Claire Hopkins, a senior at Hinsdale Central High School, had quite a hall pass to get her back to class Monday morning. It was a giant check for $10,000.
Hopkins was told she needed to go to the principal’s office because there was a problem with her college applications. When she arrived, she saw the principal, her guidance counselor, one of her teachers and her smiling mother, a signal that something good was about to happen.
A representative from Nordstrom’s was there to present Hopkins with a four-year scholarship of $2,500 a year, for a total of $10,000.
Most college scholarships are announced in May of the students’ senior year. But Nordstrom’s rules require the scholarships be awarded before Oct. 31, so interim principal Frank Kesman and members of the faculty decided to surprise Hopkins at school.
Hopkins applied for the scholarship last school year. She had seen an advertisement as she and her mother were walking into Nordstrom Rack in Oak Brook.
“We went home that night and looked it up,” Hopkins said. “It was really close to the deadline, and we thought, ‘Why not?’”
Nordstrom selected 80 students to receive the scholarships from 11,700 who applied nationwide. The selections were based on grade point average, an essay the applicants had to write about themselves and an interview.
Hopkins wears clothes she buys at Goodwill and alters them. In the essay, she wrote that she tries to create outfits that look like they came from Nordstrom’s.
A committee in Seattle interviewed the finalists by Skype, asking how they will use the scholarship to make a positive impact in their community or in the world.
Hopkins happened to be in Japan attending the Toshiba environmental youth conference with her science teacher Lisa Fernandez and three other Central students, when the interview was to take place.
Because of the time difference, Fernandez and Hopkins got up at 2:30 a.m. to be ready for the 3 a.m. interview.
“We were in the lobby of the dorm room, because that’s where the best Internet connection was,” Fernandez said. “It was a weird process.”
Hopkins, who volunteers for programs such as Read to Lead and has worked with children in poor neighborhoods, talked to the committee about how important primary education is for a child’s future.
Hopkins’s first choice for college is University of Pennsylvania because it offers a degree that combines engineering and business. She was planning to send her application Monday after school.
“I’ll have to add this,” she said, referring to the scholarship.
But first, she had to finish the day at school.
Use the check as a hall pass, Kesman said.