☆ The EB211 Mission 

Excel Beyond 211 Dollars for Scholars is a chapter of Scholarship America which serves selected Township District 211 graduates who are low-income and the first generation in their family to attend college.

The EB211 community consists of our Board Members, Advisory Council, Mentors, Partners and Donors, and most importantly, Mentees and their families. Through the EB211 program, we provide each student with one-to-one mentoring, offering guidance throughout each mentee's college journey.

We serve our students as a resource, a helping hand, and an advocate for their success in higher education. We collect funding from our partners and generous donors to provide mentees with scholarships and grants that assist their families in covering semester fees or tuition.

Above all, we celebrate our students' success with the community and are always looking for more ways we can help them thrive!

☆ EB211 Celebrates 

United around the program's theme to "Pay It Forward," nearly 300 friends of Excel Beyond 211 Dollars for Scholars celebrated the success of 21 new college graduates as organizers also awarded $160,000 in scholarships and support funds to 91 first-generation college students.

The event, held June 14 at Palatine High School, featured two keynote speakers, Miriam Castro, and one of her former mentees, Hien Lai. Castro, who has been involved with EB211 from its start in 2014, is the Student Services Department Chairperson at Fremd High School. Lai, a graduate of DePaul University and Palatine High School, is an Associate Merchandising Strategy Manager at PepsiCo.

Dr. Nancy Robb, one of the founders of EB211 DFS and former District 211 superintendent, praised the students, families, volunteers and donors for their special roles in the success of the nonprofit organization, which offers scholarships and mentoring to qualified low-income first-generation college students. EB211 DFS is one of more than 450 affiliates of Scholarship America, one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the country.

"We are hopeful that many of these graduates will return to our program as mentors and live their life according to the Pay It Forward principle," Robb said. "The National Graduation Rate for low-income first-generation students is 10% in six years. Seventy-three percent of the EB211 students who graduated from high school in 2016, earned their college degree in five years. That is more than seven times the national average. This data proves the power and impact of EB211 when we are all working together."

That impact was reflected in the remarks by Castro and Lai, a pair of first-generation college grads who talked about what it took to land their dream jobs after earning their diplomas.

"If there's one message that I want you to take away from this speech today, I want you to trust your voice and believe in yourself," Lai said. "Along the way, it may get difficult. Remember to lean on others around you to empower and motivate you to achieve your goals. Don't lose sight of the American Dream that you and your parents are working toward every day." 

Castro, who has been a mentor to three EB211 college graduates, said she was inspired by the risks that Lai was willing to take to find the right college and the right career.

"To all the future college graduates, it' OK to ask questions, it's OK to feel scared. But don't let the fear stop you," Castro said. "Be persistent. Always find people who can connect you with the right resources and the right opportunities. One day you will be in a position to share that information to the next group of first-gen college-bound students and pay it forward."

Several former mentees of EB211 DFS already have answered that call, with nine college graduates now volunteering as mentors to work with EB211 college students. Additionally, four EB211 graduates are volunteering as Project Managers to assist and direct EB211 interns working on several growth and membership projects.

The full-cycle approach with mentees becoming mentors was noticed by Mike Nylund, the president and CEO of Scholarship America, who praised EB211 for its vision, leadership and successful track record, calling it a model program for the rest of the country.

Two recent graduates, Patrick Opalacz and Rabiya Salman, also addressed the celebration gathering, sharing stories of their college journeys and internships. Opalacz, who graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business, has accepted a job as an Underwriter with Zurich. Salman, who earned a Bachelor's Degree in Accountancy from DePaul, will join the Technology Assurance Department at KPMG.

To date, Excel Beyond 211 Dollars for Scholars has provided mentoring to 298 college students, with 118 having completed their degrees. Since 2014, the nonprofit has awarded more than $615,000 in scholarships and support.

For more information on EB211, visit: