History

LINK Unlimited Scholars was founded in 1966, the same year Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Chicago and was greeted with great hostility and contempt. The hostile response to Dr. King’s hopeful message led John and Carolyn Parmer to search for their role in making Dr. King’s dream of equality and justice a reality.

The Parmer’s chose to mentor an African American child through four years of high school. The couple soon enlisted their friends to do the same. Today LINK continues the Parmer’s pursuit of civic justice by addressing the educational crisis of economically-disadvantaged African American youth in the Chicago area. LINK realizes the couple’s dream by providing access to a quality education at a private, college preparatory high school.

Since 1966, LINK has successfully transitioned over 1,850 economically disadvantaged African American youth to college by providing one-on-one academic support through the high school years and beyond. LINK students have attended many top tier colleges, and have moved on to become successful in their own right, as business professionals, educators, engineers, architects, attorneys, doctors and more.

1966

While at Holy Angels parish on Chicago’s Southside, John & Carolyn Parmer offer to pay the tuition of a student attending De La Salle High School.  Richard Smith becomes the first LINK scholar.

1968

The LINK program grows to more than 20 students and the Loyola Academy summer school program begins.

1969

Janice Crockett and Audrey Pickens are the first female students admitted into LINK.

The first college visit occurs at Lewis University.

1970

The First Annual Awards Banquet is held at the Como Inn.

1972

LINK expands its membership to include students from St. Dorothy’s.

1973

The 100th student is admitted into LINK.

1974

LINK becomes a legal not-for-profit entity and scholar Randy McVane wins a contest to officially name the program LINK Unlimited.

The First Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award is given to John & Carolyn Parmer for their support of LINK Unlimited and their commitment to racial and social harmony.

1977

LINK expands its membership to include students from St. Clare and St. Cyril.

1985

LINK expands its membership to include students from the Westside of Chicago with students from Our Lady of the Westside and Resurrection.

1989

The new headquarters for LINK opens across the street from St. Dorothy’s at 7759 South Eberhart.

1992

Joseph Cardinal Bernadin presides over LINK Unlimited’s 25th Anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Dorothy’s Church.

1994

LINK hosts its First Annual Founders Day Golf Outing.

1996

LINK Summer School is divided into three locations: Fenwick High School (Oak Park) for rising freshman; Loyola Academy (Wilmette) for rising sophomores; and St. Dorothy’s for rising juniors.

LINK begins providing ACT Preparation for rising juniors during summer school.

2000

100% of the LINK graduating seniors matriculate into college.

LINK celebrates its 1,000th Alumnus.

2002

LINK launches a capital campaign to raise $7 million to establish an endowment and build a new centrally located headquarters.

LINK partners with American Field Services to expose its scholars to other countries and cultures.

2003

LINK expands its college readiness programming

2005

With the help of: the City of Chicago; Antunovich Associates; McCaffery Interests; W.E. O’Neil Construction Company; The John Buck Company; Walsh Construction; and Mayer Brown, LLP construction begins on LINK’s new headquarters.

The First Annual DreamKeepers Awards Gala is held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, honoring Jacoby Dickens and John Gearen.

2006

The John Parmer Outstanding Leadership Award is established in memory of LINK’s co-founder.

LINK moves to its new centrally located headquarters at 2221 South State Street.

2009

LINK introduces new Leadership Development programming for students.

2010

LINK celebrates its 1,700th alumnus.

2011

LINK adds a dedicated mentor relations support staff to enhance the mentor experience and ultimately improve scholar outcomes.

2012

LINK introduces a College Years Counselor position to extend guidance and support to LINK graduates throughout their challenging college experience.

2013

For the 13th consecutive year, 100% of LINK graduates are admitted to 4-year colleges and universities. The class of 2013 was awarded $7.2 million in scholarships and financial aid over four years to make their dreams of college graduation a reality. 2013 graduates included 2 Gates Millennium Scholars, 3 Posse Scholars and 1 Coca-Cola Scholar.