By Kristin Boza
Since 2003, the University of Chicago has hosted the Chicago Public School students in the Collegiate Scholars Program, a competitive three-year program designed to prepare students in grades 10-12 for admittance and achievement at the top colleges in the country. Only 50 spots are open for each new class; three of those spots have been earned by Morgan Park High School (MPHS) students Devan King, Caval Spearman and Erica Taylor. The students begin their Collegiate Scholars journey this summer, and will have the opportunity to take college courses, go on trips around Chicago, and participate in SAT prep classes, among many other unique academic and social opportunities.
According to U of C, 100% of program graduates earn a four-year college degree, with 70% of them attending highly selective universities. “Collegiate Scholars is an opportunity for students to broaden their academic horizons,” said Dr. Femi Skanes, MPHS principal. “We want to ensure that our students are connected to a variety of academic programs that enhance their ability to compete at Morgan Park and in the next phase of their academic pursuits. We are honored to have three of our top-performing students in this prestigious program. All three students are absolutely wonderful students who represent Morgan Park High School well.”
MPHS Assistant Principal Kai Erguhart and Dr. Skanes helped eligible students apply, according to Carisa Parker, MPHS parent and LSC Chair. Parker’s daughter and Skanes’ son are two of the three MPHS students accepted into the program.
“There was an essay portion in the application where students had to talk about how they overcame obstacles, how they see themselves as a leader in their community, and what they hope to gain from this experience,” Parker said. “Ms. Erguhart and Dr. Skanes made sure the students were on task and they even took personal time to give them some interview skills to increase their confidence. I am so proud of these three students and know that they will not only make the Morgan Park community proud, but also be future leaders who help make a difference in society.”
Students begin the program during the summer after their freshman year of high school. Two of the MPHS students were available for comments for this article.
Erica Taylor, from Washington Heights, is looking forward to interacting with people from different cultural backgrounds. “For the next three years, I hope to improve my test-taking skills, grow as a leader, and participate in fun and interesting activities around the city,” she said. “After high school, I aspire to go to the university of my choice and attend a medical program, after which I will become a pediatrician or a gynecologist working in my community to help women and children.”
Taylor credits her mom, Carisa Parker, to pushing her and giving her the necessary tools to be successful. “I would also like to thank the new administration who cares about our school’s students for pushing me to sign up for this program and preparing me for each step in the process.”
Beverly/Morgan Park resident Caval Spearman, Jr., son of Dr. Skanes, is looking forward to taking advanced classes and gaining experience to prepare for college. “I hope to gain more maturity, more knowledge to be prepared for college, experiences that will guide me to the next level, and gain a bond with friends that can last a long time. After high school, I aspire to go to the University of California and major in Mass Communications,” Spearman said. “[I’m thankful] for the love and support of my family and teachers at Morgan Park throughout this journey.”