Hispanic and Latino students gain summer access to college life

Carissa Temerson never imagined that a few summer weeks at the University of Chicago would involve first-hand experience in state-of-the-art science labs. Enrolled in a biology class titled “Contagion,” she and her classmates spent the afternoons growing various strains of bacteria and manipulating their genes into drug-resistant forms.

“It was fascinating,” said Temerson. “I’d never taken a science class like that before.”

Temerson was one of 35 participants in the first-ever Neubauer Family Adelante Summer Scholars program, a three-week residential program funded through the Neubauer Family Foundation.

The program brought talented, rising high school seniors engaged in Hispanic and Latino communities to UChicago’s campus for an introduction to the college experience, and provided each student with a full scholarship—including course tuition, housing and dining, residential and student life fees and the cost of travel to and from campus.

The students chose from two intensive, college-level courses offered through the Graham School’s Insight Summer Program; in addition to “Contagion,” a writing class titled “The Art of Dreams” was offered. Moreover, participants received invaluable guidance on applying to selective colleges, and were able to explore Chicago’s rich cultural offerings—including a trip to the National Museum of Mexican Art in the Pilsen neighborhood.

A highlight for Temerson was the chance to interact intellectually and socially with other young scholars from a similar background. “I really enjoyed being in a group of people of Hispanic origin—people whose roots are from Cuba, Spain, Mexico, Central America,” she said. “I don’t get to speak Spanish with my peers very often. This was a rare opportunity and lots of fun.”

Summer Scholars is just one of a host of new and expanded opportunities made possible through a major gift from the Neubauer Family Foundation. The Neubauer programming is aimed toward students engaged in Hispanic and Latino communities, and a key thrust of the programming is college preparation.

Participants get their first experience of college life on UChicago’s campus—staying in the dorms, eating in the dining halls and exploring everything the University and the city of Chicago have to offer. In addition, a variety of guidance initiatives focused on the college application process and beyond helps prepare them for the next stage of their lives, regardless of where they apply and enroll.

The Summer Scholars attended college application workshops that provided tips on how to choose a compelling essay topic and write about it well. They participated in mock interviews with UChicago admissions counselors and even played the role of admissions counselors in a workshop where they reviewed mock applications.

“We really got the feel of what admissions counselors go through when they’re reading applications and making a decision,” said participant Nicholas Villareal.

Villareal said he and many others in his Summer Scholars cohort returned home better prepared for the college application process and more confident about applying to top schools like UChicago. “The experience made me fall in love with the University,” he said. “The class I took taught me how to think critically, create my own arguments and take risks, and the people I met were amazing.”

“It was a microcosm of the University of Chicago experience,” he added. “I came away thinking, ‘If this is what UChicago is like, then I want to be a part of it.’"

The deadline for applications to this summer's three-week residential session is March 15. More information about the program and an online application can found here.