This is a follow-up to a story we aired back in April, about how the state budget impasse was affecting high school seniors trying to decide where to go to college. In the course of reporting, we met Liz Bieze, one of two counselors at Sullivan High School at Rogers Park in Chicago.
Here's what she said then:
“I mean I literally, right before you called, was finishing up helping a student draft an email to a financial aid office to appeal her award letter, and she’s our valedictorian of our class. So when your valedictorian, with a 28 ACT, can’t afford to go to school, that’s a big problem.”
That student is Danuta Chlebek. Her traditional Polish name hints at her family's situation: They immigrated from Poland when she was 5 years old. Her father is a seasonal construction worker; the family recently welcomed a second child, adding stress to their financial situation.
At the time we talked, the best college award offer Danuta had gotten was from a private liberal arts college. She would still have to take out federal loans and come up with at least $5,000 out of her own pocket.
Through the magic of social media, someone at Governors State University read about Danuta and noticed that she hoped to major in speech pathology. Randi Schneider, associate vice-president of enrollment at GSU, contacted Danuta and invited her to visit the campus.
"We are covering her tuition and fees as well as her room in our brand new residence hall. We're providing a board plan and we're also providing an allowance for books," Schneider says. "This is the first such scholarship we have offered. We have other Presidential Scholars, but hers was the first Presidential Scholarship we offered to include the residence hall experience. So for her, she's always going to be like our first-born."