Jamar Sullivan Jr. loves puzzles. So, when a classmate showed him how to build a basic HTML computer code, Sullivan, a Chatham resident, was hooked. As a participant in the University of Chicago’s STEM Initiative science enrichment program for Chicago Public School high school students, Sullivan had the chance to learn about buoyancy and hot air balloons and see stars through the telescope at the Yerkes Observatory.
And when the Gwendolyn Brooks High School student was looking to challenge himself further in 2018, the University’s Office of Special Programs-College Prep connected him with Professor Blase Ur in the Computer Science Department. For the past two years, the now-18-year-old has worked closely with Ur as an intern on a machine learning project. This fall, that work will continue when Sullivan starts as a UChicago student himself.
“I was interested in a lot of things other people weren’t necessarily interested in and I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to explain my passions to other people. But being in close proximity with other students in the program who were trying to learn as well, and then also my internship where I have to explain my project to other people or explain what I’m thinking, I’ve just gotten better at sharing my ideas thoughtfully,” he says.
For Sullivan, whose father is a Chicago firefighter, growing up nearby and recognizing UChicago’s prestigious reputation makes him feel especially fortunate to attend the University, with help from a Chicago Police and Fire Scholarship. The scholarship, for children of Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department, and University of Chicago Police Department officers who are accepted to the College, will cover Sullivan’s full tuition.
Sullivan says he is confident that the time he has already spent on campus has prepared him for the challenges ahead.
“I like solving problems,” Sullivan says. “And in computer programming, along with math, it’s a field where that’s pretty much what you do. So, I just gravitated toward that.”
While Sullivan ultimately chose UChicago, he also was accepted at Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Michigan, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“I feel like I have a lot of support behind me and a lot of people that, although they might have really high expectations for me, they also want to make sure that I get to the point where I have to be,” Sullivan says. “A lot of the people that I’ve met are willing to support me in any way and I really appreciate that, and I feel like with their help I can definitely make the most out of my time at UChicago.”