Five high school seniors at Butler College Prep and a former Butler Prep student received a surprise full-ride scholarship to the University of Illinois at Chicago as part of a program to bolster African-American male teachers.
The students participated in Butler’s urban-education program and were required to submit two essays to UIC along with other application materials.
Their full, four-year scholarships to UIC are part of its “Call Me MISTER” program, which received its first seven participants in July. The UIC program, which stands for Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models, aims to introduce more black and Latino male teachers into the Chicago Public School system.
An assembly to mark the announcement was held in front of the students’ peers. Teon Nesbitt, 18, was shocked to hear his name called and said it was wonderful that he wouldn’t have to worry about tuition.
“I know how important it is to have a teacher look somewhat like me,” Nesbitt said. “I want to be that for a generation of kids.”
“I’m a proud dad right now,” said Nesbitt’s father, Marvin, 41. “And I am happy he has an opportunity to do what he wants to do.”
“He will be a great teacher,” his father said. “He’s respectful and a lot of people already look up to him.”
The other four scholarship winners who are seniors are Jaylen Birt, Leonard Pinkston, Deangelo Evans and Trevon Turner. A former Butler Prep student, Reon Gillespie, who already attends UIC and will join its MISTER program, also won a scholarship.
The moment of achievement at Butler was somewhat bittersweet, though, because another student, James Garrett, 18, should’ve been at the ceremony honoring his classmates but his life was tragically cut short in October after being fatally shot in the back.
“Garrett had a 3.9 GPA; he was the first student in the class of 2019 to be accepted into college, and he was gun downed while he was at a vigil for a family friend,” Butler Principal Christopher Goins said.
Garrett was also part of Butler’s urban-education program and, like the five of his friends receiving today’s scholarship, he wanted to be an elementary school teacher.
Goins dedicated the day to Garrett, and students have also “taken a stance that they will never forget him and will do something to tribute him,” the principal said.
“He was the leader of the group, and he was the first one in our class that made a major commitment to education,” Goins said. “It’s humbling at this moment knowing that his closest friends are the ones that are getting the scholarships from UIC today.”
Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.