While eating dinner with his family, Wright College alumnus Geovanni Celaya saw an email notification from TheDream.US scholarship pop up on his phone.

It wasn’t the first time he had applied for the award, which supports both high school and community college students that are undocumented as they look to pursue a bachelor’s degree. He had also applied when he was a senior at Marine Leadership Academy in Hermosa—but he didn’t receive the scholarship then. So, throughout his journey at Wright College, it remained at the back of his mind.

When Geovanni opened the email this time around and saw that he had received the award, he was “so relieved.” TheDream.US scholarship provides up to $33,000 a year to recipients, enough to fully fund his bachelor’s degree at a transfer institution.

“I can’t really explain how much of a weight was lifted the day I read the email,” he said. “I never wanted my family to feel that financial burden.”

With the support of the scholarship, Geovanni plans to transfer to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to study sociology—one of the interests he discovered early on during him time at Wright College.

Geovanni started at Wright in February 2020 after graduating early from Marine Leadership Academy. As an undocumented student, he was worried about his financial options and how he would pay for college. Then, he found out about City Colleges’ Star Scholarship from his high school counselor. The award would allow him to attend Wright College, which is close to his home in Belmont-Cragin, tuition-free.

“I’m not sure if I would’ve gone to college if I didn’t receive the Star Scholarship,” he said.

Even as the college went virtual shortly after he started his classes, Geovanni’s advisor helped him stay on track with his plans, especially after he realized he no longer wanted to study kinesiology—his original dream—but he wanted to explore sociology instead.

His interest in the subject led him to stay after class with Professor Patricia Connolly, who would discuss not only the course material but other research and topics Geovanni was interested in, like mental health.

As he prepares to transfer to UIC this fall, Geovanni looks forward to further exploring those interests—and he’s grateful to have gotten his start at Wright.

“All of the classes I’ve taken at Wright have taken me out of my comfort zone,” he said. “And everything I learned here motivated me to re-apply [for TheDream.US scholarship].”

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