Dr. Rosalind Blasingame-Buford Photo credit by Shawn Kieffer

For 50 years, the Chicago-based organization LINK Unlimited Scholars has been mentoring and educating Black youth — and this year they celebrate their dedication to the city.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s activism and belief in children, the organization began providing their services in 1966, during the climax of the Civil Rights Movement.

During the first year of the organization’s inception, founders John and Carolyn Parmer funded student Richard Smith’s college tuition. This act of kindness made Smith the first scholar of the LINK program.

According to LINK’s website, the organization provides learning support for high school students on all levels. There is a six-week program for rising freshmen that helps students learn algebra, English, and pre-geometry. Similar services are available for rising sophomores and juniors. Since Smith, LINK enrolled over 1,700 students into the program.

In an interview with Rolling Out, Dr. Rosalind Blasingame-Buford, the organization’s first female president and CEO, shares the successes of the organization and its impact on the Chicago area.

“For the past 15 years, 100 percent of our scholars have graduated from high school and [been] accepted to a four-year college or university,” said Blasingame-Buford.

“As we celebrate 50 years of quality services, my goal, which is delineated in our new vision, is: to transform our

Photo of the 45th Annual Graduation Awards Banquet via Link's webpage
Photo of the 45th Annual Graduation Awards Banquet via Link’s webpage

scholars into committed leaders who by exceeding national college acceptance, persistence, and graduation rates and acquiring sustainable careers will serve the LINK and larger community by modeling lifelong social responsibility and civic engagement for future generations of young people.”

The Chicago-based program has partnered with an estimated 100 colleges that have provided insider knowledge about the college application process. Carnegie Mellon University, Colgate University, Emory University, and Columbia University are some of the big names that have teamed up with the organization.

Graduating seniors receive college counseling, advice from the alumni, test prep and are taken on college visits.

“A comprehensive strategy is needed, one that involves a myriad of publics (government, schools, corporations, community adults, and youth) if we are to ever make a true paradigm shift and see success. I strive to add value to our world by advocating for our youth,” said Blasingame-Buford.

Chicago still struggles with decades of housing discrimination, extreme crime and other factors — like the shooting incident of Laquan McDonald — that have led to alleged corruption. Many have called for Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s resignation.

LINK strives to change all of that and be a beacon of hope for young Black students.

The organization turns 50 on April 22, 2016.

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