Nancy Barrera grew up in Chicago on the far South Side and attended Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy High School, where an Advanced Placement United States history class she took during her junior year sparked her interest in politics.

So, when she enrolled at Harold Washington College in 2020, the decision to further that interest as a political science major was an easy one. Nancy also gained out of classroom experience by serving as vice president of the Harold Washington Student Government Association.

Nancy credits staff and departments at Harold Washington for helping her reach her education and career goals.

“In August of 2021, I started working with Jasmin Dobson in Career Services. Shortly after, I interned for Congresswoman Robin Kelly!” she said.

Nancy enjoyed her three-month internship with Congresswoman Kelly of Illinois’s Second Congressional District, and it solidified her interest in public service. She also got involved with other Harold Washington College activities, including the Organization of Latinx American Students (OLAS) and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

As graduation approached, Nancy began to seek help from the Writing Center and the Transfer Center. Harold Washington Transfer Center Director Ellen Goldberg encouraged her to attend a transfer workshop, where she met with former students and scholarship recipients.

“The past scholarship recipients emphasized that the worst thing you can do is not apply [for scholarships],” Nancy said.

She made the decision to do exactly that and got to work on college and scholarship essays with Sarah Tarkany at the Writing Center. One scholarship opportunity really caught Nancy’s eye: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The competitive scholarship provides up to $55,000 per year to help students pay for their tuition, living expenses, books, and other fees at a four-year college or university.

“The chances were very slim, but I applied anyway,” Nancy recalled.

Nancy was thrilled to hear that she was selected from a pool of more than 1,200 applicants from 332 community colleges for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship. A total of six City Colleges of Chicago students received the scholarship this year, and they make up the overwhelming majority of the seven students in Illinois who received the award.

In the fall, Nancy will attend Northwestern University, where she will continue her studies in political science.

When she’s not studying or preparing to make an impact through public service, Nancy loves reading all kinds of books and watching foreign films, “especially French ones.” She also volunteers virtually with Erie Neighborhood House, using her strong language skills to help Spanish-speaking adults learn English.

After graduation, Nancy plans to work in public service and is considering a career in the non-profit world or in legislative or policymaking processes.

“I hope to aid underserved Chicago communities one day, especially those like my South Side community that are often underinvested in,” Nancy said.

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