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UIC CHANCE students named ComEd Scholars

The 2021 ComEd Scholars were acknowledged during a virtual ceremony. Top row (L-R): Camren McGee, Alicia Sawyer of the UIC CHANCE program and Ramon Orozco. Middle row (L-R): Cristobal Soto, Rashaun Muhammad and Juliana Soto. Bottom row (L-R): Leah Davis and Chenille Lawrence.

A group of University of Illinois Chicago engineering and computer science students have been named ComEd Scholars and will be provided scholarships to fill the tuition gap not covered by financial aid.

The eight students make up the 2021 ComEd Scholars cohort and are members of the UIC CHANCE program’s STEM Academy. The ComEd Scholars program is an effort to invest in a diverse workforce, ComEd officials said at a recent virtual ceremony announcing the recipients. In addition to the UIC students, two students from the Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech, also were recipients.

“ComEd is proud to help deserving students from underserved communities achieve their higher education goals,” said Michelle Blaise, ComEd’s senior vice president of technical services. “The past year has been incredibly difficult. We hope that our support can enable these wonderful students and leaders of the future to receive the education necessary to create innovative change in their fields and inspire their communities and future generations to come.”

Joshua Evan Campbell

The aim of the ComEd Scholars program, in its third year, is to provide scholarships to students pursuing degrees in STEM that cover education-related costs that exceed financial aid. Since the inception of the ComEd Scholars program in 2019, 22 students have been awarded support.

Rex Tolliver, UIC vice chancellor for student affairs, applauded the students and thanked ComEd and UIC’s CHANCE program for their efforts to recognize and support the students. At the ceremony, Tolliver said the utility company met an essential need of the young people.

“I want to thank ComEd especially for bridging the gap for so many students to ensure that they don’t have to worry about how they are going to afford a higher education,” Tolliver said.

He said the scholarship embodies the name of the CHANCE program. UIC’s CHANCE program began in 2004 and was designed to assist the university with its goal to increase recruitment, retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, City Colleges of Chicago, community-based organizations, various suburban school districts and charter schools. CHANCE stands for Counseling Help and Assistance Necessary for a 21st Century College Education.

“When I think about this partnership that has happened over the years between ComEd, CHANCE and the university, this program embodies the meaning of the word ‘chance.’ as well. This partnership is the possibility of something happening,” Tolliver said.

He told the students that they are going to be given the chance and the possibilities to strive to reach their maximum potential.

“Since ComEd filled the gap, it is now time for you to fill the space. You should take advantage of every opportunity that is given to you,” Tolliver told the students.

In addition to financial assistance, the ComEd Scholars are also granted the opportunity to interview for internships at ComEd and its parent company, Exelon, and are encouraged to participate in a mentorship program with ComEd engineers.

To be eligible for the program, students must be recommended by their respective schools. Each school’s financial aid office, in partnership with academic advisers and ComEd, then identifies high-performing students facing financial burdens to continue the student’s education. Prospective recipients then submit a personal statement, financial-aid application and school transcripts.

Kendal Parker, director of the CHANCE program, thanked ComEd and noted that in addition to the financial investment to the 22 students, the company has provided important ongoing summer internships to 18 students and full-time employment to two former interns.

“This is truly a pipeline initiative that started with just a bunch of ideas about what hard work, commitment and a strong partnership could do,” Parker said.

The 2021 ComEd Scholars are:

  • Joshua Evan Campbell — a second-year student from Chicago’s Jeffery Manor neighborhood, pursuing a degree in computer engineering at UIC.
  • Leah Davis — a first-year student from Chicago’s Near West Side neighborhood, pursuing a degree in civil engineering at UIC.
  • Chenille Lawrence — a second-year student from Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood, pursuing a degree in computer science at UIC.
  • Camren McGee — a second-year student from Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, pursuing a degree in industrial engineering at UIC.
  • Rashaun Muhammad — a third-year student from Dolton, Illinois, pursuing a degree in industrial engineering at UIC.
  • Ramon Orozco — a third-year student from Lyons, Illinois, pursuing a degree in civil engineering at UIC.
  • Cristobal Soto — a first-year student from Maywood, Illinois, pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at UIC.
  • Juliana Soto — a first-year student from Maywood, Illinois, pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering at UIC.

This story first appeared at UIC Today.