That bond was sealed this week when Jimenez — her high school top of the class, captain on the college volleyball team, vice president of her school’s National Honor Society, and, like her brother, a first-generation college student — learned she had done it was accepted on a full scholarship into the class of 2027 at UChicago, her university of choice. Jimenez’s family, teachers, and representatives from the university’s admissions office and CSP were all present at the Jimenez school in the northwest of the city to share the news and congratulate Jimenez. Isaaq even took his own classes at UChicago, where he is now a sophomore at college, off to be there to celebrate his sister.
“I couldn’t be prouder that she put in so much work. And all that hard work has paid off,” said Isaaq Khader. “I went alone — we’re both the first in our family to go to college — but CSP made UChicago feel like home, and every time I was on campus I felt relaxed and always had a smile on her face and that was it. Same goes for Kyla. Knowing that she’s known UChicago technically from a younger age than me makes me feel good and I know she’s going to do great. It’s a difficult school, but it’s challenging in a great way. It challenges you to be your best self.”
The Collegiate Scholars Program, a three-year enrichment program that prepares talented Chicago Public School students from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds for admission and success at highly selective colleges, was established in 2003 after the UCicago Consortium on School Research found that highly qualified CPS high students underperformed in their college applications. During their three years at CSP, students build confidence by being on the UChicago campus, taking courses from the university’s faculty, and learning to conduct research in a variety of disciplines, which helps them understand that they can succeed anywhere be able.
“The university’s college readiness and entrance programs aim to expand educational opportunities for students seeking new challenges and opportunities to grow and thrive,” said Abel Ochoa, executive director of college readiness and entrance at the office for civic engagement of the university. “Kyla took full advantage of all the opportunities offered to her in the Collegiate Scholars Program and showed a high level of commitment to whatever she set out to do. I am excited that she is continuing her academic journey at UChicago and know that she will improve the world and community around her.”
Jimenez has received a firm thumbs up in her CSP courses, which included Molecular Engineering, Introduction to Sociological Thinking, and Computer Science, among others, and served as student spokesperson for the program’s Summer Welcome Session this year. Her mother, Nancy, has also been involved with CSP programming over the years, attending CSP’s regular college readiness events and sharing her experiences with other parents as part of the program’s Family Engagement Committee.
“You’re giving the kids those tools and not only taking them out of their comfort zones, but instilling in them a sense of independence that we as parents need to learn, that it’s going to be okay, that she’s going to be able to maneuver a campus.” ‘ said Nancy Jimenez. “The program really gives that kind of exposure and experience to prepare them for what college is going to be like. And for families, there are many resources to help us understand many of these waters that we don’t really always know how to navigate.”
Kyla Jimenez has participated in CSP’s annual college tours, visiting several campuses in the Washington, DC area with program staff and other scholars this past summer. Erin Estrada, director of post-secondary counseling at Intrinsic Belmont, recalls that Jimenez came home more convinced than ever that Chicago was the place for her. She applied in August as part of the university’s Rolling Early Decision Plan.
“It was just so empowering for her to know that not only is UChicago a really great school, but a school to which she belongs. Her decision to use the early decision was obviously the right one, but it’s also based on the amazing community that UChicago has been able to build for students in CSP, students in Chicago, and students in this community. That’s what makes it such a special place, so I’m just thrilled for them,” Estrada said. “Since her freshman year freshman year, she has been number 1 in her class. We all knew she was going to go out and do really great things, but to have exactly the result she was hoping for and to be celebrated like this is just a validation of the last four, six, 16 years of her life.”
At UCchicago, Jimenez said she plans to study biology on a pre-med track and work toward her dream of becoming a pediatrician. She also plans to grill her older brother at the best places to study and eat on campus. For now, Jimenez said she’s just grateful for the support of those around her and letting the news of her inclusion sink in.
“I’m just so happy,” she said. “It feels like a dream.”
– A version of this story was originally published on the website of the University of Chicago’s Office of Civic Engagement.