LINK Unlimited Scholars was founded in 1966 in response to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hopeful message that “children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This hopeful message led John and Carolyn Parmer to mentor an African American child through four years of high school and enlist their friends to do the same.
Since 1966, LINK Unlimited Scholars has been Chicago’s highest performing and most experienced African American high school college prep and career readiness organization which provides mentoring and scholarships. Over 50 years ago, we set out to foster relationships between individuals hailing from different racial and class backgrounds–personally connecting them to better foster meaningful, socioeconomic change. The organization’s approach provides a rigorous support system built to develop and hone the academic and interpersonal skills necessary for admission to top tier colleges and universities, and ultimately, college graduation and a lifetime of success.
LINK Unlimited has successfully supported more than 2,500 scholars. Our strategic goal is to support endeavors that show great promise for developing personal leadership, achievement and ultimately, success – both in and out of the classroom. This philosophy is reflected in our staff, the families we serve, and in our programming, where we have challenged our scholars academically and personally–pushing them beyond their predetermined limits to reach higher levels of excellence. Our number one goal at LINK Unlimited is to continue to innovate our programming by extending our focus beyond the classroom, to incorporate connections that ultimately will help close social gaps and change the trajectory of their lives.
If education is the core of LINK Unlimited Scholars, then the scholar/mentor relationship is at the heart of what we do. We are the only college prep and career readiness organization in the city of Chicago that provides individual, one-on-one mentoring for each of its scholars for 4 years. This unique aspect of our program provides the bridge that connects students’ dreams for the future to the reality of achieving that future. The exposure, understanding, and guidance that the scholar/mentor relationship creates is vital to the success of each LINK scholar.
|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||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.|
|2014||The average GPA for the senior class was 3.5 and the average ACT score was 24 (7 points higher than the national average of 17 for African Americans and 3 points higher than the national average for ALL test takers).|
|2015||Dr. Roslind Blasingame-Buford is selected (following a nationwide search by Koya Partners) to serve as the 1st Female President & CEO of LINK Unlimited Scholars. LINK adopts a new mission: to connect high achieving African American high school students with mentors, resources, and foundational skills required for success as they advance into, through, and beyond college.|
|2016||LINK Unlimited Scholars celebrates its 50th Anniversary!
LINK was awarded the National Award of Excellence from the National Partnership of Educational Access. LINK also received the “Gold Star Mentoring Program” designation from MENTOR Illinois for meeting or exceeding best practices across six program areas as established by The National Mentoring Partnership, the nation’s foremost authorities on mentoring. Jonathan T. Swain became the 1st LINK Alumnus elected to Board Chairman.
|2017||LINK was named Runner Up for the MENTOR Illinois “2017 Impact Award” in the Youth Mentoring Match category. Launched the initial two of five phases of the LINK’s Pipelines to Professions Program. Strengthened LINK’s Summer Learning Program and implemented the Schmitt Scholars Leadership Academy. LINK debuts pilot program to open the application process to Chicago Public Schools.||2018||Jonathan T. Swain is selected to serve as the 1st LINK Alumnus President & CEO of LINK Unlimited Scholars. LINK is awarded the “2018 Impact Award” for our 1 to 1 Youth Mentoring Program from MENTOR Illinois. This is the 18th consecutive year, 100% of LINK Unlimited Scholars have been admitted to 4-year colleges and universities.|