Evanston Scholars benefit raises more than $200,000

Class of 2016 Whitney Giroux with Evanston Scholars board member Corey Winchester and Whitney's mentor, Betsy Banks

More than 300 people attended POMP!, the Evanston Scholars’ annual benefit and raised more than $200,000 to support the group's programs.

The event was held Friday, May 6, at Smylie Brothers Brewing Co. in downtown Evanston.

Celebrating its five-year anniversary and first college graduating class this year, Evanston Scholars was founded by Steve Newman, an Evanston native and long-time teacher at Evanston Township High School.

Newman was inspired to establish Evanston Scholars after seeing some of his brightest students fail to find success in college. Although talented, these students lacked both the know-how and financial support to get in and get through college.

The Evanston Scholars program improves college access and success for a diverse group of ambitious Evanston students who are traditionally first-generation college entrants, low-income, and students of color.

Newman spoke at the event of the network of support provided by every Scholar’s family, mentor, and staff, followed by a processional of the 27 graduating seniors of the Evanston Scholars Class of 2016. Families and friends were there to support these Scholars, all of whom are planning to attend four-year colleges in the fall. 

Keynote speaker Tyler Dixon, Evanston Scholar and rising junior at Hampton University, credited the program with helping her apply to 10 colleges and 15 different scholarships. She chose Hampton and was selected for admission to the prestigious Freddye T. Davy Honors College at the school.

Evanston Scholars also helped Tyler make the often-difficult transition to college – and survive some initial homesickness by sending care packages and notes. Tyler says: “Throughout my first two years at college, Evanston Scholars kept in contact with me on a regular basis through text messages, calls, and emails. They always wanted to know how I was doing and if I needed any help. It was great to have that support system.”

Since its 2011 inception, Evanston Scholars has grown from serving 10 students to serving 134 students this year. Newman thanked the many supporters.  “Evanston is such an amazing community and it showed on Friday night. We are overwhelmed with the support. These funds will help Evanston Scholars enhance and grow the program to help more deserving students reach their potential.” Money raised will provide ACT preparation, mentoring, college counseling, and college persistence support to help Scholars find their “best fit” school and overcome any obstacles they may encounter on the path to a college degree.

Mary Finnegan, event co-chair, Evanston Scholar board member, and mentor to Scholar Tyler Dixon says, “A highlight from last Friday’s event was seeing each Scholar walk down the stairs at Smylie’s wearing their college name on their shirts, with their proud parents in attendance. It reminds us of the hard work the students put in to get to this point, and the obstacles they’ve already overcome.”

More than 60 area businesses lent their support to the evening, either through financial or in-kind donations. More information about Evanston Scholars is available online.