placed. A regional introduction to ethnomusicology, the class combined musicology, anthropology, and history in an appealing way. Multivariable Calculus is the third course in Carleton’s calculus sequence. I took it primarily as a prerequisite for other math classes. The teacher was exceptional. All three classes reinforced for me the truth that you get out of something what you put into it. Though my high school teachers demanded independent thinking, my learning was less explicitly my responsibility. I appreciate the premium on self-direction.
Carleton College very much identifies as a community. I have enjoyed its active, inclusive campus life and the freedom to find one’s place in it. Already I have met wonderful, probing, decent people whom I am lucky to have as friends, fellow-students, and teachers. On the other hand, I have sometimes felt the college to be segregated from Northfield, the surrounding city. I plan to become better involved with the larger community in the coming terms. I am happy to say, though, that my first term was largely a positive experience and I feel ever-more privileged to attend such a great school.
Announcing our 2010 Scholarship Recipient—Merita Bushi
PBKACA is proud to announce our 2010 PBKACA Scholarship recipient, Merita Bushi, graduating this year from Northside College Prep High School.
mertabushiHer teachers and mentors have used many words to describe Merita: incisive intellect, productive, passionate, inquisitive, curious, independent thinker, balanced, humble, altruistic, and dedicated to family. She is an only child and the first in her Albanian family to be in America. Her first trip back to her mother’s home in a small village in Macedonia in the summer of 2006 cemented her goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist and created a dream of starting a small clinic there with basic, necessary medical services. She will be attending Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, a small liberal arts college where she can start on her pre-med track while obtaining a solid foundation of liberal arts, social sciences, psychology, and science courses.
Merita also has a bent towards politics, and she has been involved in the Mikva Challenge, a non-profit organization that seeks to foster civic leadership in Chicago high school youth. Through the program, she took a weeklong trip to New Hampshire to participate in the 2008 Presidential primary.
She readily admits that she came to high school as a timid, sheltered freshman. With challenging classes, she developed her intellect. Through the Mikva challenge, she learned about community involvement and political activism. Her teachers and her principal, Barry Rodgers, helped her develop her time management and leadership skills as well as her focused career motivations.
In short, Merita is a young person of remarkable intellect with a down-to-earth personal presence whom we expect in a few years to earn her PBK key!
In December 2010, Merita provided PBKACA with the following letter (download the .pdf to see the photos that accompany the letter):
Dear PBKACA Scholarship Committee,
As I sit down to tell you about my amazing first semester at Macalester College, the one thing that didn’t cross my mind too often over the semester was the financial burden of college. That’s because this scholarship allowed me to enjoy and fully immerse myself in what Macalester and St. Paul had to offer without finances holding me back. This scholarship also allowed me a head start on my savings so that by the time I graduate, I can repay my loans with a little more ease. Some friends that I’ve made at Macalester had to decide whether they would forgo the opportunities Macalester had to offer for a cheaper state school. I cannot express in words how grateful I am that I haven’t had to deal with this type of dilemma. I’ll try to explain why that type of decision would be so hard by telling you about how I spent my first semester at Macalester.
My first week at Macalester was jam-packed with orientation activities/events, new names and faces, and parents everywhere. We were all exhausted by the end of the week and before we knew it, it was time for classes to start. September was a major transitioning month. Classes were structured differently, dorms were a new experience, and there were so many new clubs to try out.
This semester I had one large lecture class (with about 40 students), a medium sized introductory class, and two smaller classes (with about 15 students). Most of the classes (even the lecture class) provided an intimate experience with professors who were always available (and this sometimes included the weekends, too!). Sometimes I would go to office hours to introduce myself to professors and end up sitting for an hour talking about a wide range of topics. The professors’ love for their subject is evident in their teaching styles and most professors are actively involved in the campus (which is invaluable for such a small campus). One of the harder things about college classes is the differences in pace, course load, and grades. In high school, when teachers said that one year of an AP course is equivalent to a semester, they weren’t exaggerating. The reason the course load seems to be more difficult is because the classes move at such a quick pace. In particular, the amount of readings seemed exponentially larger than in high school. Coming from four high school years during which I thought I had developed strong time management skills, I still found myself staying up later than I expected to on some nights. The course load is also difficult because every assignment is given a higher value. There isn’t any “busy work” in college, so that makes a large part of grades dependent on exams and large papers. Despite this, I found it refreshing to be in a learning environment where people are motivated by knowledge, not grades, and are more willing to collaborate with research instead of competing with each other.
This different environment might be the result of the college environment in general. Most people say that when you go to college, you learn to live independently. While that may have some truth, I think that I would describe my experience more as learning to live with so many peers. In college, you live only a few feet away from your friends and classmates. It makes it so easy to schedule meetings or to just sit and talk. A sense of community is formed almost instantly. And this community isn’t artificially created. When I left this past Friday, some of my goodbyes to people who I’ve only known for four months were as hard as my goodbyes to friends in August.
While a strong community is formed and many of us joke about living in the “Mac bubble,” the college offers many opportunities for us to interact with those working outside of the immediate area. There are speakers, both known and unknown, hosted weekly. One highlight was in early October when Macalester hosted VP Joe Biden, Senators Franken and Klobuchar, the Twin Cities’ mayors, and a few other political figures in a rally for governor-elect Mark Dayton. Many organizations also bring speakers to campus or host trips to various locations in the Twin Cities. I remember doing some campaign work in the local area (which is much different than in Chicago!) and volunteering with MaCCARES (Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society) on 10/10/10, the international day of climate action. I’m also very excited to be a freshman representative on Macalester’s student government (MCSG). This position has allowed me to get to know my class, understand how the college works, and make a difference within the school.
Macalester offers many resources, both institutional and through clubs, that have enabled me to explore a variety of disciplines. The projects I’ve partaken in this semester are in large part the result of the ease and availability with which Macalester provides them. This semester has been promising and makes me excited to explore new initiatives in the Spring. While I’m happy to be home and away from hip-high snow mounds, I can’t wait to go back and see what spring has in store for me.
2009 Update from Ramon Lee, our 2006 Scholarship Recipient
I have fulfilled all my requirements for being a pre-med student but I decided to take a gap year before enrolling into medical school. I’m looking into different things such as teaching, photography, research, and even some type of disaster relief opportunities.
But currently I am enjoying my last year in college. I’ve been continuing my passion in photography; I am currently composing a photo documentary on a men’s homeless shelter here in Baltimore. It has been wonderful and rewarding as I talk to the men and hear their life’s story. Also, having the chance to take more upper level classes on neuroscience has been intellectually challenging in a very good way.
All in all, I am certainly cherishing my time at Hopkins. I very much appreciate how the Phi Beta Kappa scholarship has contributed to my experience here. So thank you once again from the bottom of my heart.
2009 Update from Kenneth Oshita, our 2008 Scholarship Recipient
Dear PBKACA Members,
Now that I have a year at the University of Chicago under my belt, having experienced all of the stresses of being in college for the first time and having enjoyed my first small taste of independence, my appreciation for your scholarship has done nothing but grown. Last year, I was only just happy to be at school, eager to soak in all of the new experiences and opportunities before me, and grateful for your scholarship for making my college career possible. This year, however, having worked most of my angst and awe out of my system, I face my education and my life with a newfound sense of maturity and determination. I only have three short years left at this school, and I want to take full advantage of them. This isn’t just a time to have fun and explore the far reaches of my interests; it is a time to pursue my passions and become the person that I want to be. So, I see your scholarship not only in the context my being at college, but, more importantly, in the master plan that is my life. Your help impacts me now and will continue to impact me for all the years to come. I truly appreciate it, and I understand this more clearly now.
The fall quarter has been going wonderfully! Only a month into the grind of things, I’m still reacquainting myself with everything that I love about this school. The beautiful neo-gothic buildings and ivy colored walls, my quirky friends and professors, rowing on the Chicago River, the Thai place on 55th, the classes, the work, even the squirrels. At the same time, I’m finding new things here to explore, most especially when it comes to my studies. At the beginning of my first year, I was so sure that my future lied in the hard sciences. But, now, I’ve come to realize that my passions may lie elsewhere. After all, the draw of studying economics at the University of Chicago is quite strong.
It’s an exciting time for me, and I can’t wait to see where my pursuits take me. Thank you so much, again, for everything. I’m quite happy that I can share my experiences with you.
University of Chicago, Class of 2012
Announcing our 2009 Scholarship Recipients—Derrius Quarles and Alexander Langendorf
For the first time, our PBKACA Scholarship Committee has chosen to honor two outstanding seniors with our PBKACA Scholarship for 2009. The first recipient is Derrius Quarles who is completing his senior year at Kenwood Academy and will be attending Morehouse College in the fall. Read Derrius’ thank-you letter (.pdf). Read about Derrius in the Chicago Tribune.
Derrius has a “laserlike” focus on high achievement and is passionate about his education, planning to major in biomedicine and psychology for a career as a pediatrician. He is the only senior at Kenwood to earn straight A’s over the first semester. He also won the Most Academically Talented Science student in 2007-08, a very prestigious award to receive as a sophomore. His courses include nine honors classes and seven AP classes. His chemistry AP teacher and principal commented not only on his “powerful” academic record, but his impressive array of leadership skills, from Student Council president to tutoring K- 2nd grade students in math.
Derrius has used his many life challenges and personal obstacles (including being in the foster care system for 12 years) to inspire him to greatness. He told us that he had almost failing grades in the 8th grade when one teacher told him he had great academic potential and mentored him through high school to this day. The teacher calls his cell phone daily “just to see how he is doing.”
His poise and maturity and intense interest in learning as well as helping foster children with community outreach programs in the future was one of the many reasons we have chosen Derrius for this honor.
UPDATE (July 2010) Derrius recently returned from a monthlong trip to Ghana, where he studied Pan-Africanism, sustainable development, and alternative medicine with a group of distinguished Morehouse College professors and students. To read more about his trip and see photos, visit his thought-provoking blog at http://derriusquarles.blogspot.com.
Our second honoree is Alexander Langendorf of Lincoln Park High School. Alexander is a thoughtful, creative and aware student who considers “education to be the ultimate democratic equalizer: the means of social mobility and the root of economic opportunity.” He views education as not just a privilege, but also as an opportunity to become a contributing member of the communities to which he belongs. He eagerly accepts the “responsibility of being well rounded and well-read; intellectually grounded with a level head.” For this, he believes, “is both the price and promise of citizenship.”
Besides his near perfect grades, ACT and SAT scores, Alexander plays tennis, is cocaptain of the team and is a member of the Ecology Club. His volunteer interests include the Nature Center and the Howard Area Community Center and his principal also notes that he “reads voraciously and enjoys provocative and richly layered works of fiction which explores the frailties of human existence.”
Alexander’s plans as he enters Carleton College with a possible double major in mathematics (“enjoying the pursuit of mathematical puzzle solving”) and English (“resonating to the ineffable splendor of written language”) are to become a teacher and ultimately write a book – “even if not one to be published.”
The PBKACA Scholarship Committee, chaired by Emelda Estell and Michael Silverstein, worked closely with Danielle Cox-Jones, Scholarship Program Manager of the Office of High School Programs and the Chicago Public Schools in distributing and collecting information and applications to each Chicago public high school. Award recipients are selected based on academic achievements, leadership ability, extracurricular activities as well as financial need. If they have other scholarship support, PBKACA will consider that in making our awards (maximum of $5000 for all recipients per year) or defer the award to future years when less financial aid is available for our winners. Your donations to our Scholarship Operating Fund and our Scholarship Endowment Fund in the past (and as we continue raising additional funds for current and future winners this year) are invaluable. You can donate now by sending your check to our PO Box or donate online at www.pbkaca.org. All your donations are fully tax-deductible, and 100 percent of the donations go directly to scholarships.
PBKACA also continues to support our College and University based chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. Members of our Executive Board attended the induction ceremonies at Lake Forest, Loyola and Rockford College; in addition, chapters receiving our $500 awards included Lake Forest and Rockford.
2008 Update from Ramon Lee, our 2006 Scholarship Recipient
PBKACA voted to renew the scholarship for last year’s recipient, Ramon Lee. Lee completed his freshman year at Johns Hopkins University with exceptional academic achievements. With his goal of becoming a physician and a member of Doctors without Borders, Ramon will be registering as a neuroscience major in the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. This decision was based on his course in Cognitive Neuroscience this spring which explored the cognitive as well as the biological side of the brain. In addition Ramon told the Board that this year has been amazing: “just being on your own truly causes a change in you!” He also has met so many people from around the world at Hopkins and “I’ve been able to get to know them more and just have fun with them.”
Announcing 2008 Scholarship Recipient—Kenneth Oshita
Based on the enthusiastic recommendation of the PBKACA Scholarshp Committee, the Executive Board has chosen Kenneth H. Oshita as the recipient of our 2008-09award of $5,000. Kenneth, 18, has completed the International Baccalaureate Program at Lincoln Park High School and will be attending the University of Chicago in the fall.
Interested in every subject from physics to philosophy, Kenneth has a nearly straight-A transcript at Lincoln Park, where he also played saxophone in the school band and was on the junior varsity tennis team. He volunteers at the National Runaway Switchboard as a peer counselor, and he has served as a counselor-aide at an annual summer camp for children with muscular dystrophy. Among his awards is a prize from the Veterans of Foreign Wars for an interpretative essay on the theme of democracy.
In the next phase of his education, Kenneth plans to major in physics, though he seeks studies that are “expansive and well balanced.” He hopes “to meet new people and to be exposed to different points of view, to discover and try new things and to harbor [his] independence and sense of self.” The committee members were impressed as much by his reflective maturity as by his budding philosophical depth. “I suppose,” Kenneth writes, “that the same basic quality of imagination that it takes to conceive of wizards and dragons is the same as that which is necessary for understanding Einstein’s theory of relativity or even Newtonian mechanics. Physics reveals to us how imagination is ironically the key factor in understanding reality.”
The PBKACA Scholarship Committee, chaired by Emelda Estell and Michael Silverstein, worked closely with Danielle Cox-Jones, Scholarship Program Manager of the Office of High School Programs and the Chicago Public Schools in distributing and collecting information and applications to each Chicago public high school. Award recipients are selected based on academic achievements, leadership ability/ extracurricular activities as well as financial need.
Announcing our 2007 Scholarship Recipient—Dominique Barron
PBKACA is proud to announce that Dominique Barron of Walter Payton College Prep High School is the 2007 recipient of the $5,000 PBKACA College Scholarship. This fall, Dominique will attend Georgetown University with a major in international relations. Dominique hopes to become a lawyer and work with international clients. In that way, she can combine her interests in the law and business administration to help corporations improve their international business marketing.
An honors student, Dominique scored in the top 5 percent of students across the nation who took the ACT. Aside from her academic achievements, her principal and teachers have described her as an extremely well rounded, committed and motivated scholar — “a remarkable young lady.” At Payton, she is the president of Payton for Hope, a group that she helped to found that fundraises for the American Cancer Society. As a member of student government, she helped organize a book drive to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. The book drive was a success, with over 700 books collected from students and local bookstores.
Dominique hopes to continue her work in the community and says that she would like to help build a community center for underprivileged children. The center, Dominique explains, would “foster activities geared towards helping such students excel in sports, the visual and performing arts and academics.”
In her spare time, Dominique has been taking flute lessons for seven years. She has participated in the Sherwood Conservatory Summer Flute Institute and auditioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Protégé Philharmonic.
The PBKACA College Scholarship — now in its second year — is awarded based on academic achievements, leadership abilities, extracurricular activities and financial need. Applications were distributed to each Chicago public high school, and the number of applicants nearly doubled from last year’s total. Five finalists were selected and interviewed by the PBKACA Scholarship Committee, which is chaired by Board members Emelda Estell and Michael Silverstein. The Committee also works closely with Danielle Cox-Jones, Scholarship Program Manager of the Office of High School Programs for the Chicago Public Schools.
PBKACA also awarded $500 each to PBK initiates at several Chicago-area chapters. Congratulations to the following students: David Malec, Lake Forest College.
PBKACA Awards First College Scholarship
PBKACA is proud to announce that Ramon Lee of Lincoln Park High School is the recipient of the first $5,000 PBKACA College Scholarship. Ramon will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign starting this fall with the goal of “being a doctor when I am 40.” Not a suburban doctor, but a member of Doctors without Borders, where he will have administered health care to people from every corner of the world- from the jungles of Panama to the beaches of the Philippines. He wants to heal patients physically, but “by creating strong bonds with my patients, I will heal their spirits as well.”
Ramon is the middle of three children. His parents came to Chicago in 1985. He foresees future study in both math and science with a liberal arts presence. His principal and counselor at Lincoln Park High see him as “appropriately self confident and a straight-out genuine force, with an upbeat spirit and a strong sense of community and family.”
The PBKACA Scholarship Committee (chaired by Emelda Estell and Jon Miller) worked closely with Danielle Cox-Jones, Scholarship Program Manager of the Office of High School Programs, and Chicago Public Schools in distributing and collecting information and applications and criteria to each CPS High School. The committee reviewed all candidates and interviewed four outstanding students for this award. Judi Strauss-Lipkin and Emelda Estell attended the CPS Scholarship Recognition Program at the CPS Board Meeting on May 24 where PBKACA was recognized as a new participant in the CPS Scholarship Family. The Association now joins other scholarship providers such as the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, the United Negro College Fund, the Golden Apple, Shore Bank and the Posse Foundation. A total of $11,269,200 in Scholarships was awarded to outstanding CPS seniors.
PBKACA is committed to continuing and expanding these scholarship awards. If you wish to make a donation in support of the scholarship, you may send a check to PBKACA, PO Box 64-2622, Chicago, IL 60664-2622, indicating Scholarship Fund in the note space on your check. We will also be accepting donations on our website in the near future.
In addition to the Chicago Public Schools $5,000 Scholarship Award, the Executive Committee approved giving $500 awards to PBK initiates at member chapters this spring. Congratulations to the following recipients Barbara Ouderkerk (UIC), Umair Jabbar (Loyola University Chicago), John Luporini (Lake Forest College), Alexis Joanna DiSilvertro (Valparaiso). No awards were given at Northwestern University or the University of Chicago, but both anticipate giving such an award in 2007.