Rachel Abraham
North Park University
ACI Peer Mentoring Program

Rachel Abraham finished her first year of college this spring at North Park University, Chicago. Abraham, from Skokie, Illinois, chose to attend the university after speaking with a cousin who was also a North Park student. She told her that the small classes and opportunities to interact with professors were good reasons to attend. Abraham is the second in her family to attend college.

“I knew I wanted to be in a medical field,” Abraham said, but she wasn’t certain what profession to choose. After trying pharmacy classes and others, she eventually decided on a nursing major, one of the school’s top majors. Abraham hopes to work as a pediatrics or obstetrics nurse, she says.

After attending the university’s Compass program for first-year students, Abraham said she gained confidence, learning about the university and the college environment. She also became a mentee in ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program at North Park.

“I had a really good connection with my mentor who graduated in December,” she said. “We still have a good connection, we reach out to each other outside of school.” Abraham says her mentor helped connect her with resources and people, and helped her resolve an issue in one of her classes. “I asked for her opinion. I didn’t really know what to do and how should I take on this problem,” she says. “First, she told me to calm down because I was a little overwhelmed. She’s said ‘go see your advisor. Tell her I sent you. Tell her the issue, and she’ll give you a response.’ She did, and it all worked out. It was really good.”

Looking back on her first year, Abraham says the Peer Mentoring Program gave her “balance.” “There’s always going to be a teacher and a counselor and advisor. When you have a mentor, they have all the information for you, especially if you can relate with your major. It’s a really good connection to make,” she says. In addition, as a commuter, Abraham says the Compass program and the Peer Mentoring Program helped her to meet and know people at school, something she might not have done otherwise.

Abraham adds that she is grateful for donors who contribute to the Peer Mentoring Program because the support “can have a really big impact.”

Denzel Johnson
Monmouth College
ACI General Scholarship

Denzel Johnson went to Monmouth College, Monmouth, Illinois, to learn and to fulfill a dream of becoming a television new anchor. Along the way, he experienced more than he imagined, and this year, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.

Johnson grew up on the south side of Chicago and attended Muchin College Prep. At Monmouth, Johnson worked at the college radio station, WPFS, where he had a show called “Inside Scoop,” became head anchor at Monmouth College Television, wrote for the Monmouth Courier, the student newspaper, and the Monmouth Review Atlas, the city newspaper. He also published poetry in Coil, the literature and arts magazine of Monmouth College. Among many other things.

“If there’s something Monmouth College has to offer, I have done it,” said Johnson. For example, he gave up spring break for service opportunities. Those experiences included a trip to Nogales, Mexico, to learn about ¬†immigration, an interreligious learning experience in Chicago and a third spring break experience visiting Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg, Illinois, to learn about social justice reform. Plus, Johnson held leadership positions, including president, in UMOJA, the Black Student Union at Monmouth, and worked with inner-city youth for Project Morry, a camp internship opportunity in Westchester County, New York.

“My dream is still to anchor and go into journalistic writing, but also I have passions in other areas,” Johnson says. They include working with inner-city youth in Chicago or possibly working in sales and marketing. “I’ve been talking with my mom and family members about my next step, so I really have quite a few opportunities and options,” he says.

Helping to facilitate his college experience were two scholarships through ACI. The first was a UPS Scholarship, made available through a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges/UPS Endowment. The second was an ACI General Scholarship. He says the scholarships have helped him and his mother, Sarah, a retired college librarian, to meet tuition costs. Plus, he learned a lot by attending ACI’s first Career and Internship Fair in 2018.

“From day one, me and my mom have been doing this together back-to-back as a duo. She’s been helping me with a payment plan. I’ve also been trying to continue to reach out and apply for scholarships,” Johnson says.

Johnson is grateful to Monmouth faculty and staff for their support while he was a student. He also is grateful for donors who made the scholarships possible. “It’s one thing to help fund something but when you help students fulfill their dreams and become the best person that they can be, I don’t think there’s any better feeling than that. That’s what I would tell a donor,” Johnson adds.

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