Thank You from Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund Recipients

During the COVID-19 pandemic, generous donors raised more than $250,000 for the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund. That money has been distributed among hundreds of students, helping them with many financial issues. Here are some of their stories:

Bradley Brown – Bridging the gap

I am from West Bloomfield, Michigan. Both of my parents graduated from SIU, and this encouraged me to follow in their footsteps. I am finishing with a degree in hospitality, tourism & event management, and a minor in marketing. During my time at SIU, I was an active member in my fraternity and HTEM event planning club.

This support helped me tremendously during this time, as I haven’t been able to work either of my jobs anymore. I am saving up for my move to Atlanta in August where I will be working as a food & beverage manager in training with Marriott International. This gracious support is helping me further reach my goals for post-graduation. I can’t say thank you enough!

Brooke Buerck – Finishing strong

I would like to extend a gracious thank-you to the donors who supported me during this pandemic with funds from the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund during this pandemic. My family and I are very grateful for the funding that helped me cover my rent and water bill. That lifted a weight off of my shoulders during a very busy work week and last few weeks of school. Because of that, I was able to finish my semester strong and free from financial stress on myself or my family.

I am from Perryville, Missouri, and I came to SIU because I fell in love with the campus, and I knew that I wanted to attend law school after finishing my undergraduate degree. My major is English, and I am pursuing a minor in Spanish, and I am a part of the Pre-Law Scholars program through the SIU Honors Program. I am also the president of Women’s Club Volleyball, I coached a 15u team with the SMASH Volleyball Academy (which practices in Davies Gymnasium), and I also am a sports reporter at the Daily Egyptian. My time so far at SIU (I’ve been here for two years and have one more to go!) has provided me with more opportunities than I could have ever imagined, and I know that I will graduate with even more doors in front of me, ready to be opened, because of the connections I have made here. I have learned from my parents (and from their parents as well) that hard work is an important part of success. My father was the first of his family to earn a college degree (from SEMO) and my mother has worked as a dialysis technician for 15 years now and has only worked harder since the start of the pandemic. Both of them have helped me tremendously throughout college and have demonstrated to me how to work and support myself as well.

As someone who takes pride in the things I do, sometimes it can be hard to extend a hand and ask for help, but during this pandemic I have seen a tremendous amount of support offered by the university, and I’m extremely grateful for the SIU community and all it has done for me. So, again, I want to thank the donors and the SIU Foundation for making this support possible and all that it has done for other students as well during this trying time!

Tayler Goldtrap – Weight lifted

I am a senior majoring in forestry. I am the first person in my family to be graduating from college and earning a degree, which has been very exciting and an honor. I am from a small town near Kankakee, Illinois, called Chebanse. I grew up with a single parent, my mother, who is a cosmetologist and makes very little money. Her hard work and determination helped me make the decision to continue on in my education at SIU, and forestry has always been a passion of mine. I was involved in wildlife clubs on campus and participated in volunteering events off of campus to help out the environment. The support I have been given by the SIU Foundation has allowed me to study for finals and finish them with ease and has taken a weight off my shoulders since becoming unemployed.

My future plans consist of continuing job searching and eventually moving west to become a park ranger. I am very thankful for the assistance that was given to me through SIU and its supporters. I hope to one day be able to give back to this community just as it has given to me.

Jazmine Hawkins – Supporting my drive

I am from Mount Vernon, Illinois. I am the daughter of Christie and Trymon Hawkins. My mom is a general manager at McDonald’s, and my dad works at the Walgreens distribution center in Mount Vernon. I am very excited to graduate next year, and I’ll be be the first in my family to obtain a bachelor’s degree. That was has been driving me to succeed. My parents never got the opportunity.

I am studying health care management at SIU. I just wanted to thank you for the support during this pandemic. This helped me cover my rent expenses when due. I had been working 20-plus hours a week as a server at Red Lobster until we were laid off. So, this helped me out tremendously, and I cannot thank you guys enough. After graduation, I plan on moving somewhere down south to work manage an OBGYN clinic. I love Florida, and it is a happy place to be. Once again, thank you for the support!

Amy Kovarik – SIU cares, and it shows

I am from Sesser, Illinois, and went to Sesser-Valier High School. I have an older brother who attended SIU in the aviation program and graduated in 2007 and a younger sister who also plans to attend SIU in the radiology program in a few years. I have always wanted to attend SIU since my brother introduced me to the campus and shared his experiences. My parents have always encouraged my siblings and I to pursue a degree at a university, and I am thankful that I have made SIU my home. I am enrolled in the mathematics education program, and I am so thankful for the connections and friendships that I have made in this program. I am involved in two jobs – one in the New Student Programs office on campus and the other is off campus at the housing complex I live at. I have always enjoyed being a part of New Student Programs and have enjoyed welcoming the incoming students to campus and making them feel comfortable as they transition to SIU. By having rent and payments to make, having two jobs has always been something that I have done to make my payments on time.

Since the quarantine, it has been difficult to do so because my hours have been cut so drastically that making my payments has not been feasible. This gift that I received from the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund has made the stress of life during this difficult time much less. I have been able to focus on finishing my classes and work on my grades and being the best student I can be during this time. I plan to graduate in a year, and this gift has helped so much in looking forward to exceeding my goals this semester of making good grades and passing all of my classes. As graduation approaches, I plan to be looking for high school math education jobs in this area. I love this area and the people that make up Southern Illinois. I wish to always give back to this community and hopefully be an instructor at a college in the future.

This gift will be something that I will always remember and appreciate from my college experience. SIU cares about its students, and this is one example of the gracious and caring faculty and alumni that make SIU so amazing. I thank you so much for thinking about students such as myself and giving back to those in need.

Emily Nickelson – Assistance eases the burden

I am from Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. My mom is a single mother raising three children due to the loss of my father when I was at a young age. My mother is a cook at Ste. Genevieve RII School District and continues to provide for the community during this difficult time. She prepares breakfast and lunches through the school program for children in need of food. She has raised three children, all of which have some type of college or technical degree.

I am a student of the physical therapist program now entering my last semester for summer internships. My freshman track injury is what led me to pursue a degree in physical therapy. I was struck by a disc at a track and field event, and ever since I attended physical therapy it has inspired me. I want to give back and help people in my community by providing my knowledge and care.

My future plans are to finish summer internships and pass my boards exam to become a licensed physical therapist assistant. Then, I plan to continue to attend SIU for a bachelor’s degree in health care management. I plan on working a full-time job as a PTA while working on earning my second degree.

The support from the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund helped me with making a rent payment. Without this help I would have been incurring late fees daily due to recently losing my job, which makes paying my rent difficult at this time. I appreciate the support this fund has assisted me with during the pandemic. Thank you so much for the assistance!

Ethan Piekos – Keeping dreams in focus

Thank you so much for the support. My hometown is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The funds that you sent me help me out greatly. For myself and my parents, this pandemic is hard on us and paying for my rent helps out tremendously.

I am a biochemistry major at SIU, and I had a job at Traxx until we had to close due to the pandemic.  I found a passion in biochem in high school when I interned for my AP chem teacher, and I enjoyed being in the chemistry lab making solutions and working with chemicals for my teacher. It made me feel like I was in the right place. Currently, I am working in a biochem research lab on the crispr enzyme. For me, it is a very exciting time in my life to be working on this important project that can change the world one day.  Your funds will help me focus on my work inside and outside the lab and let go out the stress of paying my rent for a month, and I cannot say thank you enough for it.

As a student, I plan on obtaining as much hands-on experience in research labs that I can and hopefully be involved in publishing some sort of research. After graduation, I plan on finding a job in the biochem field, potentially being an analytical scientist. Then, after years of this, I plan on going to graduate school to get a Ph.D. in pharmacology.

I want to say thank you for the support and helping me focus on my dreams.

Matthew Santos – Soaring once again

I am writing to you to thank you for granting me financial support through the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund. I am from Chicago, and I am a first-generation college student. This is what mainly drove me to pursue an education past high school. I am a second-year undergrad student majoring in aviation flight and management. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was no longer able to fly or work to continue paying for my apartment in Carbondale.

The money that was used to pay my rent really relieved a lot of stress, and it helped me to finish the semester without worrying that I would have an overdue rent bill. I would also like to mention I am a part of the Flying Salukis, SIU’s national winning flight team. Unfortunately, this year’s national season got canceled, but I look forward to coming back in the fall for our regional competition. Once again, I would like to thank you for helping me out in these uncertain times.

Margaret Schlotter – Providing a guiding light

I am sincerely honored to have been selected as the recipient of funding from the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund. Thanks to your emergency aid, I am the first in my family to pursue a university degree. Growing up in a single-parent household has not only offered financial and academic challenges, but has also made me realize the importance of a college education. My family encouraged me to attend college from a very young age, and they inspired me to pursue a degree in psychology. My father has been unable to assist with the costs of school, and my mother has been paying for the costs of housing. However, due to the pandemic she has been unemployed and unable to help with housing costs.

Thank you for your generosity, which will allow me to further my research interests in counseling psychology. As I continue my education at SIU, I am very thankful for receiving your generous gift. Because of your funding, I am able to relieve some of the unprecedented costs of housing that have arisen as the result of the global pandemic.

I developed a passion for serving underrepresented populations after getting to know my boyfriend’s parents, who are both from Mexico. They showed me unconditional kindness, respect and love. I was able to gain cultural awareness by spending time with them and developed an admiration for Hispanic/Latino cultures. I was able to travel with them to Mexico and immerse myself into Mexican culture. In addition, I was fortunate to attend a study abroad trip to Costa Rica through the University Honors program. These experiences inspired me to learn Spanish as a second language and also pursue Spanish as a minor degree. I have been able to connect with organizations on campus that align with my interests. I am actively involved in the Hispanic Student Council as the vice president and the Psychology Student Association as the public service coordinator. I have also been able to pursue my interests in research through my involvement in the Southern Illinois Twins/Triplets and Siblings Study as a research assistant. I have been able to complete two independent research projects in developmental psychology. This summer, I will be participating in the McNair Program, conducting a research project on socioeconomic status and parenting on child problem behaviors. This fall, I will be working on an honors thesis focusing on minority children and social outcomes.

Upon graduation, I hope to be able to continue my education in a graduate degree program so that I can learn the training I will need to serve the community. This housing funding will allow me to focus on pursing my degree and provide stress relief in a time of uncertainty. Thank you for supporting this goal of mine.

Kristopher Taylor – Continuing the mission

First and foremost, I would like to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you to all that donated to this cause. Your support for myself as well as many other students cannot go unrecognized. What you’ve done and are continuing to do is truly remarkable. I’m from Hartford, Connecticut and didn’t grow up in the best neighborhood. My older sister and I were raised by our mother in a single-parent household. My sister and I are the only ones in the family to ever go to college. Once my sister went off to college it was just my mother and I, and for most of my childhood we lived off government assistance. We weren’t really able to keep a consistent home, and we moved around a lot, especially throughout elementary and high school. These experiences drove me to want a better life for myself and my family.

I knew higher education would be my best opportunity at that, and Southern Illinois University gave me that opportunity. I’m currently trying to make the best that opportunity. I’m an industrial management and applied engineering major and student employee at the Recreation Center. I’m a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity here on campus. We pride ourselves on being engaged in the community. My biggest impact in the community was coordinating a school supply giveaway from local youth. Not only that, but I gathered over $200 worth of school supplies and donated them to the Head Start program at the Carbondale location. I would spend a few afternoons over there engaging with the kids trying to be a positive male role model.

Before this support, I wasn’t as focused on my education as I should have been. I was beyond stressed because I could no longer work and was in great fear I would fall behind on bills. The stress of potentially having to leave Carbondale and go home to Connecticut to find work was heavily on my mind. I knew if I went home there was a very small chance I would be able to come back for the fall semester and complete my studies. But your support relieved me of the stress, and I could focus on my studies without worrying if I would have a home here. Now that I can continue my studies, I hope to continue to make an impact in the community one way or another. I take pride in helping people when I can because I know the feeling of being hopeless and in need of help. After graduation, I hope to be a quality engineer somewhere in manufacturing. But my ultimate goal when I can afford to do it is to go to third-world countries (starting in Haiti) on a mission to provide clean water via irrigation system to those who would normally have to walk miles to get it. I feel I can achieve this goal as long as I finish my studies, which you all have made possible, and I can’t thank you enough. This truly a blessing, and I’m extremely grateful for what you’ll have done for me and other students as well.

Alexis Turner – Going above and beyond

My name is Alexis Turner, and I just wanted to start by saying thank you. Thank you so much for your generous donations that have helped a student like me in need. I am beyond grateful during these difficult times to be able to feel financially supported by alumni who genuinely care.

I grew up in Goshen, Indiana, and did my undergrad at Taylor University. My parents only ever obtained their high school diplomas, but I knew that I wanted to grow beyond that. My undergraduate BFA degree is in musical theater. I knew that I wanted to pursue higher education beyond this and wanted to work on being versatile in my field, so I pursued an MM in vocal performance at SIU. I graduated this spring and am so thankful for my time here, both in the professional industry and out. I’ve made many connections that I know I will take with me as I go out into my field from here. I’m currently waiting to hear back from Disney, as that is my first performing arts job that I want to check off of my “to-do” list! After some years dancing, singing and acting for Disney, I’d like to take on the adventure of performing opera. It takes longer for my classical voice to mature, so I think this is a healthy approach to my performing career as a whole.

These hopes and dreams are currently on hold due to our present circumstances, but my desire is that we will come out of this stronger than ever, ready to take on the world. People look to the arts as comfort in hard times, so I pray that we continue to see its importance after the pandemic ends. With an uncertain future, I am certainly glad for financial support to pay one month’s rent as I try to navigate my next steps.

Again, thank you so much for your financial help during these times. I am truly grateful for every penny!

Derrick Wash – Reaching new heights

I would like to tell you about me and how your fund will help my situation. I am from Westville, Illinois. My family and I grew up poor, government aid programs and assistance have been around my whole life. However, I had a great childhood despite the poverty. My parents are both GED graduates, and they both do their best every day to support their family, and we got by. I decided early on that I would want to make sure that my future children would live better than I did and help my parents out along the way. Thankfully, government aid and loans have let me pursue a college education. I have been studying computers for the past 10 years of my life now, and I came to SIU to get a degree in information technology.

Coming here at first was tough socially and mentally, but thanks to my fraternity, Alpha Sigma Phi, I was able to grow and learn to better as a person. This support will help me get over the last hump in my education and allow me to graduate and transition into the real world without burden. After this transition, I plan on going directly into the workforce and perhaps later gain a master’s degree in IT. I appreciate all the school has done for me, and I can’t wait to show my appreciation in the future. Thank you!

Deidre Powell – A passion for law

Currently, I am a second-year law student at SIU. I am originally from East St. Louis, IL. I am a product of a single-parent home. Growing up in the inner city I had the unfortunate opportunity to first-hand witness many injustices. Exposure to these injustices led me to be passionate about the law and pursue a law degree. While attending law school I have been very successful; my class rank is number 14 and I have an overall GPA of 3.44. I am actively involved in the Black Law Student Association, Jackson County Bar Association, and Illinois State Bar Association. After law school, I plan to work at a law firm for 2-5 years then open my own practice. However, my overall goal is to become a federal judge. The support you have given me to cover some of my unforeseen expenses in light of the pandemic has lessened my financial burden during these unprecedented times. I look forward to the day when I can give back to a future Saluki. Again, thanks for your generosity as it is greatly appreciated.

Jazmin Katz – Her dreams become possible

Thank you for the donation you provided me with. I was raised in central Illinois after my family finally settled down there in 2000. There, I completed my primary education before deciding on pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at SIUC. I knew since my junior year of high school that I wanted to work in a profession that helped others, which is what led me to getting my BA in Psychology. I decided I wanted to pursue further education, so I applied for the Masters program in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling here at SIUC. I was accepted in fall 2017 and have been working on my career goal steadily, despite bumps in the road.

When I am not working, I am enjoying my hobbies, such as reading, writing, drawing, and singing. I have a small sticker and print shop that I am hoping to expand one day, but it is most definitely an “as-it-comes” endeavor at the moment, since schooling is my number one priority. The true goal is to one day be able to tie art and or music therapy into my counseling.

The support you have given me will help me meet my educational goals by allowing me to focus on my studies, especially during finals week, which is already a tough time on me due to family reasons, instead of having to worry about my expenses for the month. I had been worried about rent prior to this, since I had to go into quarantine toward the tail end of March and beginning of April. Being able to afford a living during that time was tough, and my attention span toward my academics had suffered, so I am forever grateful that you were kind enough to accept my application for help.

I am hoping that as I go forward, I will be able to continue to hone in my skills as a counselor and be able to provide others with the help and care they need, especially in trying times such as these. The goal is to try and get my academics completed here in the near future, so I can focus on internship hours and the licensing exam. None of this would be possible without the help that you have provided.

Thank you, once again, from the bottom of my heart.

Regan KinserRegan Kinser – Opportunity through connection

My name is Regan Kinser, I am from Joliet, Illinois. I graduated Saturday May, 9th with a degree in Animal Science from the College of Agriculture. I am currently a feed sales intern with the Posey County Co-op in Mount Vernon, Indiana. I have been blessed with this opportunity through the connections I made at Southern Illinois University.  Tomorrow I will assist Purina representative David Williams in giving a virtual Flock Talk and I am eager to share my knowledge and passion with the registered attendees. Thank you for your donation, because without it I would not have been able to accept this position to pursue my career.

Bonito Marks – Investing in his future

My name is Bonito Marks. I am an aviation flight and management major at SIUC. I am involved in the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, Project Love and the honor society. I am from Chicago and I understand the importance of giving back. I plan to start a not-for-profit organization for aviation students after I become an airline pilot in the industry. I appreciate you taking your time and money and investing it into my future. It will be used to help me with my living conditions such as school, groceries, books and more during these hard times.

Nyja Jackson – On the right track

I am beyond thankful for you contribution. My name is Nyja Jackson. I am a Public Relations Major at SIUC. I am from Chicago, IL. Both of my parents deal with the public, so interacting with people comes natural to me. I plan to help the public in some positive way. I am a social media coordinator for a philanthropy-driven student organization called Black Women’s Task Force and I am a member of the Public Relation Student Society of America. I want to continue my education and with your help, I am on the right track financially to do so. I thank you all very much and I hope you all stay safe!

Herman Arce – Clear future

I am a full-time Junior in the College of Engineering at Southern Illinois University. I am pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering after which, a Master of Science in Quality Engineering Management. I began my journey at Elgin Community College (ECC) where I received an Associates in Science in May of 2019. I came to SIU right after and began in the fall of 2019. In that fall semester I gained so much knowledge from my courses and overall about the program. The Industrial Engineering program offered at SIU specializes in Quality management and this was essential to me because that is the field I plan to enter. In my first semester here I joined a Registered Student Organization (RSO) called American Society for Quality (ASQ) which is all about quality in various industries but more specifically in manufacturing. Joining this RSO was perhaps the best decision I made because it introduced me to people, I now call friends who also share the same educational and professional aspirations as I do. Through this membership with ASQ I will attain my Six Sigma Green Belt certification which will open up many opportunities for me upon graduation. My future has now become very clear to me as to what I want to become and how I will get there. This clarity I have reached includes another passion I have which is for physics. Once I graduate, I will do all in my power to acquire a position as a Quality Assurance Engineer at Fermilab located in Batavia, Illinois. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Ever since my physics professor back at ECC who is a former Nuclear Physicist of Fermilab introduced me to the concepts used for experiments and work that is done there, I have wanted to work there. Additionally, this spring semester I have joined another RSO called Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). SHPE holds a conference every year where they offer a unique opportunity to engage, support, educate and advance the careers of Hispanic students and professionals. This year it was going to be hosted by none other than Fermilab and I was looking forward to touring their campus. Unfortunately, it along as everything else has been cancelled, due to this awful virus. Being where I am today makes me think back of a time when I was unsure of my future and whether I wanted to attend University or settle for any decent paying job. I am glad I took a chance on SIU because it has quite literally brought me closer to a career for which I am passionate. I say chance because I knew upon arriving to SIU that my funds would be insufficient each semester, without any additional financial assistance. I am beyond grateful for your generosity, as I know it will help get me closer to my life goals. As unfortunate as it may be, I am in a time in my life where any financial help does make a huge impact, especially coming from a semester where I was incredibly financially stressed on top of all my schoolwork. This money that was awarded to me and sent for past due rent is a huge relief on myself. My intent with this letter is for it be representative of the life that is being created with the help from Saluki Cares Emergency Fund. Thank you!

Madeline De La Cruz – Grateful for support

My name is Madeline De La Cruz and I am a graduate student in the Masters Public Administration program.  I would like to thank the donors for the funding that was provided to help cover my internet bill. I was laid off from work due to COVID-19 and am grateful for the money provided.

Once again, thank you very much for your financial support.

Maria Garcia – Financial relief

First, I would like to start by saying Thank You for the Saluki Cares Emergency Fund! My name is Maria Garcia and I am a first-generation Hispanic college student from Des Plaines, IL. I have two younger brothers. One goes to SIU with me and the youngest is in 6th grade. My father works in roofing/construction and my mother is a stay-at-home mom and both are illegal immigrants that have done so much to provide for my brothers and me.

Both my parents came here with nothing and have worked hard to get where we are now. I was excited to walk across the stage in May for my graduation and for my family to see and feel the same pride I was feeling. That dream was quickly taken away because of COVID-19, but quickly forgotten when I told my parents that I was accepted to SIU for my Masters in Architecture!

I used to travel often to Mexico and stay at my parent’s home village, but it would break my heart seeing the kind of living environment people in poverty were living in. Some of the homes in those villages were on the verge of collapse. I thought that maybe I could help out the people in the village by offering a helping hand and a better living environment. This has lead me to pursue the architecture field. My dream is to help those in need with a sustainable and affordable living environment. I hope to one day go back and design homes for people living in poverty for little to no economic constraint.

I was also influenced by my parents and seeing how they help out family and friends in need in Mexico even if it is by a little bit. They have taught me to help those in need and the value of family. In June, I will be starting my first semester of grad school. I plan to focus on sustainable design throughout grad school.

Throughout my undergraduate, I was part of the Marching Salukis for three years, which I enjoyed a lot. I was also a New Member Educator and Vice President of my sorority, Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, inc for two semesters. I studied abroad at TEC Monterrey, Mexico, and focused on construction management classes. I plan to be involved in my sorority as much as I can when the campus re-opens.

The Saluki Cares Emergency Fund has helped relieve a lot of the stress I was feeling throughout this pandemic. I lost my job, so I lost my only source of income. I wasn’t expecting for something like that to happen and it changed my plans for the semester and graduate school. Before the pandemic, I was making enough money to pay for my bills and groceries and I didn’t have to count on my parents financially anymore which made me feel proud.

Since I wasn’t working anymore I decided to fully focus on my academics, but little did I know that my senior project would cause me a lot of problems. Towards the end of April I started to notice the lack of income was affecting because I was running low on grocery money since I still had to pay for my housing bills. I had to start choosing between having enough money to pay for my bills or buying groceries. I couldn’t count on my family because my father was also unemployed and he was the only income of our household. I didn’t want to worry about my family with more problems, so I never told them anything.

The financial instability and stressful situation with my academics and online classes were taking a large toll on my mental health. That was when I had decided to place an application to Saluki Cares. When I received the call from Saluki Cares, a large sense of relief came over me! I was extremely happy about the financial relief that I was finally able to fully focus on my senior project non-stop. I passed my semester with A’s and B’s too!

During this summer I plan to start an internship and continue working on the internship as a grad student. I have been actively placing applications to architecture firms in Chicago, St. Louis, and all over Illinois and Missouri. I hope to get an internship in St. Louis because I want to live in the city and I feel that St. Louis is a great place to start. After graduating from my masters I hope to stay wherever my internship is since I do have to get work experience for at least two or three years and my master’s program is only two years long. While doing that I plan to make large payments to some of the loans I took out as an undergrad and grad school.

Once I finish with my internship and work as an architect I plan to start saving some funds to go to Mexico and start my goal of building affordable and sustainable housing slowly. I plan to also start saving some money with my brother, who is studying to be a mechanical engineer, to put our youngest brother through college.

My brother and I, both hope to help my parents the same way they have helped us. We hope to give them a better life and hopefully one day they will also be able to go back home and relax with their family in Mexico.

Once again, thank you so much!

Katya Saldana – Financial Distress Lifted

I would like to take this opportunity to kindly thank you for your generous donation to help me cover the outstanding housing cost for the Spring 2020 semester. I am honored to receive it!

I am a senior majoring in cinema. My areas of interest include cinematography, editing, art direction, screenwriting and directing. My goal is to pursue a career in those fields and produce independent films and television programs.

I have learned so much and have had great experiences at SIU’s Cinema and Photography program, and I’m excited to learn more during my senior year. I have been involved in a few creative registered student organizations during my time at SIUC. I have worked on a couple of films for Movie Camera Movement, a Hollywood-style short film production organization, as a storyboard artist, co-editor and boom operator. I have been involved in the Big Muddy Film Festival throughout the semester for our premiere that took place in February. Additionally, I have also worked as a transition producer for alt.news 26:46, which is a television program that airs on WSIU. With all these organizations, I have learned a great amount of hands-on experience which I have applied to my work in the classroom, all the RSO productions and my own personal projects.

With this donation from Saluki Cares, I am able to continue my education with the weight of financial distress lifted off my shoulders for this upcoming semester. Thank you very much, once again, for this kind donation and helping me return to SIU in the fall.

 

Donations for the Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund can be made at salukifunder.siu.edu.

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Behind the scenes with an Emmy-winning Saluki: Adam Rowe found direction, support at SIU

Adam RoweBy Jeff Wilson

Adam Rowe ’02 has worked on some of your favorite TV shows, even though you probably haven’t seen his face.

Working as an art director on “The Good Place,” “Dexter,” “Criminal Minds,” “Mad Men,” “House M.D.” and “Parks and Rec,” Rowe gives viewers a glimpse of his creative vision. In 2019, his hard work was rewarded with an Emmy for his work on “Rent: Live.”

“Winning an Emmy is more than a dream,” he said. “I spent the next day thinking ‘What happened? I can’t believe it!’”

Wondering what an art director does? Rowe explains it as “the hub of the art department and the extension of the production designer.”

“The art director is often in charge of time, money and space,” he said. “How long will it take to build a set? How much will it cost, and where will we build it? When it comes together, it’s very rewarding.”

The road to SIU

After a stint studying engineering at the University of Wisconsin Platteville, Rowe started considering changing majors and switching colleges. His two older sisters had attended SIU Carbondale.

“I had been down to Carbondale a number of times for parent weekends,” said Rowe, who grew up on farm outside of Grand Ridge in LaSalle County. “I proudly wore a Saluki sweatshirt when I was 10.”

He reached out to SIU and was connected with Ron Naversen in the Department of Theater. While Rowe wasn’t sure a theater degree would lead to many job opportunities, Naversen convinced him.

“Ron educated me on the possibilities. He spoke about a designer who worked on ‘Sesame Street’ and some other career pathways,” Rowe said. “Plus, SIU offered the most flexibility as far as accepting my existing credits.”

It was also Naversen who encouraged Rowe to apply for scholarships. He eventually received the Archibald McLeod Award.

“I was honored to get it, and I felt a sense of pride and togetherness with the others who were awarded,” Rowe said. “The money helped me avoid more student debt, and it saved me interest on a loan. I had two jobs while on campus, so receiving a scholarship kept me from needing a third.”

One of those jobs was a resident advisor position in Mae Smith Hall.

“It was the fifth floor – the same floor my sister had been on,” Rowe said. “It was predominately the freshman football team. My floor only caused one fire drill, and that was because someone nuked their Pagliai’s pizza in tin foil.”

Rowe also acted as a defendant in the School of Law’s mock court proceedings and gave campus tours to prospective and incoming students.

“I loved the woods surrounding Carbondale. I remember walks in snow, rain and sunshine from Mae Smith to the theater department,” he said. “I love Faner Hall and its crazy, weird architecture. I went back on a few occasions to speak to students about the entertainment industry and also was invited as a designer to work for the McLeod Summer Playhouse.”

Life after SIU

After earning a bachelor’s degree from SIU, Rowe received his master’s in theater and set design from the University of Illinois.

“I’m proud to be Illinois-educated,” he said. “From Illinois, I went to Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, Indiana and eventually California working as a painter and assistant designer. Through an SIU connection, I was enticed to go to Los Angeles.”

Once he got on his feet, he found himself working as an assistant on the AMC drama, “Mad Men.”

“That TV show was about the best schooling I could get,” Rowe said. “It got me hooked on TV. I spent a large portion of my TV career bouncing between scripted and live events. They are still both theater to me.”

For someone who spent time as a teenager mowing lawns and listening to the soundtrack for “Rent” on CD, winning an Emmy for working on the live TV version of the play was a dream come true.

“That was my dream job,” Rowe said. “I could never have imagined I would be a part of bringing that show to the national stage on Fox. I had previously worked with Fox, but I was so proud to collaborate with that studio to make something so impactful. That will have a very special place in my heart.”

To learn more about Rowe’s career, visit his professional website www.curiousdoor.com.

To learn more about how to support scholarships like the one that helped him reach his goals, visit www.siuf.org.

 

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Meet Model Student Madeleine Cravens

Madeleine Cravens, a Du Quoin native, is a senior studying marketing in the SIU College of Business. She received the Covington Entrepreneurial Award. The scholarship was established by Jon and Patricia Covington. The award is available to marketing undergraduates, who are from Southern Illinois, are working while taking classes and have a goal of owning a business.

Why did you choose SIU? SIU was an easy choice for me. Both of my grandparents, all of my aunts and my dad graduated from SIU with their degrees. My dad was also a part of the SIU football team. The first time I came to visit SIU I knew it is where I wanted to be. It felt like my home away from home, and I have loved my journey here at SIU.

What inspired you to choose your area of study? I would like to say that the decision process of choosing my area of study was simple, but it was not … at all. I changed my major three times before I decided on marketing. I am a people person, and I enjoy anything to do with public speaking. I loved the freedom that a marketing degree would give me. I have also had a love for the medical field, but knew that was not the exact fit for me. My grandfather and father are business owners, so I also enjoy business. I chose marketing so I could pursue a career in medical device sales, and I do not regret my decision for one second.

What was your reaction when you received the Covington Entrepreneurial Award?
I still remember exactly where I was when I found out I had won this award. I was walking into the Student Center for lunch when I received the email. My first reaction was to call my dad. I was in disbelief, and I was so grateful that they felt I was the perfect recipient for this award.

How will the Covington Entrepreneurial Award help you make a difference in society? I am so grateful for this opportunity and what this award has done for me. Achieving this award was one of those moments that I will never forget, and I would like to give that feeling back to someone. Since winning this award, I have done my best to give back to society and help others as much as I can.

Do you have a message that you would like to say to Jon and Patricia Covington?
Yes, and I would like to start with a thank you. Thank you for seeing me as the best fit for your award and trusting in me to take this award and make something great of it and be an example. This award helped me achieve my degree and reach the point in my journey that I am at today. You are appreciated, and I am so thankful for donors like you.

Why should donors consider establishing a scholarship fund for students? Without donors, a lot of the students at SIU would not receive their degree or maybe not even attend college. Scholarships are so important and can change a student’s life. Since I have received this award, I will become a donor in the future so that I can hopefully give a student the same experience and chances that I was given. The students are so grateful and have a great deal of appreciation for our donors. If you are not a donor, I highly recommend rethinking it or learning more about it.

Has receiving this scholarship inspired you to give back to SIU in the future? Receiving this scholarship has most definitely done that for me. I know the comfort, happiness and sense of achievement it brought me, and I would like to give that back to another student someday.

Share a fun fact about yourself: A fun fact about myself would be that I am an internationally signed modeled in three different countries and with four signed agencies.

Tell us about your modeling career: My modeling career started in May of 2018 when I signed a worldwide contract with NEXT Models. That September, I moved to Miami by myself. It was one of my greatest learning experiences and biggest challenges I have ever faced. My freshman and sophomore years of college were some of my favorite years, and I was going to be giving up the Fall 2018 semester, to move away. Little did I know, this move was the first door to an amazing career. I booked my first job there in Miami, with Venus Williams tennis line. I met so many amazing people and do not regret my time there at all. I returned home to Du Quoin that December and signed with Wilhelmina Models in Chicago. This is when my career took off and has changed my life forever. Since I have been with Wilhelmina Chicago, I have had opportunities that I am forever grateful for and will never take for granted. I have had the opportunity to work for Ralph Lauren, Vera Bradley, Nike and those are just to name a few. In July of 2019, I signed with Bookers Modeling Agency in Hamburg, Germany, and New Model Agency in Athens, Greece. I moved to Germany in August and had the experience of a lifetime. Picking a career that has been so demanding while I have also been trying to be a college student, has been nothing but hard, but I would not change it for a second. Signing with these agencies and beginning to work and travel to a different state, four times a week forced me to grow up extremely fast. My junior and senior years of college were not your typical years, but without the determination I had to succeed with this, I would not be where I am today. This career is something I hold near and dear to my heart and always will. It has taught me perseverance, growth, strength, rejection and independence.

How does SIU help you balance both modeling and learning?
When my career began to take off, I was in the thick of my junior year. There were weeks I was in Ohio, Monday through Tuesday; Wisconsin, Wednesday to Thursday; and would only be home on Friday. My professors at SIU have been nothing but understanding and supportive of my career. They have made accommodations to my school work, responded to my emails at 10 p.m. asking about an assignment I missed the lecture for and have continued to follow my journey even after my time with them was finished. I will always thank SIU because without its support and help, my career would not be where it is today.

Vera Bradley 2020 campaign.

What has been the highlight of your modeling career while being a student?
My modeling career and my years as a college student are both more than I could have ever asked for. The highlight of my modeling career so far, was my opportunity to work with Vera Bradley in Connecticut and be the face of their new campaign for 2020. I had to miss four days of class and my professors did not blink an eye. They were so happy for me.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will graduate from the College of Business on May 9, 2020. While I will continue to pursue my modeling career, I will also be pursuing a career in medical sales.

What does being a Saluki mean to you?
A Saluki to me means pushing yourself to the best of your ability and to never quit. I will always take pride in being a Southern Illinois University Saluki. It is my family, and it has given me some of my greatest adventures and trials.

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SIU School of Law Alumna Gives Love and Hope Through Free Lunches

By Rebecca Renshaw

Life, at least for now, has changed dramatically across the United States as we face the coronavirus pandemic along with the rest of the world.

The shelves at our grocery stores often stand empty. Our favorite restaurants and entertainment venues are either closed or operating in much different ways than before. Our arenas are quiet and the crowds are gone. Around our interstates and neighborhoods, we’re spotting signs and messages that remind us of really just how different life feels now.

But, in St. Louis, if you are paying attention, there’s also a lot of love and hope being extended. From teddy bears in windows and messages of hope written in chalk on sidewalks, although we’re apart, we’re finding ways to remain deeply connected.

Beth Boggs, ‘91 SIU School of Law alumna, and a partner of Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs, has committed to such love and hope by making sure students in North County School District in St. Louis receive free lunches and facemasks each week.

Boggs says she has sponsored and helped a food pantry in St. Louis, Ritenour Co-Care, for several years. One of her colleagues, Angela Gabel, serves on the pantry’s board of directors. Boggs and Gabel had a meeting in early March where they determined they had to do something for the pantry as it began to face higher demands for food. From that day forward, they have seen an incredible coming together in the community.

Through her connections in St. Louis business and civic affairs, Boggs encouraged others to join their efforts. Wallis Oil Company agreed to put their commissary employees to work making lunches. Wallis also agreed to transport donated meals to area drop-offs each week. Boggs soon got The Orchards Golf Course kitchen staff to make lunches. The owners of JJ Twigs Pizza were able to bring back some of their employees to pitch in and make lunches for students.

“Besides all of those volunteers, we also now have a minor league team who pitches in and helps make meals,” said Boggs.

She says what is remarkable is that through these efforts, some small businesses are now able to pay their staff and put them to work.

“Through a charity that my husband, Darin (SIU School of Law ’90) and I formed in 2005 called Step It Up, we give these businesses the food to make the meals and the wages to pay their staff,” she said.

Boggs was also impressed by the generosity of her fellow alumni from SIU Carbondale. “Each spring, we host a charity golf tournament to raise funds for SIU. While several of my participants and sponsors had already paid their entry fees, not one of them asked for a return of their money when the tournament had to be cancelled. When they heard of our efforts, they collectively donated the $13,500 in fees to the University Scholarship fund. That’s the Saluki spirit that makes SIU so strong,” she said.

While the North County School District does provide one free lunch drop-off a week, many of the students can’t find the transportation to get to the drop-off point.

“The problem with the school district free lunch program is that they only drop off lunches in an area where the students would be forced to take public transportation to get to the food,” said Boggs. With the help of the school libraries, Epworth Charities and the NAACP, they now are delivering 10,000 meals to multiple locations across the county five days a week.

Boggs says she and her behind-the-scenes volunteers are not doing this for publicity. “It’s simply the right thing to do. If we can give this food with no hardship to us, then it would be wrong to ignore this major need in our city right now,” said Boggs.

Boggs said they also give out 10,000 face masks to the students and their families along with their meals.

“Of all the positive COVID-19 cases in St. Louis, 70 percent are in these hard-hit communities of color. I am so thankful for the help of NAACP’s St. Louis County president, John Bowman. While we have the resources of money and food, Mr. Bowman has the connections to get to the people who need help the most,” said Boggs.

Boggs is amazed at the touching outpouring of humanity she has witnessed during the last month.

“I recently had to go to Chicago to visit my brother who is battling leukemia. His young daughter is quarantined due to his illness and said she wished she could help. I told her that she is wonderful at baking bread, so maybe she could make a loaf and send it to the food pantry. A week later, she shipped us 25 loaves of bread. She is a shining example of spreading love and hope with whatever resources are available,” Boggs said.

Boggs and the group of volunteers will continue to give 10,000 meals and face masks each week to students through the end of May. While Boggs was reluctant to draw attention to herself, she does so only to encourage others, especially Salukis, to get involved and give back to others during this time.

“I absolutely loved my years at SIU and I found the grit and determination of the students there remarkable. I am sharing my story only in hopes that others who call themselves Salukis will join me and extend love and hope to others as well,” she said.

Many former Salukis have donated funds and time to help.

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Meet Banterra Bank Scholarship Recipient – Marshall Brown

Marshall Brown is a senior studying political science.

What is your level and the degree you will be receiving from SIU?
I will be graduating at the end of this semester. I will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a specialty in public service, and a minor in music.

What sparked your interest in this type of degree?
I have always been interested in politics and the news and that is why I have picked political science as my undergraduate degree. While earning my degree in Political Science I decided to seek a graduate degree in public administration. I hope to someday work for a state or federal agency specializing in policy creation/implementation.

What are your plans after graduation?
I will start coursework in the Master of Public Administration program.

What have you enjoyed most about your time at SIU?
The most enjoyable experience I had at SIU was being a member of the marching band directed by Dr. Brozak. Dr. Brozak’s dedication to the program and his leadership made me proud to be a Marching Saluki.

What are your thoughts about receiving the Banterra scholarship and what do you think of Banterra’s efforts toward the community?
I want to thank Banterra for the scholarship I received. Just as important to me as the financial help, is the honor I feel from being recognized by a community leader like Banterra. Over the past years I have become aware of all the good things Banterra does for Southern Illinois, and that made the scholarship I received even more special to me.

 What would you say to other potential donors about giving back to SIU?
That the support from donors means a lot not only to the students, but also to the community. SIU is one of the largest employers in Southern Illinois. Supporting the campus strengthens the community as a whole. It is great to see businesses, in the private sector, such as Banterra take on such a commitment to the community in which they service.

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Banterra Scholarship Opens Doors to Opportunity

Danielle Lorentz

Danielle Lorentz

by Rebecca Renshaw

Danielle Lorentz’s heart bleeds maroon. A senior majoring in communications with specializations in interpersonal and organizational communication, Lorentz refers to herself as a “townie.”

“My mother worked at SIU, so I grew up in Carbondale. We attended tailgates, football games, you name it, we were there. It just felt natural that I would attend SIU. I could not be prouder to be both from Carbondale and be a Saluki,” she said.

In her junior year, Lorentz says, she stumbled upon a study abroad program through the College of Business that would apply toward a minor in international marketing while studying in Grenoble, France. However, she was concerned about the expenses involved with the program and decided to take one of the campus prerequisites to see how she liked the material.

At the same time, Lorentz learned she was a recipient of a Banterra Bank scholarship.

“Knowing I had the funds to study abroad allowed me to continue to pursue my interest in marketing. It was as if a door had opened up and exposed me to a whole new side of the business world. If I hadn’t received the scholarship, I would never have pursued a new path in marketing,” she said.

As it turned out, Lorentz discovered she enjoyed the class and the content. She felt earning a minor in marketing would pair nicely with her communication degree and give her an opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Lorentz did not get to realize her dream of studying in France. However, she said the excitement the scholarship gave her and the new path it presented made all the difference.

“I want to thank Banterra Bank for its generosity and its willingness to positively impact students’ lives in ways that didn’t even seem possible. I have already been so fortunate in what SIU has given me and this scholarship added even more,” she said.

Jeff May, president of Banterra Bank, said the Banterra Scholarships were part of an agreement to name the Banterra Center on campus.

“Ensuring that a scholarship program was set up as part of our naming-rights agreement was a key requirement for us to move forward with our SIU partnership,” May said. “Being able to assist with education needs of our youth as well as grow enrollment for one of the region’s largest employers is incredibly important to Banterra.”

When Lorentz heard the scholarships being announced at a SIU basketball game, she felt pride sitting in the stands knowing she was one of the recipients.

“That amount of money can make or break a student’s opportunities. It gives young people like myself the freedom to pay for books or pay for a program or get certified online,” said Lorentz.

“I also want to express to potential donors out there that even though they are giving a monetary donation, for students, it is so much more. Not only does it provide opportunities, it is also a sign of encouragement for students to keep moving forward,” she said.

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A Lasting Legacy: Future farmers, teachers to benefit from former professor’s gift

Jim and Sue Legacy

Jim and Sue Legacy

By Rebecca Renshaw

Jim Legacy’s passion for agriculture started at an early age. Now, he and his wife, Sue, are sharing that passion with others.

The Legacys donated $1 million from their charitable trust to the SIU College of Agricultural Sciences. Per their wishes, 80 percent will help fund scholarships for SIU students who participated in Future Farmers of America, and 20 percent will go toward faculty.

Jim Legacy came to SIU in 1977 as professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences. He retired at the end of 2001.

“The most enjoyable experience of my life was being a professor,” he said. “As an instructor, you have these 18-year-old kids who come ready to learn from your knowledge. They carry a great deal of respect for a professor, and you end up playing an important and often extended role in their lives.”

During his tenure, he had multiple students come to his home for dinner and attended many of their graduation ceremonies and even weddings.

Legacy participated in international agricultural projects that took him all over the world.

“SIU gave me so many memorable experiences that I will never forget,” he said. “I traveled to Africa, China, Jamaica and Western Samoa to do meaningful work. It definitely enriched my life.”

Hard work & education

Born on a dairy farm in upstate New York, Legacy’s first agricultural experience came when he was 10 years old and his grandfather gave him 50 chicks to raise. As he neared high school, he received land from his father, and he milked 15 cows every day for nearly four years.

“I took math and science and vocational agriculture at Franklin Academy High School, and those classes furthered my interest in getting higher education degrees in agriculture,” Legacy said. “I had an agriculture teacher who encouraged me to go to college and get a degree in agriculture. I listened to him.”

Using the money he saved milking cows, Legacy attended Cornell University, earning his doctorate from Cornell in 1976. He was quickly hired by Purdue as an assistant professor of agriculture. After one year there, he began searching for a university that would give him the freedom to be his own person.

“SIU was a perfect match for me and my family. SIU allowed me to teach students how I wanted and run my program the way I saw fit,” he said.

An investment in the future

The Legacys strongly believe in the value of the FFA, which made it the clear choice for financial support.

“The FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of high school students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success,” he said. “There are over 700,000 student members in grades 7 through 12 who belong to FFA chapters, and what is surprising is that most of them are not farm kids.

“It provides students with a huge structure. It teaches them how to speak in public, gives them direction and shapes them into leaders.”

Legacy said there aren’t enough instructors to teach all these students. Last year, Illinois universities graduated 28 individuals who received an Agricultural Education Teacher Certification. However, there were 97 open teaching positions throughout secondary schools in the state. He’s hoping more scholarship opportunities will encourage more agriculture majors to obtain a teaching certificate.

“Most high schools have abandoned vocational programs. Agricultural programs like the FFA are the few that still exist,” Legacy said. “It’s a program that can make so many young kids shine. My hope is that this donation will help SIU and further the mission of the FFA.”

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A helping hand: Day of Giving funds bolster student’s experience, opportunity

Diamoneek Green

By Jeff Wilson

Every donation made during the SIU Day of Giving benefits students.

That means funding scholarships, improving facilities, enhancing programs, supporting a cause, etc. Of course, some donations can have an even more direct impact.

That’s what Diamoneek Green, a student ambassador for the Department of Political Science, found out when she earned the 2020 Barbara Brown Internship from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

For a political science major with a pre-law specialty, the chance to work with state legislators in the General Assembly was perfect.

“I’m interning with the Illinois Municipal League,” Green said. “It’s a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that represents Illinois municipalities on a state and federal level. Its work positively impacts the entire state of Illinois and other local governments nationwide.”

Of course, moving from Carbondale to Springfield posed a significant financial challenge. Green was locked into a rental agreement with a local apartment complex but also needed a place to live in Springfield. Having two rent bills to pay would be difficult for anyone, especially a student working an internship.

While living and studying in Carbondale, she worked multiple jobs and found time to volunteer.

“Even with plans to work while doing the internship, it was going to be nearly impossible to make ends meet. I always prided myself on being financially independent,” she said. “I’ve always been ambitious. I didn’t want to go into debt.”

That’s when Green reached out for help. She wrote a heartfelt letter to Todd Bryson, director of the Student Multicultural Resource Centers, and Dr. Linda Baker, a professor at the Simon Institute.

“They were so helpful,” she said. “Todd kept telling me to be patient. He wanted me to focus on this opportunity and not stress about the money.”

It wasn’t long after that Green received a call from Bryson and Dr. Baker informing her that she would receive $1,000 from the Black Resource Center Emergency Tuition Fund. The money in that fund was donated during the 2019 SIU Day of Giving.

“I feel so proud to be part of something that’s bigger than me,” she said. “I can’t wait to give back to students like myself. SIU has been like a second family to me. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll go to a school where people will do everything they can to make sure you succeed. I want to make them proud.”

Drawn to SIU

Raised in Kentucky, Green’s family moved to Cairo, Illinois, before her senior year of high school. At first, she had plans of returning to Kentucky for college.

“My guidance counselor, Zachary Nelson, shared her experience at SIU,” Green said. “Jeff McGoy (director of SIU’s Exploratory Student Advisement) came to our high school. He’s so charismatic, and I looked up to him. I felt like I had to see what SIU was like firsthand. I visited campus and immediately fell in love. Everyone at SIU made me feel good about the transition.

“I’ve had a really good experience. Every one of my concerns was met with solutions. My time as SIU has taught me many lessons, both academic and about life in general. Some of those were tough lessons, but there’s been a recurring positive lesson as well: SIU takes care of those in need.”

If you would like to help students like Diamoneek Green, visit https://siuf.org/giving/college-unit/diversity.php.

Feeding the Saluki spirit

Alumnus, high schoolers donate 2,700 meals to food pantry

John and wife, Marcia Kabat

By Rebecca Renshaw

As the nation grapples with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Saluki spirit continues to shine. The kindness and generosity of one SIU Carbondale alumnus is one powerful example.

John Kabat ’84, ’85 is the president of the SIU Agriculture Alumni Association. After retiring last year from a 34-year teaching career at Mount Vernon Township High School, he continues to teach part-time in the Cooperative Education Program as well as agriculture-related classes. He also serves as the national Future Farmers of America advisor for Mount Vernon’s FFA Chapter.

Recently, he and his students packaged, delivered and donated more than 2,700 meals to the SIU’s Saluki Food Pantry to help students in need due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A desire to help

The 2,700 meals were part of Kabat’s larger effort to feed more than 10,000 people in his community.

Kabat got the idea when he encountered an organization called Meals of Hope at a national FFA convention in Indianapolis last fall. While there, he met with volunteers from the charitable organization, based in Naples, Florida. Its mission is to empower communities to come together to end hunger.

That mission resonated with what is dear to his heart: feeding people who suffer from food insecurities.

Kabat came back to Mount Vernon and began identifying organizations that could benefit from food donations. He and a small team assembled and donated more than 8,800 lunches to nursing homes, shelters and senior citizen centers throughout southern Illinois.

“When I heard that SIU’s Saluki Food Pantry had been gathering food to fill emergency bags for students who find themselves in need, I knew where I needed to focus my remaining efforts,” Kabat said.

With the help of 22 parents and students, who are involved with the FFA chapter, 2,700 meals were assembled in about three hours. The idea wasn’t entirely Kabat’s; several of his students expressed the desire to help feed those in need.

Instilling a love of giving back

“I try to instill a spirit of giving back in each of my students and, in this project, I feel I succeeded,” Kabat said. “Even though I run a farm that feeds about 4,000 people yearly, my priority remains with the 250 kids I teach each year. I want to show them what it feels like to help others, show kindness and give back.

“If I can encourage them to go forth and multiply good deeds of their own, then I will have done my job well. God has blessed me with a sound mind and body. He’s also blessed me with my family and the farm. I never have taken any of this for granted, and I have enjoyed living my life that way,” he said.

Kabat graduated from SIU in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education and double minors in agricultural mechanics and animal science. He received his master’s degree from SIU in 1985 in agricultural education.

“I loved my time at SIU,” he said. “SIU showed me the beauty of diversity and learning from people and their cultures from all over the world. It showed me that we are all equal and we are all in life together.”

The impact of the donation

Tena Bennett, the director at the Student Center, home to the Saluki Food Pantry, called Kabat a truly great man and said the food donation came at a critical time.

“These meals will provide hundreds of our students with food during an unprecedented time in our world. The Saluki Food Pantry was completely stocked before the pandemic and has been nearly wiped out as we supply emergency food bags to our students, many of whom had community jobs that have been suspended during the ‘stay-at home’ order,” she said.

“These meals were provided at a key time that allows us to continue to support our students with food from the pantry,” Bennett added. “The generosity of the students at Mount Vernon High School under John’s direction is a true demonstration of servant leadership,” she said.

If you would like to join Kabat in supporting the  Saluki Cares Student Emergency Fund, please visit https://salukifunder.siu.edu/project/20468 and learn how you can give back to SIU and its students.

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SIU Credit Union Kicks Off the Donations to the 2020 SIU Day of Giving

 

Giving is in the DNA of those at the SIU Credit Union, and local charities have regularly been the beneficiaries of their benevolence. This year, the SIU Credit Union kicked off the Day of Giving with two gifts. The first donation of $20,000 will benefit SIU’s New Student Services and the second donation of $10,000 will go to Touch of Nature’s programs.

The SIU Credit Union was represented by Mike Lantrip, CEO, Mark Dynis, Marketing Director and Kim Babington, Vice President of Community Outreach.

Chancellor John M. Dunn received the donations from the group and said that the SIU Credit Union has been a good partner to SIU for many years.

“These gifts are generous and they represent a number of gifts they’ve given across the years for many endeavors,” he said.

Lori Stettler, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs says the support of the SIU Credit Union is priceless.

“The investment they made reaches far beyond New Student Programs and the University.  The work done by the team in New Student Programs impacts not only our students, but our community through the economic impact families make in our city and our region. We are grateful for their donation, their commitment and the time they invest in us each semester. The funds will support the annual Saluki Start Up and Weeks of Welcome programs, which help new students as they begin their Saluki journey,” she said.

“We are so proud to be a part of the SIU Day of Giving,” said Babington.

“This is such an important day and we want students to know they have a financial institution they can depend on,” she said.

Babington said that three years ago she did not know much about SIU’s Touch of Nature, but a colleague took her out to their facilities and introduced her to the many programs Touch of Nature offers. She knew then that SIU Credit Union had to play a part in their efforts.

J.D. Tanner, Touch of Nature’s Director, appreciates the ongoing support from SIU Credit Union.

“It’s important to have a community organization like SIU Credit Union to recognize what we do with students and the community,” he said.

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