History

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 mentoring and scholarship program, bringing together the comprehensive resources required to shape high potential, economically disadvantaged youth into academic achievers and life-long community leaders. The nearly 50 year old 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.

Since 1966, LINK Unlimited has successfully supported more than 2,200 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 programming, our staff and the families we serve. Our number one goal at LINK Unlimited is to provide every opportunity that will afford the scholars we serve a concrete blueprint by which they can confidently and successfully 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 scholarship organization in the city of Chicago that provides individual, one-on-one mentoring for each of its scholars. 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 For the 14th consecutive year, 100% of LINK Unlimited Scholars have been admitted to 4-year colleges and universities. 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. This is also the 15th consecutive year of 100% High School Graduation and 4-year College acceptance for the LINK Scholars. LINK adopts a new mission: to connect economically disadvantaged 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!

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