CHICAGO (CBS) — Jayla Wheeler is a 2020 high school graduate from Chicago’s South Side who is starting at a top college in the fall.
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported Sunday night, Wheeler has never even visited the campus. But the honor student has an offer she cannot refuse.
For Wheeler, the daily round trip was long – two hours on buses and trains to Westinghouse College Prep on the West Side, and then back home to Bronzeville on the South Side.
Commuting and studying has been Wheeler’s way of life.
“Getting A’s, getting B’s – just for the teachers to say, ‘You did well,’” Wheeler said. “It makes me feel good about myself.”
And now, Jayla is about to make another, much longer journey – more than 700 miles to Davidson College in North Carolina.
She’s earned a full ride – tuition and room and board – all paid for by a Charles Scholarship, which is awarded to two or three Chicago Public Schools students each year.
“I was very excited,” Wheeler said. “I was excited because I knew my college experience would be stress-free.”
And here’s the thing – Wheeler has never even seen the Davidson campus in person. A visit has been out of the question because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was disappointed because I couldn’t see the campus – just actually physically be there – but I got over it,” Wheeler said. “I did the virtual tour to get a better understanding of the campus and now I’m excited to go there.”
Since her freshman year at Westinghouse, Wheeler has been part of the Schuler Scholar Program, which for nearly 20 years, has guided more than 1,400 students — most of them minorities, many from low income communities, toward highly selective colleges.
Ali Morguson, Schuler Scholar regional director, said Wheeler is most deserving of the full college scholarship.
“It was her curiosity. It was her spirit. It certainly was in part her academic accomplishments and her glowing teacher recommendations,” Morguson said.
It has been a disappointing few months for Jayla and many other students. They miss their friends. They’ve had to learn online. They couldn’t have a traditional graduation ceremony.
But Wheeler sees brighter days ahead in North Carolina.
“It’ll be exciting because it’s going to be a new life, a new experience,” she said.
Wheeler plans to major in physics at Davidson and hopes to become a doctor. On the same day she learned she won the Charles scholarship, her sister Jasmine found out she was accepted into the Nashville Ballet.