LINK Unlimited Scholars Expands Program to Include 7th and 8th Graders

Link Unlimited Scholars is expanding its program to include 7th and 8th graders with the Junior Link Program. PHOTO PROVIDED BY LINK UNLIMITED SCHOLARS.
Link Unlimited Scholars is expanding its program to include 7th and 8th graders with the Junior Link Program. PHOTO PROVIDED BY LINK UNLIMITED SCHOLARS.

 LINK Unlimited Scholars Expands Program to Include 7th and 8th Graders

By Tia Carol Jones


LINK Unlimited Scholars has been in existence for 60 years with the goal of supporting students through high school. Now, it has expanded its program to include 7th and 8th graders with its Jr LINK Program. The goal of the two-year middle school program is to help middle school students with placement to high school and college prep.


Dr. Toinette Gunn, President and CEO of LINK Unlimited Scholars, said the organization expanded to middle school students because of a strategic direction that was implemented by the board. The board really wanted to deepen LINK Unlimited Scholars’ relationship and investment in the city of Chicago.


“In doing that, we recognize that there are certain neighborhoods in the city that are just more under resourced and students and families in those communities just don’t have the greatest opportunities, the greatest access, and certainly not access to quality education,” she said.


LINK Unlimited Scholars decided to launch the Jr LINK Program as a pilot in order to make a greater impact and help the people in those under resourced communities. The program is also being extended to public school students. With this expanded program, it goes from being a four-year program to being a six-year program.


Not only does it make a bigger impact and invest in the city, the Jr LINK Program also helps LINK Unlimited Scholars build its high school fellowship pipeline. The hope is that the earlier the organization can work with students and prepare them for high school and college readiness, the better it is for all concerned.


LINK Unlimited Scholars currently partners with 50 high schools and seven elementary schools throughout the city, with a focus on Bronzeville, Auburn Gresham, Greater Grand Crossing, Englewood, South Shore, Roseland, Washington Park, Austin, Garfield Park and North Lawndale. With the expansion of the program, there will be other points of entry into the program, which will allow more students to apply to the program.


Gunn said there is a value add for parents to have their students enrolled in the program. She listed college preparedness, academic enrichment, career readiness, college access support.


“Black students are disproportionately impacted by systemic and structural forces that have really impeded their ability to access the opportunities they deserve and can absolutely be successful at, if given the opportunity,” Gunn said.


LINK Unlimited Scholars exists to disrupt and try to help minimize the disparities that exist in providing talented, deserving, ambitious, goal-driven students with opportunities to be able to get to college. Students want to do that, but don’t always have the access, opportunity and support necessary to navigate that process. Gunn said the students who participate in LINK’s program graduate college at three times the National average at 60%, where the National average is 21%.


Gunn added that the students who are coming to the program are coming to the table with dreams of attending college and LINK Unlimited Scholars is helping to navigate, give them access and pave the way for that.


The deadline to apply for the Jr LINK  Program is Friday, Sept. 15th. The high school application does not open until the Fall. For more information about Link Unlimited Scholars, visit linkunlimited.org.

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