(CBS) – Eighteen-year old La’Rie Suttle says she can’t wait to start her freshman year at Illinois State University.

She is one of dozens of students once in the care of the state Department of Children and Family Services who have overcome the odds.

“What happens in your past shouldn’t determine what happens to you in the future,” says DCFS spokeswoman Karen Hawkins. She says the scholarships mark a milestone in these childrens’ lives.

“This is a day to honor how far they’ve come and how far we hope they go with education and higher learning,” she says.

The recipients for the four-year scholarships were selected from 300 applicants across the state. They were picked based on academic achievement, community involvement and on an essay.

Students get to choose from nine state or community colleges. The program is celebrating its 50th year this year.

Suttle says she wants to major in international studies. Other scholarships were awarded to students from Aurora, Naperville, Champaign and 30 other Illinois communities.

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