Jazmine Alvarez didn’t think she’d make it to college.
Her mom pushed her to go. Her high school pushed her. Most importantly, she pushed herself.
This month Alvarez became the first in her family to attend college in the U.S., starting her freshman year at Illinois State University. She’s achieved a goal she didn’t even know she had until midway through high school, when she transferred back to her college prep charter school in Chicago. She spent sophomore year at a different school, where she struggled due to a lack of discipline.
“I was nearing graduation, and that’s when I kind of asked myself: What is my life going to be like? I need a future,” she said. “It wasn’t a choice anymore. It wasn’t about if I wanted to. It was about how.”
Luckily, Alvarez was returning to Chicago Bulls College Prep on the city’s west side, where 100 percent of graduates have been accepted to four-year universities. It’s a strict school, she says, where students have to be on time and wear uniforms. At risk of losing her way, Alvarez admits all that extra discipline was exactly what she needed.
At Chicago Bulls College Prep, her teachers preached the importance of college graduation—not just high school graduation. And Alvarez listened. She focused on her schoolwork, while still leaving time for hundreds of hours of community service and a development program for female students.
Alvarez was born in California to parents from Mexico. Her mother stressed the importance of a college education—an example Alvarez can now set for her younger brother by attending Illinois State.
“I’m excited because it’s not something I thought I would be doing,” Alvarez said. “Sometimes I wonder if college will be too hard, or what if I can’t do it. But I always try to keep a positive attitude and keep moving forward toward completing my degree.”
Alvarez chose Illinois State in part because of its College of Business, where she hopes to major, and because it’s not too far from home. She fell in love with the campus during one of her three visits.
“It’s big, but you can walk to everything,” she said.
She’s living in a residence hall with her best friend from home. While she plans to get involved next semester—maybe even join the club softball team and other groups—her No. 1 priority right now is keeping her grades up. She had a 3.0 grade point average in high school and wants to keep it that way.
“I really want to focus on my classes and see how I can handle it,” she said.
Alvarez is one of five new Redbirds featured this week on STATEside. Meet our other freshmen:
- Neil Harris of Bloomington, graduated from University High School
- Taliyah Herron of Normal, graduated from Normal Community West High School
- Ben Colletti of Willowbrook, graduated from De La Salle Institute
- Daija Nealy of Frisco, Texas, graduated from Frisco High School
Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.