nneka jones csp

Nneka Jones

Collegiate Scholars Program

In one of the photos of Nneka Jones taken before her 2018 graduation from George Westinghouse College Prep, she’s holding a whiteboard on which she’s written, “Never be afraid to do something you thought you could never do.”

“From my background on the South Side, sometimes you don’t see the possibilities,” explains Jones, who grew up in the Jeffrey Manor neighborhood and earned a Posse Foundation Scholarship to Agnes Scott College in Atlanta. A world of possibilities opened up, Jones says, when she joined UChicago’s Collegiate Scholars program (CSP) in the ninth grade.

Collegiate Scholars are high-potential, underrepresented students at Chicago public high schools who participate in enrichment and college-readiness activities during the school year and classes on the UChicago campus over the summer, all geared toward encouraging scholars to envision themselves succeeding at highly selective colleges. Becoming comfortable interacting with professors, mentors, and a diverse group of fellow students helped Jones feel confident about leaving Chicago — and her comfort zone — for college.

“I think the number one aspect for me was the support,” says Jones, who was accepted to more than twenty colleges. “I gained a network of faculty, staff, administrators, and like-minded students who weren’t afraid to think critically and really learn. Early exposure to that was essential to my success — and my experience in diverse classrooms prepared me to have deeper conversations with professors and fellow students than what my peers were ready for. That’s a skill I’ll take through undergrad and graduate school.” Jones is majoring in political science and business management, with an eye toward eventually returning to Chicago and working in a capacity that enables her to give back to the community.

The Collegiate Scholars Program was my testing ground for missions yet to come.”

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