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Chicago HOPE scholarship recipient Jamese Dunlap on the impact of mentorship

Jamese Dunlap

Jamese Dunlap

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Updated: December 17, 2013 3:28PM

It was a typical morning at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School. Four years ago, I arrived to homeroom and one of our guidance counselors had an announcement. “I have applications for a Chicago-based scholarship opportunity, and anyone who is interested in applying can stop by my office to pick one up.” I quickly learned that it was the Chicago HOPE Dollars for Scholars Scholarship. The students chosen would receive monetary support as well as a personal mentor. Without hesitation, I applied — if I received the scholarship, I would be the second person in my family to attend college, and this was very important to me.

After being selected as a recipient, I was overcome with joy. I knew this scholarship was a great opportunity, but I could not have imagined the type of impact the organization would have on my future successes as a college student.

I was accepted into Northwestern University. Initially I didn’t think college would be more challenging than high school, but after my first few of weeks as a freshman, I realized I was mistaken. Throughout my first year, I struggled with time management. Figuring out how to successfully complete lengthy reading assignments, perplexing math problem sets and research papers, while also balancing extracurricular activities, did not come easily to me. It was by far one of my most overwhelming experiences.

Unsure where to turn, I reached out to my Chicago HOPE mentor for guidance, and she worked with me to find a solution. With her help and insight, my time management abilities greatly improved, and I felt better prepared to handle my academic challenges.

My mentor continued to be one of the best resources during some of my most difficult times as an undergraduate. During my junior year, I applied for summer internship opportunities. The Google BOLD internship program was my top choice, and my Chicago HOPE mentor conducted mock interviews with me to prepare for the application process. The first few rounds of practice interviews were embarrassingly difficult. Crafting a compelling response to standard questions like, “Tell me about yourself” seemed impossible. Despite the challenge, my mentor continued to work with me. She encouraged me to keep at it, and reassured me that with additional practice, my interview skills would greatly improve.

By the end of the recruiting process, I had grown extremely comfortable with interviewing and successfully landed a summer internship at Google. This was just one of the many accomplishments where my Chicago HOPE mentor helped support me.

Since my enrollment at Northwestern, Chicago HOPE continues to play a crucial role in my personal and professional development as a college student. The organization also taught me a valuable lesson about mentorship and the importance of giving back. Now, one of my goals is to have a positive impact on the lives of others through mentorship — the way Chicago HOPE has impacted my life.

Chicago HOPE Dollars for Scholars hosts an annual masquerade ball to support the scholarship fund. This year’s event is Saturday, from 8 to 11 p.m. at the Chicago Illuminating Company. For information, visit

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