Surprise ceremony welcomes student into University of Chicago’s incoming class

University offers full scholarship to Chicago high schooler—the first in his family to attend college

At Back of the Yards College Prep in Chicago, senior Arturo Ballesteros stepped out of his third-period class Wednesday and headed to the principal’s office for a meeting.

Waiting there were his parents Rosa and Juan Ballesteros, teachers and advisers, and admissions counselors from the University of Chicago with his acceptance into the College’s Class of 2024. The packed room erupted in applause for Ballesteros, who will be the first member of his family to graduate high school and attend college.

“Arturo’s dedication to learning is unmatched,” said Brandon McCallister, a senior admissions counselor at UChicago. “Everyone I have spoken with has praised his commitment to academics, his leadership and his genuine nature. I am thrilled that Arturo will be a member of our Class of 2024.”

Ballesteros has a passion for education and the city of Chicago. Ballesteros has maintained an exceptional academic record—he played two sports, danced for the Back of the Yards group Ballet Folklorico, served as National Honors Society president, was one of 100 students around the world to achieve a perfect score on the Advanced Placement Spanish Language and Culture exam, and helped support his family. Now, Ballesteros is eager to give back to the community that raised him. At UChicago, he aims to earn a joint bachelor’s and master’s degree through the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program and pursue a career as an urban educator.

“I would like to teach in a low-income community,” said Ballesteros, who was sporting a UChicago T-shirt in anticipation of the admissions decision scheduled for Wednesday. “I’ve noticed that my teachers have the potential to help so many students here pursue their dreams and become agents of change for the community. I want to be able to do that as well.”

Ballesteros is part of the first group to be accepted into the College’s Class of 2024. On Wednesday, UChicago released admission decisions for students who applied through early decision and early action. Admitted early decision, Ballesteros will matriculate in the College in the fall of 2020.

By the spring of his freshman year of high school, Ballesteros was a member of the University of Chicago Collegiate Scholars Program. This initiative provides support for high-achieving, underrepresented Chicago Public School students with the college admissions process through a series of enrichment activities focused on leadership development, civic engagement and cultural exploration while taking college-level courses on the UChicago campus every summer.

Ballesteros smiled as he recalled the ways the Collegiate Scholars Program challenged him to pursue his academic curiosities. “I really like the atmosphere of UChicago. It seems like a very intellectual space. In the Collegiate Scholars Program, I had my first experience sitting in a class and thinking, ‘I don’t know. I have no idea what the professor just said.’ It was terrifying at first, but I thought ‘OK, I’ll have to get used to this.”

Three years in the program has only reaffirmed his desire to study at the University and remain in Chicago.

“Arturo fully embodies and exemplifies what it means to be a Collegiate Scholar,” said Abel Ochoa, executive director of College Readiness and Access and director of the Collegiate Scholars Program. “Every Collegiate Scholar has a story. Arturo’s story represents the true diversity of our nation, and I’m excited to see him further harness his ambition, strength and talent at the University of Chicago.”

Ballesteros will receive a full-ride through UChicago Promise’s Chicago Public Schools Scholarship and the Odyssey Scholarship Program, a comprehensive program that overcomes obstacles to higher education for talented students with financial need. Students in the Odyssey Scholarship Program receive loan-free financial aid and career support during their time at UChicago.