Fernando Lopez wanted to get a jump on his college career, so he took Early College classes and earned 21 college credits for free while he was still at John F. Kennedy High School. That means that once he graduated high school in 2018, it was only one more year at Daley College before he earned his associate degree in arts. Thanks to the Star Scholarship, which his high school counselor told him about, he didn’t pay anything toward tuition or books at all.

Fernando noted that while some might look down on community college, he thinks it was the right choice for him and so many others. “The class sizes are small, the faculty and staff can give you personalized attention and are always available if you have questions. And there are so many other resources to help when you need it. You won’t find that everywhere,” he said.

Setting an example for his two brothers, Fernando is the first in his family to earn a college degree. Now on his way to Northern Illinois University with a Star partner scholarship in addition to other financing, Fernando plans to study sociology and criminology justice without having to take out any loans.

As far as career goals, Fernando is motivated by wanting to see change in his neighborhood and in the city. He’s focused on earning a degree and working for the Chicago Police Department or the FBI. “If you want to see change,” he says, “you have to take action.”

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