A $1 million gift is establishing a new scholarship program at Illinois State University to help students who have faced significant financial or personal challenges, including having an incarcerated parent or having been in foster care. The program is a partnership with Give Something Back and will annually fund tuition and room and board for up to 50 deserving Illinois State students.

Give Something Back was founded in 2003 by Robert Carr, originally from Lockport, Illinois. He grew up under humble financial circumstances and received a $250 college scholarship from the local women’s club. Carr was determined to give back. His nonprofit organization provides scholarships to help Pell Grant-eligible students attend college and graduate in four years.

“Illinois State is honored to be a recipient of the generous scholarship gift from Mr. Carr and Give Something Back. Access and affordability to a high-quality educational experience is a priority for both our organizations. This investment in young people will truly make a difference for generations of Redbirds and their families,” said Illinois State University President Larry Dietz.

Among the reasons Illinois State was selected for the gift is its participation in First Star, a program that nurtures and prepares children in the foster care system for college. In 2017 Illinois State joined the First Star Academy national network, partnering with child welfare agencies and school districts to provide programs to prepare high school students for college while they are in foster care.

“Access to the Give Something Back scholarship provides a further incentive for our First Star graduates to achieve their goals of securing a college degree; knowing that they have the financial support to pursue an education without the additional monetary burden is paramount to fully concentrate on achieving academic success,” shared Deneca Avant, associate professor in the School of Social Work and Illinois State’s First Star Academy program director.

“First Star Academy is truly grateful for the Give Something Back scholarship, which will assist us in accomplishing our mission to better serve and support students from this unique underrepresented population who are less likely to have access to family supports.”

Since 2003 over 1,500 students across the country have received scholarship assistance from Give Something Back. Illinois State University is the 22nd school to receive funding from Give Something Back, and it is also the alma mater of Robert Carr’s daughter, Corrie Nichols ’92.

“I loved my time at Illinois State,” said Nichols, a physical education graduate. “When my dad started the foundation and the scholarship program, I remember telling him that if he partnered with ISU, I wanted to be present when the partnership was secured. It was an honor to present the check to ISU, knowing others will receive a great education from my alma mater.”

The Give Something Back gift is part of the University’s $150 million comprehensive campaign, Redbirds Rising: The Campaign for Illinois State. The most ambitious campaign in the University’s 160-year history, Redbirds Rising aims to support scholarship, leadership, and innovation. More than 40,000 donors have already contributed over $103 million in outright gifts and commitments since the beginning of the campaign.

Those interested in supporting the campaign can visit RedbirdsRising.IllinoisState.edu for additional information.