The term “going back to school” takes on an entirely different meaning for many high school seniors across the country. For the first time, their lists of back-to-school needs have expanded beyond pencils and composition books to the realm of bedding, toiletries and personal grooming.

To support the youth of East Garfield Park as they aspire to tackle higher education, Breakthrough honored six neighborhood seniors for the inaugural Greer Scholarship program at a special banquet on Tuesday, July 17 at the FamilyPlex.

The scholarship, which focuses on minority and disadvantaged youth with an interest in STEM related careers, is intended to fill financial gaps after the student’s institution has declared her financial package. Once awarded, the $3,000 scholarship is renewable for up to four years of the student’s academic career. The scholars are also placed with a mentor to help guide them through the rigors of academia and an invitation to Breakthrough’s Trunk Party on August 4 to help them make “dorm life” more comfortable.

The level of access young people have toward improving their academic and professional trajectory is an indicator of the viability of a community. As more resources are developed for East Garfield Park, Breakthrough Senior Director Dr. Marcie Curry said there needs to be a priority on youth and education to help empower those within the community to shape it.

“Over the years, we have seen so many students gain acceptance to 4-year universities but be unable to attend because their financial gap is too large,” she said. “The scholarship that we have been able to award this year have helped close that gap and allow students to attend. Students in East Garfield Park need access to higher education in order to reach their potential, become contributors to their community, and inspire future generations that anything is possible!”

At the scholarship banquet Tuesday, families of the award recipients were present to witness their scholars sign their scholarship letters. Attendees were also treated to a dinner and a meet-and-greet with the students following the meal.

Thank you to the Greer Foundation and congratulations to these incredible seniors.