Kels Cavin, a recent Wright College graduate, is stacking up an impressive list of accomplishments that continues to grow. Kels earned an associate in engineering science, snagged a competitive internship, received a life-changing scholarship, and plans to transfer to a four-year university. It all started when they enrolled at Wright.

Originally an art student in Los Angeles, Kels wanted a change in their life but was unsure of how to achieve it. With significant debt from art school, they felt behind in life. After moving to Chicago near Wright College’s campus, Kels considered taking a few classes there. During enrollment, an advisor introduced them to the Engineering and Computer Science program, which ultimately changed Kels’ entire trajectory.

First, Kels enrolled in the summer Bridge program—a math and science program that prepared them to excel in their courses at Wright and offered a stipend. While math wasn’t Kels’ best subject, succeeding in this program helped them discover a new passion for mathematics. It also provided a positive introduction to the Engineering and Computer Science program.

During the program, Kels received personalized support from Dr. Doris Espiritu, dean of the Center of Excellence for Engineering and Computer Science, as well as from instructors and advisors who offered guidance based on each student’s future transfer school and career field. Transferring wasn’t initially in Kels’ plans, but their advisors helped them make that decision. With all the support they received, Kels graduated with a 4.0 GPA, despite working and being a full-time student. They also graduated with an award for academic achievement in higher level mathematics.

“People really want you to succeed and finish your degree,” Kels said. “It’s so much harder to fail when there are people emotionally invested in your success.”

In addition to Kels’ individualized support, Wright also helped them secure an internship at CME Group. They began as a software engineer fellow before completing their first internship in fall 2023. Kels has returned this summer as a software engineering intern in addition to being lead intern and peer mentor at CME. They are grateful for the work ethic and problem-solving skills Wright taught them. It prepared Kels for their internship and future career by teaching them to tackle problems that seem impossible.

Kels’ load will be lightened a little during their last two years of undergrad thanks to the PepsiCo Foundation’s S.M.I.L.E. Scholarship Program. The award provided Kels with $25,000 for their junior year at Illinois Tech that can be renewed for their senior year. All Kels’ scholarships and grants will cover their tuition, supplies, and living expenses until they finish their undergraduate education.

Kels is grateful to be transferring and grateful to be recognized for their hard work. In the fall, they will begin working on their Bachelor of Science in computer science. They ultimately would love to be a software engineer but are also interested in ethics and public policy in technology.

"Going through this program and meeting Dr. Espiritu and having this experience, I realized I am capable of doing things I never thought I could do."

Kels Cavin