Fishing Well’s early success prompts additional financial commitment from Rotary Club

Fishing Well Scholarship Recipients

Four current Schaumburg/Hoffman Estates Rotary Fishing Well Scholarship recipients (left to right): Sarah Yeo, Karen Schimpf, Oscar Alvarado and Carlos Segura

The Rotary Club of Schaumburg/Hoffman Estates has been so impressed by the early success of its innovative Fishing Well Scholarship through Harper College, the club couldn’t pass up an opportunity to increase its support even more.

“By providing access to higher education for those that may not have it, (scholarship recipients) improve their lives, their family and the entire community by having better employment opportunities and more earning power,” said Eileen Higginbotham, the Rotary Club’s Director of Community Service. “As the program started to roll out, we saw the potential and the results. We thought, ‘Well, let’s see what we can do to extend this.’”

The scholarship launched in 2016 with a $100,000 grant over four years from a longtime Rotary Club member. Seeing the positive effects the scholarship could bring, the club quickly matched the donation for a total of $200,000. Just recently, the club voted to donate an additional $35,000 a year through 2026, Higginbotham said.

The Fishing Well Scholarship program allows Harper College students who are 24 years or older and have overcome challenges to receive financial assistance to get their degree. They also are paired up with a mentor from the Rotary Club – a key aspect of the scholarship. The concept of the scholarship is that rather than give people a fish, it’s better to teach them to fish.

“The scholarship is about getting adults educated so that they can learn more and earn more,” said Lauren Chilvers, the Scholarship and Special Projects Coordinator at Harper.

One student who’s thrilled with the program and the additional financial commitment is Carlos Segura, who is studying for his associate degree in Computer Science while maintaining a job. The 41-year-old Streamwood resident helps his son go to college, too.

“My son is going currently to DePaul, so I’m paying for his tuition,” he said. “For me, going to school wouldn’t be possible without the Fishing Well Scholarship. The reason I started school was to give my son a boost.”

Segura credits Harper, the Rotary Club and his mentor, Royal Hartwig, for encouraging him along his journey. The duo bonded quickly over coffee and additionally at Rotary Club meetings. With their support, Segura is on the honor roll and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Like Segura, all Fishing Well Scholarship recipients match with a Rotary Club of Schaumburg/Hoffman Estates mentor who offer advice, act as cheerleaders and let their mentees know they’re there to help. The program is so popular, there’s currently a waiting list of prospective mentors, Higginbotham said.

Scholarship recipients also wanted to give back in their own way, so Harper created a Rotaract Club to work alongside the Rotary Club on community projects, fundraisers and other service opportunities. The Rotaract Club is open to all Harper College students and focuses on giving young adults volunteer opportunities.

“It’s truly a life changer because sometimes it seems like an impossible task to go to college, but with (the Rotary Club’s) help it was a 180-degree change because you have the money weight off your shoulders,” Segura said. “At least for me, that gave me a lot of opportunity to study, get better grades and therefore the ability to help at the club.”