Erika Fernandez, EHS Class of 2013

Erika Fernandez, EHS Class of 2013

Erika Fernandez works part-time to help cover her college costs. But winning the U-46 Superintendent’s Scholarship as a senior at Elgin High School took some of the burden off her shoulders. Erika started out at Elgin Community College, where the scholarship covered a large chunk of her tuition.

“I didn’t have to worry so much at ECC about carrying a large workload outside of school,” Erika said. “I know a lot of people who had to compromise the number of classes they could take on per semester but I didn’t feel compelled to do anything less than a full-time load.”

After graduating with an associate degree from ECC, Erika transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she is currently majoring in Spanish Linguistics and expects to graduate by December 2018. She hopes to become an English as a Second Language or Spanish Language teacher.

Erika is the oldest of three children and the first in her family to go to college. Her younger sister, now 18, plans to follow her path from ECC and then on to a four-year school. Already she has had the benefit of Erika’s newfound knowledge about financing college. That’s one area where Erika has been at a disadvantage, given her parents’ educational attainment levels.

“I don’t have a lot of help at home when it comes to figuring out things like financial aid or loans,” Erika said. “That’s a little stressful. A lot of my friends rely on their parents to help them with things like financial knowledge. I have to figure it out on my own for the most part.”

Thankfully, she says, she had the support of the U-46 community and Superintendent’s Scholarship fund donors, who helped her get her start.