Justin DeLeary
Illinois College
McGraw Foundation Emergency Financial Aid

Justin DeLeary is a history major at Illinois College, where he just finished his junior year. He hopes one day to become an archivist for a museum, or work at a historical site. But his college plans were nearly derailed in late 2019. In the middle of his sophomore year, his mother died of ovarian cancer. That isn’t the end of the story, though. With the help of an emergency grant from the McGraw Emergency Financial Aid Fund through ACI, DeLeary, Midlothian, Illinois, was able to remain in college and continue his education – honoring his mother’s wish that he finish college and earn a degree.

DeLeary, an only child, spoke to his maternal grandmother about his future after his mother’s passing. “It was either don’t go back to school, find a scholarship or you might have to take out a really big loan,” he said of the conversation. “So, getting this grant really helped me. I was able to come back to college because of this grant. Without it, I don’t think I would have been able to come back.” Also helping DeLeary meet college costs are a few other grants, scholarships and subsidized loans from Illinois College, he said.

DeLeary chose to attend Illinois College, the same college a favorite history teacher from his high school, Freeburg Community High School, attended. He is the first in his family to attend a four-year college. DeLeary’s father and mother briefly attended community college classes, but neither finished, he said. His interest in history stems from writing and research, two things he does well, plus an 8th grade trip to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. His minor is education.

At Illinois College, DeLeary attends classes and plays on the college’s football team, where he is a defensive end. He also spends a lot of time in the school’s archives, working with Dr. Jenny Barker-Devine, associate professor of history and department chair. His dream job would place him in a museum interacting with visitors or teaching young children. “If I can work in a museum and use both majors and teach them about the wonders about why a museum is important, I feel like that would be awesome,” DeLeary says.

“I just want to say thank you,” DeLeary says to ACI donors. “Without that money, I probably wouldn’t have been able to go back to school. I know my mother thanks you. I know my grandmother thanks you, and I most definitely thank you.”

“I’m a kid from the rural side of Illinois,” he continued. “I was blessed to be able to go to college, and do something I love, every single day. Thanks to the McGraw Fund, the emergency fund, I was able to continue following my dream and graduating college.”

Nancy Escobar
Illinois Wesleyan University
CIC/UPS Scholarship 

When Nancy Escobar was admitted to Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) it was an important milestone for her and her family. “I was very overwhelmed with joy, because it’s something that my Mom never experienced,” said Escobar a first-generation college student. “My Mom started crying. I started crying. My whole family was very excited for me.”

Escobar is from Wheeling, Illinois, and attended Wheeling High School. A part of a program for first-generation students, Escobar visited IWU during her junior year in high school. She liked that she would know her professors well, and she liked IWU’s record of student job placements after graduation. She has made the most of her college experience, joining clubs, playing on the tennis team in her freshman year and studying economics. She carries minors in sociology and Hispanic studies, and will begin her senior year this fall.

In high school, Escobar took classes in economics. She was inspired by a high school teacher and an IWU professor, who retired soon after Escobar started at the university. “I want to do something a little out of my comfort zone. So, economics was for me,” she said. Her career aspiration is to work in the human resources field. Escobar hopes to get there through internships or through graduate school, possibly at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Escobar was awarded a CIC/UPS scholarship, thanks to a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) through the CIC/UPS Educational Endowment. She was recommended by Hannah Mesouani, director of IWU’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Like many college students, Escobar funds her tuition expenses with grants and scholarship provided by the university, other scholarships, loans and earnings from jobs.

Escobar said she is proud of the CIC/UPS Scholarship, which has benefitted her for two semesters. “It actually does help a lot,” she said. “When I saw how much my bill was, I was like, ‘I don’t think I can afford this.’ Once the scholarship was added, it was a lot less than I thought.” Because of the CIC/UPS Scholarship, Escobar can stay focused on her studies, and not have to work so much. She is grateful to donors who make scholarships possible.

Away from the classroom, Escobar works for a restaurant chain, is president of IWU’s Spanish and Latinx student association. She is also a student mentor for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and is a member and founder of the first multicultural fraternity at IWU, Alpha Psi Lambda.

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