Harper College Educational Foundation

We asked, you responded. Together we helped.

The Harper College Student Emergency Relief was created to help our Harper students in need. Since the end of March, over 650 students have received support from this fund to help with housing, food and household necessities, utilities, medical expenses, and technology needs. Your donations to the Harper College Educational Foundation — over $100,000 and counting — combined with funds from the Foundation and College, means that over $300,000 has been made available to our students at their greatest time of need.

Here are two of their stories.

Donated Emergency Funds Help Fill Short-Term Financial Gap for College Students

The ripple effect of COVID-19 impacted not only the way college students learned as they made the rapid transition to online classes, but it tossed them into unanticipated financial instability.  Without the immediate support provided by Harper Student Emergency Relief Fund, some students feared losing the roof over their heads.

Student Financial Security is an Issue
Last fall, Harper College commissioned a nationally benchmarked study of students' financial wellness.

The findings revealed that more than half of the Harper respondents (55%) said they would have trouble getting $500 in cash or credit in order to meet an unexpected need in the next month, and this was before the pandemic. Additionally, the data showed that Harper respondents were more likely to be supporting their   parents or guardians financially while in school than the national average.

Silvia AstudilloSilvia Astudillo, a 19-year-old student in her second year at Harper College, lives in Palatine with her mother, older
sister, and younger brother.  When the stay-at-home orders were issued, her mother lost her job. Her sister, who had been working two jobs, was cut down to one, and Silvia,
who was working 30 hours per week while going to school full-time, found herself without a paycheck.

"With almost no income coming in, life was getting scary.  My sister and I were panicking.  We were trying to find ways to make money," said Sylvia.  "I looked into Uber Eats and DoorDash, but they weren't hiring."

She mentioned her fears to her advisor, Amelia Ortiz Young, who referred her to Harper's Emergency Fund for students.  The Harper College Educational Foundation has raised
more than $250,000 for the Emergency Fund that has distributed to more than 550 students, giving them a much needed lifeline.

Silvia, for one, is grateful for the $500 she received from the fund.  "It was a big help.  It
reduced the stress in the household and gave us hope that there are still kind people out there, and it will get better."

Raul Vences TorresSilvia is not the only student to carry the responsibility of supporting her family.  Raul Vences Torres, a 22-year-old full-time student from Hanover Park who was working full-time until the pandemic, also bore the weight of helping to support his family.  Both of his parents were furloughed due to the pandemic and Raul's hours were cut in half.

Aware that Raul might be worrying about his family, Gerardo Cruz, his Spanish instructor, reached out to Raul to let him know that if he needed help, emergency funds were available.

"Getting the money was a huge help," said Raul.  "It was a relief for me to be able to contribute to the family." Raul is not only helping his family with expenses, but he is also fully funding his own education with money he has been working to save since graduating from Bartlett High School four years ago,  His goal is to earn enough money to pay for college - starting with community college and transferring to a four-year university to earn a bachelor's degree in marketing - and graduate debt-free.

In both cases, the emergency funding provided the help the students needed to make it through the rough patch.  Each of these students has returned to some level of employment.  Silvia has returned to work at an autism therapy service, where she is working nearly 40 hours each week.   Raul's restaurant job is picking up as they prepare to increase services, his father is working in landscaping and his mother has started back at the warehouse where she worked. Raul has even helped his sister get a job.

"I'm so grateful fo the money I received," said Sylvia, whose goal is to transfer to a four-year school in January 2021 to pursue her bachelor's degree in psychology. "We are doing better now."

The need continues. Please donate to the Harper Student Emergency Relief Fund. Help even more students today.

Harper College Educational Foundation

Harper College offered its first classes over 50 years ago to fulfill a promise — a promise to increase access to quality, affordable education that improves lives and helps build a vibrant community for residents and businesses of Chicago’s northwest suburbs.

The generosity of participation of the College’s alumni, donors and partners have helped Harper keep this promise in increasingly innovative and enriching ways.

Your gifts make a difference

With your donations, the Harper College Education Foundation has made a significant impact in the lives of students in the past year:

graduate graduation cap and gown

in scholarships, grants and awards were distributed

scholarships funds and programs made awards

students received a scholarship, grant or award


The Harper College Educational Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization designated to provide funding and resources for the College not available through normal government and tax sources. The Foundation actively seeks contributions from a variety of public and private resources including individuals, corporations and other foundations. It acts as a trustee for donations to assure that gifts are distributed in the manner specified by the donor.

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