A Chicago high school student fulfilled her American dream and more as she heads to college with more than $1 million in scholarships.
“I always wanted to go to college,” said Darlene Diaz, who attends John F. Kennedy High School on the city’s Southwest Side. “I have always been doing well in school. I love learning. Except, I was worried about the prices because college is pretty expensive.”
Diaz knew her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and had never finished high school, couldn’t afford for her schooling.
“My parents don’t hold a high-skill job,” she said. “It’s relatively low-skilled and it’s a lot more labor and manual work.”
Determined not to give up on her dream, she sought the help of counselors at her high school and outside of school throughout her junior year. They taught her how to apply for FAFSA, scholarships and how to apply to universities.
“Honestly, it was a part-time job,” Diaz said.
So the straight-A student went to school full time, participated in various extracurricular activities and managed to apply to 19 schools and more than 50 scholarships.
“So many top students are driven just about the grade,” said Diaz’s English teacher Kathleen Parent. “I don’t think she has ever cared about the grade. She’s cared about doing a good job and representing herself and her family well.”
Diaz was accepted to 10 of the 19 schools she applied for and was awarded dozens of additional scholarships. In total, the offers from the schools and scholarships totaled more than $1 million.
“The path I am taking to college is going to give my siblings a good example,” Diaz said. “And the rest of the family seeing that their decision to come to the United States was not in vain.”
Diaz plans to attend Davidson College in North Carolina in the fall, where she hopes to study to become a doctor.
“This really happening - this is a dream come true,” she said. “I’m going to be able to attend college.”