By Nona Tepper
Three Proviso High School District 209 students received scholarships to benefit their schooling beyond high school, thanks to community support of 209 Together's "Great Chefs: Recipes for Success" fundraiser.
The event, which featured local food, music and more, raised more than $17,100, about $750 more than last year. Nineteen scholarships were awarded this year, up from nine the year before. They originally expected to fund 16 scholarships this year, but the extra funds allowed them to award three more.
"These young adults are working so hard, every single day and they have challenges at home; they have challenges at school," said April Baker, the fundraising chair and "mastermind" behind Great Chefs. "With everything going on, any way we can support them, I believe it's essential that we do that for our community."
Baker called community support of the event "impressive," estimating that 125 people attended the actual event but even more contributed to the online auction — a new feature this year. She also said The Heritage's chef offered a "VIP" cooking class and demonstration before the event, which helped drive sales.
"We fully anticipate the request for scholarships to increase as the schools improve," Baker said. "Those schools are getting better and better, more students are going to college."
The nonprofit awarded Anahi Soto, a Proviso East senior who graduated with a 4.0 and plans to attend the University of Illinois Chicago, the "Pirate Pride" $500 scholarship, recognizing her participation in marching band and the Princeton Creative Writing summer program.
Devonnickia Dorsey, of Proviso West, received the "Panther Pride" scholarship, with 209 Together recognizing her work as a caregiver in her family, while founding a club that works with churches to feed and clothe the homeless. Dorsey will attend Heartland Community College.
Jazmyne Hayes was awarded the "Python Pride" scholarship, which celebrated graduating from Proviso Math and Science Academy (PMSA) with a 4.4 GPA. Hayes has started her own business, is a leader in the dance ministry at her church, volunteers for weekly clothing and food giveaways, and more. She will attend the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana.
Students are given a check for $500, which they can use to fund any college-related expense they need. Those interested in volunteering with 209 Together, or funding a scholarship, should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle Woehrle, scholarship selection committee chair, noted that 209 Together is not the only scholarship program available to Proviso students but other high schools — namely, Oak Park and River Forest High School — have "loads more" local scholarships available. She hopes Proviso students' success will inspire more community members to provide scholarships in the future.
"We humans are more than our numbers," Woehrle said. "We're more than our bank account balance, weight, and certainly more than our test scores. The kids we fund demonstrate both academic promise and have a story that touched us."