Lindblom Math and Science Academy senior Kaylee Flowers’ love of science and engineering drew her to the UChicago STEM Initiative (UCSI) in 2018. With support from the program’s college readiness workshops and essay writing courses, Flowers, who lives in Bronzeville, earned a total of nearly $1 million in scholarships and financial aid and was accepted at seven universities, including leading STEM schools such as University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Worchester Polytech Institute, in addition to Washington University in St. Louis, where she plans to study biomedical engineering starting this fall.
The University Office of Civic Engagement’s free, multi-year science enrichment program gives 9th and 10th grade CPS students like Flowers the opportunity to interact with University faculty, staff, students, and labs; engage with college-level math and science course work; and take part in industry and lab tours.
“What really stood out about this program was the number of opportunities — not just to learn more as far as STEM activities but also the college readiness aspect,” Flowers says. “They have a whole bunch of resources to really help students with the college process and to help students get to whatever goal that they have.”
Flowers, who hopes to pursue a career in the field of prosthetics and artificial limbs after college, says she especially appreciated the way UChicago’s college readiness programs pivoted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and sought feedback from students and their families on how the programs could be most supportive during a challenging time. College essay writing courses, tutoring, and guidance on narrowing down her college search and determining which school would be the best fit were especially valuable, Flowers says: “They really helped in terms of getting me ready for the overall college process and making sure that I was completing all the steps that I needed to and just keeping me on track.”
Knowing Flowers is additionally involved in theater and the arts, program staff also connected her with the University Community Service Center’s Bronzeville Youth Identity Collaborative, a series led in partnership with UChicago Hillel that creates co-learning spaces for UChicago and Bronzeville high school students to learn about and reflect on identity, ownership of narrative, and advocacy through storytelling and art. “That was honestly really cool to have that sort of outlet during the second half of my senior year,” she says. “I definitely learned how to express myself more.”