Feature Story

With Baxter's Support, Muchin College Prep Graduates Founding Class

One hundred percent accepted into college thanks to the school's rigorous coursework and exposure to real-world industry experiences.

On June 7, 159 Muchin College Preparatory High School seniors walked across the stage and accepted their diplomas as members of the school's first graduating class. Every student in the graduating class was accepted into college, and the class earned more than $6 million in grants and scholarships, said valedictorian Wesley Li, who graduated with a 4.78 grade point average and plans to attend Vassar College in the fall on a scholarship.

"If people tell you that you can't, show them that you can," Li told fellow classmates during the commencement ceremony. "We showed them that non-selective enrollment students can score higher than the national average."

Muchin College Prep opened in 2009 as part of the Noble Network of Charter Schoolsthe highest performing openenrollment public high school network in Chicago. Muchin serves nearly 900 students from more than 45 zip codes throughout the city at its downtown campus at Madison and State streets. The school features many educational innovations, including an extended school day and year, smaller classes, more professional development for teachers and a rigorous focus on college.

"Muchin is setting a high bar for what's possible for students all over the city of Chicago," said Kimberly Neal, Muchin's founding principal. School superintendent Michael Milkie agreed, noting that the graduates "know what it takes to succeed."

As part of its commitment to education-both in helping prepare high school students for science careers, as well as in addressing disparities in educational opportunities among underserved populations-Baxter helped launch the high school in 2009 and has remained involved with students and teachers since then through career development activities and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. Through its Science@Work program, the company provided the school with funding to outfit all of its science labs, and to support students, many of whom are the first in their household to go to college, as they pursue higher education.

Last year, more than 20 employees at Baxter's Round Lake, Ill. facility provided Muchin students with tours of the company's microscopy and biology labs. The company has also sponsored several career days, providing opportunities for Muchin students to get face-to-face with corporate culture and careers. More than 20 executives of various professional backgrounds from across the company led interactive sessions with groups of students, providing information on the myriad careers in the industry as well as advice from their own experiences on the academic and personal milestones students need to achieve to work in healthcare. Additionally, 10 Muchin rising seniors are part of a 24-student cohort who participated in Baxter's high school internship program this summer, where they learned about many of the company's businesses and functions.

Over the past year, Marc Minkus, senior director of research and development at Baxter, and several other Baxter employees have been working to help Muchin students apply what they learn in science class to a potential career in science or engineering. He's shared his own personal career journey with students and worked with them to link what they're studying in sciencebe it genetics in biology or gas laws in chemistryto the products developed at Baxter.

"On multiple occasions the question that puts the biggest smile on my face is, 'What do I need to do if I want to work Baxter someday?'" Minkus said.

Several seniors noted that, while the school's underclassmen have big shoes to fill with the founding class heading off to college, the expectations of greatness don't stop when they leave Muchin behind.

"It's such an honor to have the opportunity to leave a legacy behind for other classes to follow, and to see the progression that comes with the building of a school," said graduating senior Brianna Gray. "But the skills we learned at Muchin such as hard work and diligence also extend outside the classroom and are needed to excel in everyday work."

Most importantly, Milkie and Neal told the graduating class, is that the students use what they learned at Muchin to make good choices. It's a lesson that Li hopes all his classmates will take to heart.

"I want to see all you guys in 10 years so we can all proudly say we made the impossible possible," he said.