Four first-generation college students took another step toward fulfilling their education dreams, winning scholarships during the second annual American Dream Fellowship Competition.
Round Lake High School Senior Hannah Yearout was only 11 when her father died, and although his death brought her down to her “lowest place,” her grandfather was there to read with her every night. For a few years he was her source of support, until he died in 2014.
But he inspired her to excel in high school, make new friends and find her interests and passions. “My grandfather showed me I had a mission to better myself and show them my hard work and his faith in me would not go unseen,” she said.
So when she learned about the Elmhurst College American Dream Fellowship Competition, a scholarship contest that celebrates first-generation college students, she knew she had to enter. “I needed to tell my story,” she said.
To enter, students were asked to submit a video on the topic: “As a first-generation student, what would graduating from college mean to you and your family?”
“It would showcase everything my grandpa ever wished for me, and the person my father would’ve hoped to see me become,” she said in her video. “It would show what kind of person I really want to strive to be.”
On Monday, Feb. 18, Yearout was named the first-place winner of the second annual American Dream Fellowship Competition. Yearout, who plans to major in early childhood education and become a teacher, will receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Elmhurst College.
She was one of four winners of American Dream awards, which include a four-year, full-tuition scholarship, four years’ room and board, and stipends that will cover the cost of books and other materials.
The winners were announced on Monday, during an awards ceremony in Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel that was attended by many of the 155 students who entered the contest, along with several hundred mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends.
Here are the names and videos of the other winners:
- Christopher Perez, of Northlake (West Leyden High School), who plans to major in music education, will receive a stipend to cover four years of room and board at Elmhurst College.
- Jessica Jones of Hillside (Proviso Math & Science Academy), who plans to major in sociology, will receive a stipend to cover the annual cost of books and other materials.
- Auri Martinez, of Chicago (Phoenix Military Academy), who plans to major in psychology and pursue occupational therapy, also will receive a books and materials stipend.
- All of the students who entered the competition will receive a $1,000 annual American Dream Grant to attend Elmhurst College.
Committed to helping its students achieve the American Dream, Elmhurst College launched the American Dream Fellowship Competition last year. The contest was open to all first-generation college students who have been admitted to Elmhurst College for the fall of 2019.
The contestants and their families were invited to campus on Monday for in-person interviews and to hear from current first-generation college students, campus leaders and alumni before attending the awards ceremony later that afternoon.
During the awards ceremony, Elmhurst College President Troy D. VanAken, a first-generation college student himself, encouraged the students to “dig deep, work hard” and take pride in how going to college would not only transform their own lives but also shape the lives of everyone around them.
“This fall, when you drive onto campus as the first in your family to go to college, look in the metaphorical rearview mirror: See your grandparents and parents, and think about the sacrifices they made for you. Now look out the front window, and into the future: See the next generation—your children and the people who will come after you. They’re all going to benefit from your education.”