Forty-five Evanston Township High School juniors this summer have started their six-year journey to college graduation with Evanston Scholars.

The Evanston Scholars program guides students through the college admission process, supports them to persist through college graduation and connects them to internships, professional networks and employment opportunities with the aim of graduating from college and finding strong jobs.

Executive Director Steve Newman says, “We are thrilled to welcome our largest-ever cohort of 45 students. Ten years ago we started with 10 students, and every year a greater number — with increasing diversity — of mentors, partners and donors have stepped forward to ensure that more Evanston students get the support they need to succeed in college and launch their careers.”

Evanston Scholars works with Evanston students of color and students from families that earn low incomes to get to and through college. The focus is on college completion since it promises the greatest career and economic possibilities for students, given that college graduates earn significantly more than people with only high school degrees.

During the Covid-19 crisis, Newman says, supporters rallied to help underrepresented Evanston students succeed in college. While many organizations nationally struggled through the pandemic, Evanston Scholars received unprecedented support from the community. Despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic, over 95% of Evanston Scholars students remained enrolled in college through the 2020-2021 academic year.

Demographic and income data indicates that many more students could use the support Evanston Scholars offers. Board President Katie Dealy says, “We are committed to expanding this highly-effective program to meet the full need in Evanston.”

Newman says the non-profit group’s vision is that “every qualified Evanston student with the desire to earn a college degree can attend college, graduate, and obtain a strong career, thereby creating a more just and prosperous Evanston.”