Your support enables our Redbirds to soar. This month, meet three students and one alum who are taking the world by storm.

Student Edward Blanco

Teaching special education is not just a future career for Edward Blanco, but also a lifelong passion. The Jepsen International Scholars Program Endowment has given him the chance to gain real-world experience by making it possible for him to study abroad in Taipei, Taiwan. As a senior special education major, Blanco is currently in his practicum semester and teaching at a local junior high school two days per week. This, he says, is one of the best parts of his college career: “Even though this is the busiest I have ever been, it’s the most rewarding experience I have ever had.”

Chauntay Parrish

Chauntay Parrish ’18 is paving her own way and her time at Illinois State University was just the beginning. Thanks to the Ed Wells Memorial Scholarship in Criminal Justice she received while at Illinois State, Parrish was able to put down a deposit towards a law degree at Northern Illinois University College of Law. Parrish plans to work for the community she was raised in by becoming a public defender in Cook County. “I aspire to help minorities and bring equality to the criminal justice system,” Parrish said.

Student Caroline Hopper

Meet Caroline Hopper, a senior special education major and recipient of the James and Edith Aagesen Ward Family Trust Memorial Scholarship Endowment. Hopper is pursuing the learning and behavior specialty within special education. Hopper has known since childhood that she is passionate about helping people with disabilities, so it was an obvious choice to major in special education at ISU.  With the assistance of the scholarship she received, Hopper has been able to further her education with less of a financial burden during and after graduation. Hopper says of receiving her scholarship, “It has touched me beyond belief and gives me the desire to donate to this amazing program one day so that college students like me can feel empowered while getting their education.”

Tyler Kennedy is a senior finance major and the recipient of the Phillip and Lee Ann (Baker) Clary Endowed Scholarship, which supports students pursuing a career in business who are married and/or have children. This scholarship has helped reduce Kennedy’s tuition cost and student debt, allowing him to enjoy his last year of schooling. Combining his love of sports and skill with numbers, Kennedy’s goal is to become a wealth advisor for professional athletes. With less financial stress, Kennedy can now focus on his studies, his future career, and his family, including his one-year-old daughter, Dakota.

Your contributions to Illinois State help students thrive now and in their future careers. To join over 46,000 Redbirds who have contributed to Redbirds Rising:  The Campaign for Illinois State, visit