Palatine High School senior Erin Rhodes won $100,000 from Dr. Pepper to pursue a college degree in special education.
"I was shocked," Rhodes said, adding that tuition at Hope College in Michigan is about $35,000 a year. "It'll help a lot. I knew I needed a scholarship or I would have to go somewhere else. It's awesome."
Rhodes has chosen special education because of her relationship with her 12-year-old brother Matthew, who has Down Syndrome.
"We grew up as best friends," Rhodes said. "We've just always had a close, sibling bond right from the start. It's hard to explain. I really wish everyone could experience it."
To pursue her dream, Rhodes said she knew she needed to explore scholarship opportunities. She came across the Dr. Pepper contest and it appealed to her in part because it required video as opposed to an essay.
In her video Rhodes talked about why she wanted to study special education at Hope College and, of course, mentioned Dr. Pepper. The video is attached to this story.
"Please help me afford my dream school so I can get the education I need so that I can bring back to my brother and the disabled community what they have brought to me," Rhodes said toward the end of her submission video.
To win the $100,000 Rhodes had to participate in a football competition, tossing balls into a giant Dr. Pepper can with a hole cut into (See video attached to this story). Her dad created a practice area in the garage. Still, she said she was surprised to win the competion.
"The only sports I'm in are cross country and track," she said with a laugh.
Rhodes said she is thrilled to be able to pursue her education at Hope College. She said her brother's attitude continues to inspire her.
"He's taught me to go through life as happy as possible," Rhodes said. "And to not be judgmental of other people."