Chicago Football Classic announces scholarship recipients

The pandemic may have canceled the annual football game at Soldier Field, but through its “Winners Win” scholarship program, the Classic will still award scholarships and laptops to 21 Chicago-area students.

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Alexandrea Williams, a student at Morgan Park High School, accepts her scholarship from the Chicago Football Classic organizers during the Chicago Football Classic at the DuSable Museum of African American History, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Pandemic or no pandemic, would-be college students still need the resources to thrive in the next stage of their lives.

The Chicago Football Classic and its annual scholarship program this year is helping 21 Chicago-area students as they start their college careers. Of those, 20 will attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities while one is staying in Chicago to attend Malcolm X College.

Thursday night at the DuSable Museum of African American History, each student received their $5,000 scholarship and a free laptop computer.

Other colleges the students plan to attend include Hampton University, Morehouse College, Grambling State University, Spelman College, Tuskegee University and Howard University.

The annual Classic at Soldier Field usually features a game between two Historically Black Colleges and Universities, but COVID-19 forced this year’s game to be canceled.

“Without question, scholarships matter, particularly during this highly unpredictable season in the lives of students, families, and institutions,” Everett Rand, co-founder of the Chicago Football Classic, was quoted as saying. “While historically, our annual college/career fair, epic football game featuring spirited rivalries and the ever-so-amazing battle of bands have been the staples in the Chicago Football Classic programming, it is the scholarship component that is our true goal. Despite the pandemic, the CFC is paying it forward via scholarships.”


Steven B. Clay, a student at Lindblom Academy, accepts his scholarship from the Chicago Football Classic organizers during the Chicago Football Classic at the DuSable Museum of African American History, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Each Classic board member was asked to nominate a Chicago-area high school senior or City Colleges transfer student; criteria included financial need, confirmed college acceptance and a minimum GPA of 2.7.

Those helping the Classic fund the scholarships include the Illinois Restaurant Association, Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, Chicago Park District, NBC and the Chicago Cubs.

Jonathan Swain, owner of Hyde Park’s Kimbark Beverage Shoppe, 1214 E. 53rd St., is sponsoring De La Salle Institute student Ralen Kimbrough, who plans to attend Jackson State University.

Kimbrough appreciates the boost.

“It’s amazing; this helps because its just me, my dad, and my sister,” said Kimbrough. “Kids need an opportunity to be able to go to school, and coronavirus is pushing everything back. ... Jackson State is a great school for me, and the scholarship will help out with the tuition.”

Swain, who’s also CEO of LINK Unlimited Scholars, understands the value of making sure Chicago’s Black students get the help they need; he cites a 2017 study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center that states Black students have the lowest college completion rate (45.9%) when compared to other races and ethnicities.

“The more we can help with financial support to make sure their time there [college] is strong, the better off they are,” said Swain, an alum of Duke, Northwestern, and the University of Chicago.

“When we talk about saving Black kids in school, we have to do all we can to make sure that they have all the tools to finish,” he added. “[Ralen] is a great kid; he’s self-aware and really committed to furthering his education. He’s looking to focus on statistics in college. If we think about it, there’s not a lot of Black kids focusing on statistics. And so, especially in a world where we’re trying to understand data in a real way, you know he’s gonna gather tools to make the world a better place.”

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