Lincoln Laureate advocates for underrepresented students, mental health

Courtney Washington, UIC Honors College student, dual major in p
Courtney Washington

Courtney Washington has worked in a variety of roles focused on increasing access to high-quality educational opportunities for underrepresented students in Chicago Public Schools, while also being a strong advocate for improving mental health services on campus.

“I’m really committed to community work and social change, specifically in education,” said Washington, a senior in public policy and economics.

Washington, a student in the UIC Honors College, is UIC’s 2021 Lincoln Academy Student Laureate. The competitive award is given to seniors from each college in Illinois who have followed in the path of former President Abraham Lincoln by committing themselves to leadership and positive social change. She was recognized during a virtual ceremony Nov. 10.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by both the university and state,” Washington said.

In high school, Washington made a two-hour round-trip commute to Walter Payton College Prep, a selective enrollment public high school located in a largely white neighborhood on the Near North Side, from her home in Roseland, a predominantly Black, working-class neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. It was during that time that she began planning to make her social impact in education.

“Seeing all the educational privileges that I was able to have while also recognizing the neighborhood that I come from, I use that as my motivation and passion to pursue education,” she said. 

Washington is a recipient of the President’s Award Program Honors Scholarship, UIC’s most prestigious four-year tuition and housing scholarship given to exemplary incoming first-year Honors College students. She also is a 2021-2022 Newman Civic Fellow, an opportunity that provides a variety of learning and networking opportunities, as well as pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

Washington also works with the Mental Health Coalition and meets with campus administrators to improve mental health resources for students. Off campus, Washington works with Top Box Foods, a nonprofit that helps people experiencing food insecurity.

Washington plans to attend graduate school to pursue her master’s in public policy as well as continue her community work for underrepresented students in Chicago. She thanks UIC’s diversity and inclusion efforts for her undergraduate opportunities inside and outside of the classroom.

“The professors really care about their students and will almost go into a mentor role for you and tell you about internships or programs to apply to, many of which I wouldn’t have known about if it weren’t for them,” Washington said. “UIC has provided me with a lot of opportunities to grow personally as a leader as well as in other areas I might not have been able to learn about had I have gone somewhere else.”


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