We are the solution for closing the opportunity gap for Black youth in Chicago.
LINK Unlimited Scholars changes the life trajectory of our Scholars.
Our fellowship model links high-potential Black students with the resources and support for success as they advance to, through, and beyond college.
In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Chicago, where he inspired John and Carolyn Parmer to fulfill his dream in the city they called home. LINK Unlimited Scholars was born when they made a decision to mentor and support a single Black student through four years of high school—and they asked their friends to do the same.
Since those humble beginnings, LINK Unlimited has successfully supported more than 2,500 Scholars through the financial support of its partners. LINK Unlimited provides high-potential Black students with the resources and support they need to change the trajectory of their future.
LINK Unlimited's History
- While at Holy Angels parish on Chicago’s South Side, John & Carolyn Parmer offer to pay the tuition for Richard Smith, a student attending De La Salle High School.
- The program grows to more than 20 students.
- The first college visit occurs at Lewis University.
- The First Annual Awards Banquet is held at the Como Inn.
- Scholar Randy McVane wins a contest to name the program Link Unlimited.
- Link becomes a legal not-for-profit entity.
- The First Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award is given to John and Carolyn Parmer for their support and Commitment to racial and social harmony
- The new headquarters for LINK opens at 7759 South Eberhart.
- LINK hosts its first annual Founders Day Golf Outing.
- 100% of the LINK graduating seniors matriculate into college.
- LINK celebrates its 1000th alumnus.
- LINK raises $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.
- The first annual DreamKeepers Awards Gala is held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, honoring Jacoby Dickens and John Gearen.
- 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 S State Street.
- The class of 2013 is awarded $7.2 million in scholarships and financial aid to make their dreams of college graduation a reality.
- 15th consecutive year of 100% high school graduation and 4-year college acceptance for the LINK Scholars.
- LINK Unlimited Scholars celebrates its 50th anniversary!
- LINK is awarded the National Award of Excellence from the National Partnership of Educational Access.
- Designated a “Gold Star Mentoring Program” by MENTOR Illinois
- Named Runner Up for the MENTOR Illinois “2017 Impact Award” in the Youth Mentoring Match category.
- LINK names new CEO who’s also a former LINK Scholar
- LINK names mentor Steve Hackney as Chairman of the Board
- LINK celebrates its first Posse and Jordan Wings Scholarship recipients
- LINK celebrates two Scholars entering Harvard University
- Programming pivots to virtual format due to the pandemic
See our 2019–2020 Impact Report
For more than 50 years, LINK Unlimited Scholars has been a Chicago-based institution working to change the trajectory of high-potential Black youth by providing unique programming in the classroom and beyond. Our Scholars complete a four-year fellowship that includes academic enrichment, leadership development, career exposure, and college access to move them to, through, and beyond college. LINK offers the necessary backing to help close the opportunity gap and further ensure economic stability for our Scholars.
Four-year fellowship; scholarship; programming, mentoring
LINK is 100% privately funded with financial support from individual donors, foundations, and corporations, as well as from mentors. We ask our mentors to make an annual financial investment ranging from $3,000–$10,000/year for four consecutive years. (For example, a $3,000 annual investment would be a monthly contribution of $250. But some of our mentors meet their commitment with a combination of personal funds and corporate contributions.
LINK tuition scholarships are meant to supplement the financial aid awarded by partnering private schools to reduce the amount of expected family contribution. Families are responsible for the cost of tuition and school-related fees outside of the financial support that LINK and/or outside scholarships may provide. If awarded a LINK fellowship, families must verify eligibility each year of the Scholar’s participation in LINK. The number of scholarships available to each incoming class may vary.
Any Black 8th grade student with high potential and demonstrated financial need is eligible to apply to LINK Unlimited Scholars. Competitive candidates are confident communicators who are highly motivated, focused, involved in school and community, desire mentorship, and college-bound. We seek candidates with strong academic records and good moral character.
Students who are already in high school are not eligible to apply to the LINK Unlimited Scholars program.
While we will evaluate students’ end of 7th grade report card and standardized test scores (NWEA/MAP), we know that academic potential can be measured in many other ways. For this reason, we look closely at the recommendation letters from each applicant’s 7th grade English/language arts and mathematics teachers. Those recommendations will give us a sense of the applicant’s study habits, work ethic, academic discipline, motivation, and drive.
Yes, we encourage students with IEP and/or 504 Plans to apply to LINK.
Each family’s ability to contribute toward the educational cost of the student will be evaluated by LINK staff. If selected for an interview, applicants must provide verification of income and assets. Generally, scholarships have been awarded to students from families with 80% or less of Chicago Area Median Income (AMI). See the guidelines below.
Yes, each application must include financial information, regardless of the type of high school your student plans to attend. Even though not all LINK Scholars receive a financial scholarship, LINK seeks to service a specific subset of students: high-potential Black students with demonstrated financial need.
The LINK scholarship only applies to our Partnering High Schools.
LINK tuition scholarships are meant to supplement the financial aid awarded by partnering private schools to reduce the amount of expected family contribution. Families are responsible for the cost of tuition and school-related fees outside of the financial support that LINK and/or outside scholarships may provide. If awarded a LINK scholarship, families must verify eligibility each year of the Scholar’s participation in LINK. The number of scholarships available to each incoming class may vary.
In addition to our parents, LINK mentors are an integral part of the success we have here at LINK. It is expected that each family applying is interested and committed to ALL aspects of our programming including having a mentor for your child. The mentor relationship is viewed equally with our Scholars’ academics performance and full participation in our programs. Parents play a crucial role in the growth of the mentor/Scholar bond.
Visit each school’s website or call them directly to learn more about the school’s application process. LINK cannot guarantee a student’s acceptance into one of our partner schools, nor can we help students get into a school after their deadline.
The application deadline for the Class of 2025 is November 23, 2020, at 11:59 PM. Late or incomplete applications will not be accepted.
To learn more about LINK and to meet current LINK Scholars, parents, and staff, please join us at one of three information sessions. Potential Scholar Info Sessions for the Class of 2025 will be held on:
Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 6 PM
Monday, October 26, 2020 at 6 PM
All Information Sessions will be virtual this year because of COVID-19. You can RSVP here.
No, you do not have to attend an info session to be eligible to apply; however, it is strongly encouraged.
Applicants are not able to submit additional recommendation letters.
Beyond the requirements listed under “Program Expectations” on the Become A Scholar page:
- Scholars and families are required to check email frequently and reply in a timely manner (48 business hours) to all communication, unless a different deadline is specified.
- Scholars and families are required to attend all mandatory programming, including but not limited to: annual orientation meetings, college counseling sessions, Saturday Academy, and Summer Learning.
- Scholars are expected to maintain regular communication with their mentors.