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A Higher Calling

Growing up on the South Side of Chicago can be tough. Poverty and violence keep some kids from going to college.

Since 1966, however, kids in this Chicago neighborhood have had Silas Purnell to help them. Purnell has helped about 50,000 students go to college.

A Helping Hand

Thirty-five years ago, Purnell left his job at Coca-Cola to join Ada S. McKinley Community Services. That organization helps people in Chicago who are in need or who want to improve their lives.

Purnell wanted to help kids who wished to go to college, but could not afford it. Purnell gave them advice, drove them to different colleges, and convinced some of those schools to help pay for tuition.

Diedrus Brown-Underwood remembers how Purnell helped her get into college. “He would call colleges and say, ‘I've got a student here in my office. I think she can make it.’ He wouldn't let anything stop him,” Brown-Underwood said. Purnell recently retired from his job, but the organization continues to help people.