She spent the day touring the campus, sitting in on classes and talking to students. Now, the college is offering the 17-year-old Whitney Young High School senior a $24,000 yearly scholarship.

She made the trip with help from the nonprofit Chicago Scholars, which provides a seven-year program to help Chicago area youth attend college.

 The program, which starts when teens are juniors in high school, helps low-income or first-generation college students apply to college, remain in college and find a job.

Aside from adult mentors, students are peered with other students to provide a supportive network.

Since Chicago Scholars started in 1996, more than 1,200 students have completed the program.

Chicago Scholars students are currently in more than 200 different colleges across the country.

 Most of the students attend Chicago Public Schools.

“Our mission is so much more than a philanthropic, feel-good mission. It’s an economic strategy for our city, because we not only want our students to get through college, we want them to come back to Chicago to begin their leadership journey,” said Dominique Turner, CEO of Chicago Scholars.

The program sent Blake-Marlow to Galesburg for her visit to Knox College.

Aside from the college, the teen has scholarship offers from several other schools. Blake-Marlow, who has 4.1 grade point average and has participated in activities ranging from being the youth director of her church choir to helping build houses with a non-profit group, is still deciding which school she will attend.

Blake-Marlow said her mentors assisted her with college essays, applications and scholarship searches.

“You can tell when someone is really rooting for you and wanting you to succeed, and I can see that in all three of my mentors,” said Blake-Marlow, who wants to become a psychiatrist. “They really care about us.”

Those interested in learning how they can get involved with Chicago Scholars can visit