Surprise ceremony welcomes first-generation student into UChicago’s Class of 2026

Aspiring doctor earns full scholarship to undergraduate College

Anthony Alvarez thought he was meeting with his counselor to discuss college scholarships on Friday afternoon; instead, the Lane Tech College Prep senior and his family found teachers, his principal and news cameras waiting for him amid a sea of maroon and white balloons. They joined representatives of the University of Chicago’s Office of Admissions, who surprised and congratulated Alvarez on being accepted as the first member of the Class of 2026.

Alvarez, who lives in the Little Village neighborhood in Chicago, will be the first person in his family to attend college. UChicago was Alvarez’s top choice, and he was shocked to be admitted to the undergraduate College on a full-ride scholarship.

“I was shocked like any other person would be; I thought I was going to have an interview, but this was so much better,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez has been a member of both his high school’s Future Doctors of Lane club and the Medicina Academy Apprentice Program, which prepares high-achieving Latino students for professions in the medical field. Alvarez hopes to pursue a career in pediatric medicine; he grew up with a younger sister who needs regular medical care for a heart condition, as well as a physical malformation of his own fingers that he says made him a target of bullying over the years.

“I cannot think of any other more deserving kid than Anthony,” said Nakia Blanton-Morgan, a school counselor at Lane Tech who has worked with Alvarez since his freshman year. “He’s resilient, he’s persistent, he’s sure of himself, he’s intrinsically motivated, and it all stems from a lot of the trials and tribulations that he’s had to face in his life. He just wants more for his community and his family than for himself. He wants to be an example. He is going to be a huge inspiration, not just for the Latino community but for all communities.”

Alvarez applied early decision as part of UChicago’s MOVE UP (Moving Online, Virtually Empowered, Unlimited Potential) initiative—designed to support local students and families through the virtual college engagement, application, admissions and financial aid process. The initiative is part of the University’s broader Stand Together initiative, which aims to increase educational access and career success for underrepresented students.

MOVE UP focuses its free college advising and preparation on high school students at Chicago Public Schools, nearly 90% of whom are students of color. Students can get help choosing colleges, writing application essays and filling out financial aid forms; additionally, they can connect with free academic support such as tutoring and mentoring. Students like Alvarez who apply early through the program receive their admissions’ decision within two weeks of submitting their application to UChicago.

“From having to navigate virtual schooling while maintaining straight As in four AP classes, to the time he’s dedicated toward preparing himself for a career in medicine, Anthony has proven time and again that he’s truly a standout,” said Brandon McCallister, senior assistant director of admissions at UChicago. “I think I speak for all of us when I say we need determined and passionate people like Anthony now more than ever in our doctor’s offices and hospitals. Everyone that we have interacted with at Lane Tech has told us nothing but amazing things about his drive, his caring personality and his ambition. He is going to make a huge difference in the world one day soon.”

As he got over the shock of Friday’s ceremony, Alvarez said he looks forward to being on campus, studying computer science and biology, and meeting new people at UChicago next fall. In the meantime, he and his family said they would be going out for a dinner to celebrate.

“This means a lot. Overcoming challenges and now seeing myself here, it’s just amazing,” Alvarez said. “I’m going to be able to study, get a good job, and have a good career, to be a pediatrician, and be able to give back to my family. This is the biggest opportunity my family has ever faced.”

—This story first appeared the Office of Civic Engagement website.