UIC welcomes inaugural class of Evans Scholars
The University of Illinois Chicago has become the latest university to partner with the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholars Foundation by welcoming its inaugural class of eight Evans Scholars.
The foundation was established in 1930 by the Western Golf Association and celebrated Chicago amateur golfer Charles “Chick” Evans Jr. It provides full tuition and housing college scholarships to high-achieving caddies with limited financial means.
UIC’s addition is part of an ongoing expansion plan for the Evans Scholars program. To qualify, students must display outstanding records of caddying, academics, character and leadership, according to the foundation.
“I am excited to have the Evans Foundation select UIC to expand their scholarship program. In many ways, the Evans Foundation’s commitment to providing scholarships to golf caddies from underrepresented populations matches our own commitment to ensure that students from all walks of life have an opportunity to pursue their educational goals,” said J. Rex Tolliver, vice chancellor for student affairs at UIC.
A unique component of the Evans Scholars program is the “positive community living experience provided to students living together on campus.” Scholarship living teaches students valuable life skills in communication, leadership, mentoring and provides a strong sense of community, according to the foundation. The UIC Evans Scholars are residing together at the Academic and Residential Complex, UIC’s newest living-learning community.
“We are thrilled to announce this partnership with UIC,” said Kevin Buggy, chairman of the Western Golf Association. “UIC is a particularly attractive option for our scholars who are from Chicago. This new chapter is a critical next step as we continue to send future scholars to world-class universities.”
Meet UIC’s Evans Scholars:
David Aguilar, from Wheeling, Illinois, is in his first year studying biological sciences. He caddied for four years at Twin Orchard Country Club. Aguilar’s parents were born in Mexico, and he has one younger brother. In high school, Aguilar was an honor roll student and church youth leader, as well as a member of the jazz band, wind symphony, marching band and swim team.
“Caddying helped me grow not only as a person but also as a student,” Aguilar said. “The hard work put into balancing all the duties of a caddy has stuck with me and shown me that those who are willing to push themselves through the hardest of times find success in the end. This mentality allowed me to take a multitude of challenging courses in high school while balancing extracurriculars. On top of that, I worked a part-time job in a nursing home. Through a dual-credit program, I earned my CNA license as a junior in high school. Now, I am committed to pursuing a career as a physician assistant. A college education will allow me to gain the skills necessary to deliver optimal care to my patients. I strongly believe that my love for math and science will stick with me throughout college, but the Evans Scholarship eliminated any and all fear pursuing higher education.”
Jacob Chachaj, from Chicago, is in his first year studying finance. He caddied for three years at Ridgemoor Country Club and Park Ridge Country Club. Chachaj’s parents were both born in Poland, and he has one younger brother. In high school, Chachaj was a high honor roll student and a co-president of the student council, as well as captain of both the varsity soccer and track and field teams. He was also a member of the debate team, Spanish club, book club and student admissions team.
“I knew if I wanted to succeed in my long-term goal of becoming an Evans Scholar, I would have to be more than a caddie,” Chachaj said. “From the countless all-nighters I pulled during finals to the daily exhausting three-hour soccer practices, I fell in love with the grind. Being a caddie is much more than just waking up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. The relationships that I have forged and the friends that I have made along the way have impacted me to become the ambitious young man that I am today. If there’s one lesson that I learned, it’s that at the end of the day, it’s all about family. I will now be able to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a first-generation college graduate in my family.”
Julia Lassak, from Palos Hills, Illinois, is in her first year studying chemistry. She caddied for three years at Beverly Country Club. Lassak’s parents were both born in Poland. In high school, Lassak graduated in the top 1% of her class and was a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, science club and captain of the golf team.
“Caddying taught me to become more sociable around new people,” Lassak said. “Meeting the different members really helped me expand my comfort zone. I was able to gain skills that would help me in the future. For example, communication is a big part of the job. I have met a lot of different types of people on the course and it is important to be able to adapt to each personality. I’m glad to be going to school close to home. As the child of immigrant parents, I have been raised in a home that appreciates and honors the opportunities that only the U.S. can offer.”
Diego Origel, from Chicago Heights, Illinois, is in his first year studying aviation. He caddied for four years at Olympia Fields Country Club. Origel’s parents were born in Mexico and he has one brother. In high school, Origel was a member of the National Honor Society, president of the Rotary Club and national level champion of the Business Professionals of America.
“In a situation like mine, the Evans Scholarship is truly the golden ticket that I have been chasing for years,” Origel said. “I have worked hard and became devoted to the place and job I love to call ‘work,’ caddying at Olympia Fields Country Club. Giving my parents the relief of not worrying about my costly tuition is truly the best gift I can give them after everything they have done for me.”
Danette Pimentel, from Chicago, is in her first year studying pre-medicine. She caddied for three years at Northmoor Country Club through the Western Golf Association’s Caddie Academy. Pimentel’s parents were born in Mexico and she has two siblings. In high school, Pimentel was a member of the distinguished scholar honor roll and the mentor club and graduated in the top 10 of her class.
“The Caddie Academy has brought me so many experiences and opportunities I would never have experienced without it,” Pimentel said. “I have been able to experience things that may seem small but are huge to me, like living in a dorm-like setting. Through the program, I have made lifelong friendships that I will forever value. There are stories of thousands of people who weren’t able to reach their dreams. The amount of people that can say they tried to get their dreams done is probably extremely low. I hope I can be one of them.”
Suzette Rosales Solis, from Compton, California, is in her first year studying business. She caddied for three years at Twin Orchard Country Club through the Western Golf Association Caddie Academy. Her parents were born in Mexico and she has two sisters. In high school, Solis was an honor roll student, member of the cheer team and had the second-highest SAT score of her class.
“I am very proud of my roots, but I also wish to see more of what this world has to offer,” Solis said. “Being a part of the WGA Caddie Academy, I was given the opportunity to travel to Illinois. I wish to learn more about finance and how to start a business so I can build a company and become a CEO. I know what it’s like to have no home and have to depend on very little resources, so I want to learn how to create something from nothing. I want to continue studying and educating myself to become a successful entrepreneur. As a first-generation student, the Evans Scholarship allows me the chance of getting a degree and graduating college so that I don’t let my family’s struggles and sacrifices be in vain.”
Alejandro Cabrera Quintana, from Las Vegas, Nevada, is in his first year studying chemical engineering. He caddied for three years at Old Elm Country Club through the Caddie Academy. His family is from Cuba. In high school, Quintana was a member of the National Honor Society and tennis team.
“At first, I thought that there was no way that I could be so far away from my family for such a long time for the opportunity to go to college debt free,” Quintana said. “But then I thought about the reason why my parents brought me here, I thought about my potential, about how all the things that I have been through actually make sense. Being part of the amazing WGA Caddie Academy program is one of the best things that has happened to me. Being able to learn the amazing game of golf up close while having the opportunity to meet so many successful people is something that I will be thankful for my whole life.”
An eighth student was selected, but the student’s term will be delayed.
There are 1,070 Evans Scholars students nationwide currently attending 21 universities, including UIC. There are 11,556 Evans Scholars alumni.
Scholarship funds mostly come from the contributions of 33,500 golfers across the country. Evans Scholars alumni donate more than $15 million annually to the scholarship fund, and all proceeds from the BMW Championship — the third of four playoff events in the PGA Tour’s Fed Ex Cup competition — also benefit the foundation.