Investing in College Bound Talent and Chicago's Future
Long commute to success
Though she says she's always been self-motivated and spirited, Colby reflects that the road would have been much rougher without the support of Chicago Scholars. (Rougher, even, than her two-hour, multi-bus and multi-train daily commute from the Austin neighborhood to Northside College Prep high school.) "It was a struggle figuring out how I was going to finance my education," she explains. "My parents tried to help me as best they could, but because they'd never really gone through the process, it was like we were all learning together. That's where Chicago Scholars came in-the workshops gave me the guidance I needed to figure out how to do things on my own, what I needed to get from my parents and when forms needed to be filled out and what deadlines I needed to be on top of. That was a big thing for me."
After finishing high school a semester early, Colby spent the spring before college working in the Chicago Scholars' office, which she says prepared her for internships and professional life as much as the program itself prepared her for school. "When I look at my resume, I'm like, ‘wow,'" she says. "I worked at Kirkland & Ellis for two summers in a row through the Chicago Scholars internship program and I've worked for Chicago Scholars -I have all these contacts and a network of people who can provide guidance. You don't see a lot of students, especially from strained economic backgrounds, who have those opportunities."
Personal Support Makes a Difference
While working at Chicago Scholars, Colby was admitted to her dream college in Atlanta but it did not offer enough financial aid. Once she chose Syracuse instead, Chicago Scholars president Karen Foley helped her figure out how to make it work economically. "I sat down and talked with her about what it would be like, about visiting and weighing my options and knowing what to do," she says. "I feel like my mom would have loved to tell me these types of things, but she just didn't know. With Karen, it wasn't like talking to the president of Chicago Scholars; it was like talking to somebody who I know loves me like a family member."
Four years of college went quickly. In the summer of 2010, Colby Morgan had signed a contract with Teach For America, and was prepared to move to Los Angeles in the fall to become a math teacher, when the powers that be at her alma mater, Syracuse University, decided they wanted to keep her for a while longer. In exchange for working as a graduate assistant in the information management program, the dean of Syracuse's School of Information Studies offered her a full-ride scholarship to complete her Masters degree-an honor bestowed on only one other student in the dean's tenure so far. "I was a little conflicted," Colby says, "but I know people don't get that opportunity every day."
Now she acts as liaison between students and professors in two courses, "Idea To Startup" and "What's The Big Idea?" Her qualifications? Not only did she graduate magna cum laude from the same program, but she also demonstrated how much students could accomplish in those very courses: it was through one that she started her own business, SafeSip Technologies, whose products include a drinking straw that changes color in the presence of date-rape drugs and a cup cover called the Date Rape Deflector, or Dr. D-"affectionately known as ‘condoms for cups.'" What started as an undergraduate class project turned into a summer in Syracuse's Student Startup Incubator program, which in turn became a company and a nearly unprecedented scholarship offer.
Return on Investment
Once she finishes her Masters, Colby expects to work in IT consulting while cultivating SafeSip, then hopes to pursue projects including a company that develops web presence and IT infrastructure for small, minority-owned businesses. Her goal is to bring her entrepreneurial acumen and glowing track record back home to Chicago. "Chicago's a great city with a lot to offer, and a lot of people who go away to school end up all over the country instead of coming back to do work within their community," she says. "I think that's a shame."
Hear what Colby and her business partners have to say abut Safesip Technologies below!