How Cboe Empowers is Helping the Next Generation Build the Future

May 2, 2022

Kelli Haywood, Community Impact Manager, shares how the Cboe Empowers Scholars Program will help level the playing field for under-resourced students.

Cboe Empowers was established in June 2021 with a mission to provide mentorship, scholarship and guidance to under-resourced students throughout their educational journey through access to Cboe's associates, resources, work environment and other learning and experience opportunities.

The first step in achieving that mission? A scholarship program for Black and Latinx Students from Chicago’s South and West sides. In partnership with Scholarship America, Cboe launched the Cboe Empowers Scholars Program in December 2021, offering full-ride scholarships to five qualified students.

“For most under-resourced students, the biggest barrier to higher education is access and affordability,” says Kelli Haywood, Community Impact Manager. “We wanted to remove as many of the barriers as possible to give these students an opportunity to pursue their education without worrying about how they’ll pay their tuition or graduating with high amounts of student loan debt.”

The Empowers Scholars Program collected applications through January 2022. Then the hard part began: trying to narrow down the applicant pool to five students.

“We were blown away by the number of applications we received, especially since this is the program’s first year,” Kelli says. “The applications were all of excellent quality, as well, so that makes the process even more challenging, but it’s a great problem to have.”

Ultimately, five students were chosen by Scholarship America, the third-party organization Cboe relies on to manage its program. The scholars can attend any school they want and study in field they choose. It’s rare for a company to offer a scholarship that doesn’t somehow relate to the company or its industry, Kelli says.

“With Empowers, the goal isn’t to funnel more young people into financial services or Cboe,” she explains. “We just want to level the playing field, and the best way to do that is by enabling students to study what’s interesting and exciting to them and supporting them along the way.”

The mentorship component is another key part of the Cboe Empowers Scholars program. In addition to Cboe Empowers’ overall mentorship program, which includes tutoring for students in fifth through eighth grade, scholarship recipients will be connected with a mentor to support them through their educational journey.

The mentors are Cboe associates who volunteer their time to provide guidance and serve as a sounding board to students navigating school, choosing a career path, applying to jobs and internships and everything else that comes with being a college student.

“We’ve all been in that position where you need to talk to someone who’s been there before to bounce ideas off of, weigh your options or just get some advice,” Kelli says. “The scholarship is important, because it eliminates one huge hurdle, but the mentorship program will be key to making sure these students have the support they need to reach their full potential.”

All-in-all, Kelli says, Cboe Empowers and the Empowers Scholars Program are an opportunity for Cboe to build the future it wants to see.

“We’re helping to build a future that’s equitable, diverse and inclusive. One where all young people have the chance to pursue their goals.”

Learn more about Cboe Empowers.