Doctor. Lawyer. Pharmacist.   

It's back-to-school time, and not just for our current Club members.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago has three exceptional alumni that are extending their educational journey beyond a bachelor's degree.

What is more exceptional, though, is that they continue to connect with their BGCC mentors and return to the Clubs since they graduated high school. 

“I still feel a comfort in the club,” Cynthia A., a former Pedersen-McCormick Club member, who just received her white coat at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine. “I look at the Club as a safe space for me to be able to work out conflicts I'm having in college or financial problems or personal problems; pretty much anything. They have always been there for me. I'm so grateful to have that outlet at my disposal.” 

Cynthia was a former Youth of the Year (YoY) winner at the BGCC city competition, Illinois state competition, and the Midwest regional competition. Within her specialized medical school program, she received her white coat in two years and will now start clinicals, where she will shadow doctors. 

Though she isn't certain what type of doctor she wants to be yet, she is excited to continue her family's rich history of medical-field professionals. She said BGCC helped prepare her to take on the coursework and responsibility needed to be in medical school at a young age. 

“Different aspects of BGCC helped me be successful in this program and also even getting into this program as well,” Cynthia said. “Especially when I applied for colleges and going through the potential options, I think BGCC helped with me make that decision and direct me in the right path.” 

Cynthia is not the only former YoY participant having success post-undergraduate. Monty R., a former Valentine Club member, has just begun his first year of law school at Northern Illinois, after finishing his bachelor's degree in three years. Monty frequently returns to the Valentine Club whenever he's home. 

“Valentine is my second family,” Monty said. “I started at the Club when I was 5, and it has been a part of my life for 18 years almost. … I can't really explain it; when I go visit, it's like I'm going to visit home. It gives a feeling of being home every time I walk in the doors. It's weird not to go visit my Club when I'm home from school.” 

Monty said he feels a sense of obligation to return to the Club and give back as much as he can to current Club members. 

“When I do go back, it's not about showing off my achievements,” Monty said. "It's all about helping that next teen, that next YoY do better than what I did.” 

Monty always planned to go to law school since he could remember (it was either lawyer or a Chicago Bear) and hopes to become a criminal lawyer one day. He also plans to get involved with educational policymaking and is considering a double major at law school (either business administration or public administration). 

He credits the Valentine teen program in helping him get to where he is today. 

“Everyone should make sure their Boys & Girls Club has a teen program, helps keep them in a safe environment,” Monty said. 

A teen program is what helped Karolina P., a former BGCC Great Opportunities (GO) program member. The GO Program helps 16-24-year-olds find the right path for them. Karolina is now a Doctor of Pharmacy candidate at University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Pharmacy this fall. She also recently received her white coat, and in four years, she will be Dr. Karolina. 

The GO Program is an opportunity to help teens and young adults find the solutions to make their career goals a reality. Recent high school graduates and college-aged students find the GO Program when they are looking to add more experience to the resume or when they are not sure what the next step is on their journey. The pharmacy technician program is one of the most popular within the GO Program.

Karolina worked for Walgreens and the Brown VA Hospital within the program and became the volunteer coordinator of the pre-pharmacy club at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She graduated Summa Cum Laude with Departmental Distinction from UIC with a Bachelor's of Science in Bio/Integrated Health Studies with a concentration in Health and Science. 

"I don’t think I would have been able to get to where I am today (without the GO Program)," Karolina said. "I don’t know what my chances would be to get into pharmacy school without the hands-on experience. To get that experience was an extra bonus to open doors for me. I'm now one step closer to making my dream of becoming a pharmacist real."

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