For over 45 years LINK Unlimited has successfully transitioned over 1,760 economically disadvantaged African American youth to college by providing one-on-one academic support through the high school years and beyond. LINK Alumni 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.
LINK Unlimited Alumni Profiles
Rick is Vice President, Supply Chain, The Coca-Cola Company. Mr. Frazier has leadership accountability for The Coca-Cola Company’s global Procurement, Commercial Products Supply, Supply Chain Development, Quality and Environment & Water functions.
From November 2005 through October 2008, Mr. Frazier served as Senior Vice President of Technical Stewardship. Under his leadership, the Company’s Global Quality, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, and Environment & Water Resources functions drove sustainable growth by reducing quality, environmental and regulatory risk, adding to the Company’s bottom line through global productivity efforts, and building upon the Company’s reputational equity.
Prior to joining Company as Vice President of Global Quality and Chief Quality Officer in 2004, Mr. Frazier held a number of supply chain and quality leadership positions for Coca-Cola Enterprises, the Gatorade Division of The Quaker Oats Company and with The Pillsbury Company. He started his career at the Continental Grain Company managing grain facilities and trading commodities.
Mr. Frazier earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Illinois in Urbana.
Mr. Frazier is LINK Unlimited’s 2012 DreamKeepers Awards Gala Honoree
Alva Winfrey describes herself as the “clutch” mentor. Her first LINK mentoring paring was with a young woman whose mentor was no longer in the program and that first relationship was a bit rocky. She was asked to mentor her current student, Ayanna, after her mentor dropped out of the program. Virgil called her up, told her the situation and asked her to step in, and she did not hesitate. Ayanna was in the second semester of her freshman year at Mother McCauley and this transition went much more smoothly. Alva does a lot of volunteer work and Ayanna is very in synch with that. She says, “I pick her up in my Toyota and she never knows where we may be off to but she is always ready”. She says Ayanna keeps a BOA tee shirt with her at all times so she’s ready for whatever volunteer project may pop up. Alva says Ayanna is a wonderful student, proactive and organized who reminds her about projects they have scheduled. She says she sees Ayanna blossoming and calls her well rounded and out going.
Ayanna has a twin sister Ayleah who is also a LINK scholar, and sometimes she’ll join them for volunteer projects. They’ve done everything from plant trees, to paint schools and walk for charities like the March of Dimes. She says when they first started working together she mentioned in passing that she was doing a walk and invited Ayanna to attend. She forgot about it, but Ayanna called to remind her. She says Ayanna never drops the ball and while she never knows where we might be headed she never hesitates to get involved. Ayanna and her sister are very active in cheerleading and band and Alva gets invited to their events as well. She has attended her cheerleading competition although she had to miss her band concert.
She says Ayanna actually wrote her a “thank you” note to let her know she really liked her. It is very much a family affair with Ayanna’s parents. Although they are divorced, her mom and dad, as well as her step dad, are very active in Ayanna’s and her sister’s life. She has not had any challenges in working with her and says this experience is day and night from her first mentoring experience.
Alva was a LINK student who attended Queen of Peace High School –a direct rival to Mother McCauley – and Illinois Wesleyan for college. Her parents were of modest means and her dad, a bus driver, died at an early age. Alva says she truly was the child that the village raised. She had to “try out” for LINK but says they took a chance on her because they saw something in her. She says that LINK helps you grow and reach your true potential. She says LINK exposed her to things she otherwise would not have seen and that it truly makes a difference in your life. “LINK is the place where youth can see the world from another perspective.
Alva was at LaSalle Bank (’03 –‘08) before the BOA purchase and has worked with both organizations to provide funding for LINK. Her sponsors were Robert and Sheila Burner from Winnetka who would sometimes mentor two kids at a time. She knows they mentored at least 6-8 kids during her time in LINK. “We would all visit their home,” she remembers.
Alva plans to mentor other LINK scholars once Ayanna is off to college. She’s not narrowed down her area of interest or college yet but Ayanna knows she wants to go away to school. “I expect her to hone in on that this year and I’ll be asking her that question”.
Alva concludes, “LINK pushes you out of your comfort zone and focuses on the student as a whole – academics, spirituality and networking”
Robert Griggs was born on the southeast side of Chicago, a rough part of town with gangs in the neighborhood. His mother is a retired factory worker and his father a truck driver. He attended a small parochial school where he was the valedictorian of his class of 18. He was hardworking and bright, and his teachers wanted him to have the most possible opportunities. Robert wanted to attend St. Ignatius but as the third child, funds for tuition were scarce. By attending summer school and working hard, he was admitted to St. Ignatius. After hearing about LINK Unlimited, Robert and his mother decided that it was their mission to get into LINK to allow him to go to St. Ignatius.
He was accepted into LINK and met the staff. The person working with Robert told him that she had identified the “perfect sponsor” for Robert – someone who had graduated from St. Ignatius. He and his mother went to the scholar/sponsor meeting and anxiously waited for his sponsor to arrive. All of the other sponsors came, met their scholars and families, but Robert’s never showed up. The staff continued to tell Robert that the sponsor was perfect but Robert was skeptical – if the guy couldn’t show up for the first meeting, how good could he be?
The sponsor invited Robert and his mother to join him and his wife for dinner. As they walked in, Robert immediately knew that he wanted to be just like his sponsor when he grew up. Kenard Gibbs was only 15 years older than Robert but obviously successful, smooth, elegant, and in Robert’s words, “very cool with a beautiful wife”. Kenard and Robert became very close, attending movies, ballgames, dinners and just talking.
Kenard helped Robert transition to the person he was meant to be. Robert says that Kenard was the “big brother I never had”.
Like Kenard, Robert attended Williams College. Robert never imagined going to such a small school so far from home, but after hearing Kenard talk about it, Robert went on the LINK trip to Williams (“I think Kenard had something to do with me being picked to go”) and fell in love with the school. Not only did they both graduate from Williams, but also both later went to Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.
Robert says Kenard and LINK Unlimited helped him decide, “who I wanted to be”. LINK showed him that anything was possible and that it could happen – he could have a life like Kenard’s – a life he never thought possible.
Now married and successful himself, Robert is working to pay back all that he’s received by being a LINK mentor. His first scholar is now a high school junior.
Robert says that LINK wants every scholar to succeed and be a leader. He believes that the LINK alumni community exists to be in service to others, to strive for more and to always seek to be great.