Scholarship revitalized in memory of aspiring nurse killed in shooting

Eugenia Cobbinah

As a high school senior at Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, Eugenia Cobbinah was an exceptional student. She was smart. She was vibrant. She was career oriented. She wanted to be a nurse and planned to attend the UIC College of Nursing after she graduated.

“She was incredibly diligent and would show up early nearly every morning,” recalls Rich Lufrano, who was her teacher in honors literature. “She would always come 30 minutes early, at 7:30 in the morning, to say, ‘Hey, can you go over this essay with me, or this assignment we had? I want to make sure I get a good grade on it.’ If you have teenagers, you know how hard it is to get them up early for school. Eugenia was special.”

The National Honor Society student also tutored younger students during her lunch periods and participated in a Saturday college outreach program run by UIC’s Urban Health Program. She worked part-time as a cashier at a supermarket and helped take care of her father, who died of cancer her senior year, according to a Chicago Reader article about Cobbinah.

“Eugenia was amazing,” Lufrano said. “She was just one of those kids who lifted up everyone around her. It was impossible to be in a bad mood around her. She wouldn’t stand for it. She was so earnest about her desire to succeed.”

But Cobbinah never got a chance to see her plans come to fruition. On June 2, 1996, just a few days before her high school graduation, Cobbinah was killed in a drive-by shooting, gunned down on the sidewalk as she was walking to the store on a Sunday evening, according to police reports.

“People were in shock,” Lufrano recalls. “There was a state of disbelief. [It left us asking,] ‘How could this happen, and how could this happen to her, someone so bright and with such a bright future?’”

It’s been 28 years since Cobbinah’s death. Since then, Lufrano stopped teaching at what is now called Lindblom Math and Science Academy and moved to Portland, Oregon. But when the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of health care workers, he was reminded of Cobbinah’s aspirations to be a nurse. He thought about the number of people she would have helped in her life and career had she lived.

“I started reading all these articles reminding me, and the rest of America, about how health care workers, and nurses in particular, are so important, and play such a vital role,” he said. “It just sparked something. It reminded me of what Eugenia could have been and would have been. She would have been out there on the front lines, helping people during the pandemic.”

Lufrano wanted to revitalize an endowed scholarship fund that he started to honor Eugenia in 1996.

In 2022, he re-told Cobbinah’s story on Facebook and Instagram, appealing to his personal network, and raised $7,500. In 2023, he tried again and raised a little over $10,000. His goal is to bring the fund’s principal to $100,000, which would yield a substantial annual scholarship of several thousand dollars in perpetuity in her name.

He wants the scholarship amount to make a difference in the life of a student — a student like Cobbinah.

“It’s really for a student who has a need, who doesn’t come from a household with money, who wants to devote themselves to nursing as a profession,” he said. “That’s the goal, to send someone to the UIC College of Nursing in her memory, because she never got the chance to achieve her dream.”

Inspired by this story? You can make a gift online to support the Eugenia M. Cobbinah Memorial Scholarship Fund.

— Written by Deborah Ziff Soriano

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