CALUMET CITY | Thornton Fractional High School District 215 graduates have received a combined $3.2 million in scholarships and grant awards and have been accepted to more than 130 colleges and universities throughout the nation, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Missouri and Florida Memorial, the district announced in a news release.
D.215 officials said new and improved strategies implemented by the guidance departments at Thornton Fractional North in Calumet City and Thornton Fractional South in Lansing have contributed to the record number of scholarships and college acceptances received by students. The total amount of scholarships earned by this year’s graduating seniors is almost three times more than last year’s class, the release states.
With an 88.7 percent graduation rate, an increase of 1.9 percentage points from the previous school year, the district also is increasing the number of students that graduate from its schools. Superintendent Creg E. Williams meets frequently with guidance and teaching staff to implement and refine strategies that will improve post-secondary outcomes for students.
"Our staff is dedicated to providing students with the academic and career counseling they need to be successful in high school, college, and beyond,” Williams said.
Director of Student Services Rena Whitten, who oversees the guidance departments at both schools, said increases in the number of students applying to colleges and submitting scholarship applications may also be attributed to greater and more frequent communication between guidance counselors, students and parents.
Both T.F. North and T.F. South held multiple financial aid workshops throughout the school year to help parents figure out how to pay for their child’s college education and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The schools also hosted multiple events for students interested in applying to selective colleges and highly competitive scholarships such as the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.
T.F. South’s Jacob Reed recently was awarded the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship. Reed, the first student from District 215 to receive the scholarship, will receive full tuition and fees for 10 years to further his education. Reed graduated from T.F. South in May.
According to Whitten, more students are motivated to apply for scholarships and colleges due to the heightened awareness brought about as result of these activities.
Representatives from educational outreach programs such as the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and Talent Search assist school counseling staff by helping motivate and support students to complete college and financial aid applications.
Guidance counselor Dawn Walker indicated that the counselors “have a strategic plan for the post-secondary education for all students — no matter what their academic level or socioeconomic status.”