College Bound Opportunities (CBO) was founded in 2006 by a group of individuals committed to education who learned of the obstacles facing high achieving, but underserved students in applying to, attending, and graduating from college. With a strong belief in the value of a college education, they began working together to find a solution that would ensure these qualified students gained knowledge of the college application process, as well as the opportunity to attend and graduate college. The group recognized at once that supplying scholarship support, which they did with their own resources, was only a part of what these students needed.
First, CBO students needed the confidence they could attend college and see themselves as college graduates. Second, our students needed the educational and enrichment experiences that would enable them to successfully navigate college and financial aid applications. CBO also needed to help students bridge gaps in their life skills, so they would be prepared to succeed in a professional work environment and achieve their full potential. CBO's stakeholders believe that if students have the desire and the ability to attend college, then a way should be found for them to do so. Thus, CBO's program provides the pathway to college degrees for as many motivated, but disadvantaged, students in Districts 113 and 115 as our resources will allow.
Since CBO's inception in 2006, the organization has grown from 9 high school seniors and 8 mentors to a total of 140 students, high school juniors through college seniors, 50 alumni, and over 170 active mentors.
College Bound Opportunities is a community-based, community-supported organization. Currently, our students and mentors live in the communities served by Township High School District 113, Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools, and Lake Forest High School (District 115). The 2014 District Report Cards show that approximately 450 students in District 113 and District 115 come from low income families. Average family income for the current pool of CBO scholars is under $30,000 per year. CBO is a competitive scholarship program that seeks students with a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.8, a strong desire to graduate from college, and the need for a mentor to guide them through a myriad of obstacles along the way.
College Bound Opportunities has a Board of Directors with 16 active members, 3 ex officio members, an Executive Director, a High School Program Manager, a Director of College Persistence, and a Director of Development. The Board members, some of whom have been with CBO since inception, vigorously participate in the on-going affairs of the group. Some are mentors and all are donors. The Board schedules and approves on-going activities and events. The Board assures that each scholar is supplied with a personal computer, which many lack, and secures the funding that provides up to $16,000 during college for each scholar who requires it.
College Bound Opportunities (CBO) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.
To become a CBO scholar, a student must complete an application and participate in a face to face interview. Most are the first members of their families to attend college, hence the need for a mentor. Our CBO scholars are multicultural and often are transplants to our area. The CBO scholars group becomes close knit, and they serve as role models not only for younger siblings, but for other students who aspire to join the program.
CBO selects scholars in their junior year and follows them through college graduation, a six year project at a minimum. Upon selection as a CBO scholar, each student is paired with a mentor and begins what usually turns out to be a very close relationship as scholar and mentor work together to achieve the student's goals. At the same time, CBO Mentors build strong relationships with the scholars' families. Mentors sign a contract with CBO for six years of continuous service.
As in most mentoring situations, candidates are screened and then given initial training. Mentors meet monthly to share their experiences and give each other support. While many of the experiences are similar, each pairing has its own set of circumstances and the group supports one another in problem solving. The mentors also attend on-going training sessions monthly.
Mentors help scholars navigate the college application process, including visits to college campuses and filling out applications for financial aid. Mentors assist scholars in college by tracking their completion of course requirements, problem solving and providing ongoing encouragement. Mentors help students find jobs while in college, and will be assisting the graduates embark upon their career paths.
Beyond College - Career Prep
CBO recognizes that graduating college is not the final chapter for these scholars; pursuing and obtaining meaningful professions presents the next challenge. That's why CBO offers workshops on resume writing, interviewing skills and job searching, and puts together an annual Internship Fair to connect CBO Scholars with local businesses.
CBO's mission is not only to provide students with the opportunity to succeed in college and career, but also to encourage those students to become productive members of their local communities. No student is more committed to meeting this challenge than Tatiana Alonso, who shines through her remarkable efforts to improve the lives of Latinos and other immigrants.
A 2012 graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Tatiana majored in Political Science and Latina/Latino Studies. Her interest in supporting Latino rights, however, is more than academic. As Vice President of La Colectiva, a student organization aimed at promoting social justice for immigrants, Tatiana conferred with state lawmakers, Chicago mayoral candidates, university administrators, and representatives of the Mexican Consulate to advance the rights of immigrants. She has worked tirelessly on behalf of the Latino community to increase access to legal services and education.
As a first-generation Mexican-American, Tatiana has seen family and friends from Mexico struggle to take advantage of opportunities. She is determined to help fellow immigrants. "If we don't help one another, I don't know who will," she said. While a student, Tatiana was dedicated to furthering education within the Spanish-speaking community in Champaign-Urbana. She volunteered as a translator for parents at local parent-teacher conferences and met with Latino students at Urbana High School to encourage them to pursue higher education. She recently helped coordinate workshops for nearly 200 downstate high school students aimed at teaching them about the college application process, financial aid, and campus life.
In 2014, Tatiana worked to promote passage of the Illinois Dream Act, which established a college scholarship fund for both legal and undocumented students. She was involved in creating the first University of Illinois scholarship for undocumented students and organizing events to fund that scholarship. Tatiana aims to put her education to work defending the legal rights of immigrants. She has participated in educating community members on immigration and deportation issues, and has coordinated rallies opposing discrimination. She spent last summer interning at a legal aid clinic that serves low-income Chicago residents where she translated for Spanish-speaking clients and helped them file legal documents. Tatiana hopes to secure another legal internship in the fall and eventually go on to law school. She credits CBO for setting her on this path to success. "If it wasn't for CBO and [executive director] Susan Bell, I have no idea where I would be now," she said.
Using her education, skills, and passion to help others realize their aspirations is Tatiana's ultimate goal. "I want to prove to CBO that they chose someone who makes them proud," Tatiana said. "I want to continue to give back to my community - not just the Latino community, but also CBO." CBO may have opened the door of opportunity for Tatiana, but she is holding that door open for countless others to follow.