Jose Torres is so committed to higher education, he's putting his money where his mouth is.
The Elgin Area School District U-46 Superintendent is offering to match, out of his own pocket, individual donations from the community up to a total of $10,000 for a scholarship fund he created last year.
Last year, Torres contributed to the fund but did not offer a match to other donors.
He plans to give up to $50,000 while he is superintendent.
"It is my hope that this program will continue to grow for years to come so that our district can celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of students who are the first in their families to pursue higher education," Torres said in a news release from the district announcing the scholarship.
Torres was the first in his family to attend college, ultimately earning a doctorate from the University of Maryland.
A beneficiary of last year's scholarship program is Elgin High School graduate Erica Vivaldo, who enrolled in Elgin Community College this fall.
She is a first-generation college student and the second in her immediate family, following in her older sister's footsteps.
Between the $1,000 scholarship and student aid, she hasn't placed a financial burden on her mom.
"That, to me, was something I was worried about," Vivaldo said. "Fortunately, with scholarships and with (federal student aid), I'm able to go to college."
This year, at least 20 more students could get the same opportunity if donors match the $10,000 Torres has pledged.
Vivaldo plans to finish at ECC and then transfer to a school where she can get her bachelor's degree and then a master's in social work.
She said the scholarship gave her more than financial help.
"It gave me motivation," Vivaldo said. "To know that somebody actually wanted to help me -- it gave my family and me motivation."
The scholarship is open to seniors in all of the U-46 high schools planning to attend a trade school, community college or four-year institution.
Preference is given to teen parents, former dropouts, lifelong U-46 students and members of the Ten Boys Initiative, the superintendent's student advisory council, the future teacher's club and AVID, a college readiness program.
Students pursuing degrees in science, technology, math and education will also get a boost in the selection process.
The application is due March 7 and includes an essay pitch to Torres about why the student is the best candidate for the scholarship.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.