By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) — Dreams for college come true for a first generation Mexican-American winning a merit based scholarship.

Hard work paid off for Jose Barrera, a high school senior. He’ll be among more than 100 students recognized for their academic success at a gala Tuesday night. CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports on what makes him and the others so worthy.

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Kenwood senior Jose Barrera is headed Oberlin. Thanks to a merit scholarship from an organization called Posse, Oberlin’s $49,000 tuition is covered.

Without it, Barrera says, “After Kenwood, I most likely would have just found a job somewhere.”

Jose is one of 121 students from Chicago Public Schools chosen as Posse Scholars, winning $21 million to attend 12 elite schools.

“Posse Scholars are leaders, they are committed to academics and they are collaborative,” said Asaf Bar-Tura, Posse Chicago director.

That describes Jose, who has a 3.4 unweighted GPA and an impressive list of community service.

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“I’m a senior leader in Focus, I am a youth advisor in the After School Matters Council for Mikva Challenge, I am the secretary at the Ronald McDonald House Teen Advisory Board,” Barrera said.

All the winners are equally impressive but that doesn’t mean they’re all perfect.

“If you’ve have a challenge that has inhibited your academic success in ninth grade or tenth grade or something happened, that doesn’t mean college is not for you and it doesn’t mean Posse is not for you,” Bar-Tura said.

In fact, Posse rewards those who have succeeded despite the obstacles.

“Because everyone is going to have challenges and will have to overcome obstacles when they get to college and so having overcome obstacles and challenges is actually a good experience to have under your belt,” Bar-Tura said.

Posse scholars not only get four years of full tuition but they get a “posse” that includes advisors and mentors who meet with them on a regular bases.

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High schools counselors should have more information on the Posse program.

Dorothy Tucker