All 134 Graduates at Predominantly Black High School Accepted to College, Offered $50M in Scholarships 


Nationwide — Southland College Prep Charter High School in Richton Park, Illinois is celebrating for the eleventh consecutive year that all members of the senior class have been accepted to college. 

The school announced at its annual “All In” event in April that the class of 2024 at the predominantly African American school in south suburban Chicago was offered $50 million and counting in merit and need-based scholarships. According to administrators, the Class of 2024 is projected to exceed $60 million in scholarship offers. 

Southland seniors were admitted to some of the top colleges and universities in the country, including class valedictorian Knyiema Martin, 18, of Matteson who was accepted to 28 schools and has been offered more than $5 million in merit and need-based scholarships. Martin, who earned a 4.89 GPA on a 4.0 scale, was named a Gates Millennium Scholar, the third student to be awarded the prestigious scholarship in the school’s history. Martin plans to attend the University of California-Berkeley and major in psychology. 

Southland College Prep’s class of 2024 has been accepted to several top 50 national universities and liberal arts colleges in the U.S. including The University of Chicago, Northwestern, The University of California-Berkeley, The University of Southern California, Stanford, Northwestern, Columbia University, Vanderbilt, Howard University, University of Chicago, The University of Michigan, Barnard College, Wellesley College plus scores of other higher education institutions. 

The Class of 2024 had to deal with a college admission process that was more stressful than usual because of problems with the rollout of a new FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form which delayed college financial aid offers, said Robert Lane, Southland’s director of college admissions. 

Despite the FAFSA delays and challenges of navigating their high school years during a pandemic, members of the class of 2024, the school’s 11th graduating class since its founding in 2010, made remarkable achievements, according to school administrators. 

“Our students faced unprecedented challenges and they addressed every one of them and more than met them,” said Dr. Blondean Y. Davis, Southland’s CEO. 

Dr. Davis, who is also the superintendent of Matteson School District 162, said that when she founded the school in 2010 naysayers told her that “students from our area would not be able to access the Ivy League or top schools in the country.” 

Fourteen years later, not only are students being admitted to these schools, but Davis said that it is important that students are also being given the financial means to stay in school. Davis noted that the first graduating class of Southland, the Class of 2014, will be celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and that many of the alumni of that first class have gone on to graduate from college, graduate school, and start careers in law, health, education and the military. 

“This is what happens when what seemed impossible becomes a reality and a vision is realized,” Davis said. “This is what happens when a community’s dreams for their children are achieved.” 
Collectively, the 11 graduating classes of Southland have earned more than $400 million in merit and need-based scholarships, according to Lane. 

“These college admissions and the financial aid and scholarships these students have worked hard for and earned represent hope for the future of not just these students and their families, but for our communities in the south suburbs,” Lane said. 

Lane said that admissions to the top schools are important, but equally important is that every class member finds a school that is right for them. For example, Lane said, several seniors were accepted to top Historically Black Colleges and Universities including Howard, Spelman, Morehouse, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Hampton, and a record number of Southland students were admitted to one of the top universities in the country, Northwestern.  Every year since its first graduating class in 2014, Southland, whose enrollment is not selective but chosen by an annual lottery, has had a 100 percent college acceptance rate.