When Rachel, a junior at Lake View High School, was in elementary school, her father pushed her and her older sister to excel in academics. Some of their earliest memories involve spelling and re-spelling words with him in preparation for exams.
Rachel and her sister, now a sophomore at Macalester College in Minnesota, hope that they can serve as a similar influence for their 9-year-old brother.
“He doesn’t really remember how academically driven our dad was,” Rachel says of her brother, who was in pre-school when their father was first diagnosed with brain cancer.
Shortly after the diagnosis, Rachel’s father suffered a stroke and became permanently blind with both long-term and short-term memory loss. Due to his illness, Rachel and her family were constantly surrounded by doctors, nurses and at-home caregivers. It was this environment that inspired her to pursue a career in nursing.
So far, Rachel is on the right track. She maintains a 4.6 GPA while balancing an all-honors schedule and participating in Lake View’s dual-enrollment program, through which she receives credit for taking a medical terminology class at a community college. She is also a high school athlete who is on the track and field team and was voted co-captain of her cheerleading squad.
Anwen, Rachel’s College Possible coach, says that she tries not to let her family’s struggles negatively impact her academics or attitude toward life.
“She works hard and treats her schoolwork seriously,” Anwen says of her student, “She’s also such a joy to be around; she’s the type of person who brings out the best in everyone she meets.”
Although Rachel will not be the first person in her family to attend college, she joined College Possible in 2015 because she wanted to feel more prepared throughout the college application process. Since then, Rachel has not only increased her SAT score from an 840 to an 1170, but was also named a Cubs Scholar.
The Cubs Scholars program awards a total of $20,000 to five Chicago Public School students upon enrollment to a four-year college or university. In order to apply, a student must be nominated by a teacher. She tried not to get her hopes up when submitting the application, knowing that hers would be one application in a pool of over a hundred.
“When I got an email and it started with, ‘I have good news…’ I almost cried in the hallway,” she says, recalling the day she received her acceptance email. “I didn’t believe it until I signed the contract and it was official.”
The news came as a beacon of joy during an especially difficult year; Rachel’s father passed away shortly before she received the scholarship.
Cubs Charities commemorated its scholars at the organization’s annual Bricks and Ivy Ball, which is held at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom. There, Rachel got the opportunity to personally thank members of the Cubs baseball team for their support, including star players Kris Bryant and Javier Baez.
“They were all so nice!” she says of the players.
Rachel has yet to apply to college, but so far her top choices are Syracuse University in New York and Rhodes College in Tennessee. She will also apply to Loyola University Chicago, which her father briefly attended before leaving to start a family with her mother.
No matter which college Rachel chooses to attend, one thing is certain.
“At the moment, my biggest aspiration is to earn my degree in nursing and be happy with my career,” she says.