Donor makes big difference in District 214 grad's life
Rolling Meadows High School graduate Rosalva Alcantar is pursuing a college degree in health sciences, an educational experience she attributes to hard work and a helping hand from the District 214 Education Foundation just when she needed it most.
Alcantar, who spoke recently at the fifth annual Foundation for the Future Golf Open and Reception, an annual event supporting student innovation and success beyond the scope of conventional public funding, says that even small gifts can be life-changing.
"It truly took an immense weight off my shoulders," she says of the foundation's financial support.
"I don't have enough words to say how thankful I am. Thanks to my donor, I didn't have to worry about school supplies and I could just focus on learning how to become a (certified nursing assistant).
"I'm here to tell you that every donation helps, and to not be discouraged by the amount you choose to help with," she adds.
Alcantar enrolled in High School District 214's Health Science Pathway during her freshman year of high school. She also applied for the Harper Promise Scholarship program, which offers students the opportunity to earn up to two years of free college tuition. In exchange, the student is required to maintain solid grades and a good attendance record, graduate on time and perform community service.
By her junior year, she was working at a part-time job while going to high school, taking two AP courses and three dual credit courses and performing community service. But, in addition to school and work pressures, she faced unexpected financial hurdles while taking her CNA training that year.
Alcantar comes from a working-class family of six. While her father puts in long hours at work, his company doesn't offer health insurance. She and her siblings were covered by Medicaid, but her parents were uninsured.
So when her mother needed to see a specialist for a potentially fatal condition, the family soon found itself with medical debt. A short while later, her father needed emergency medical attention, raising that debt even higher.
Also that year, Alcantar's father began earning just enough to disqualify his children for Medicaid. Despite reapplying, they ended up getting only partial coverage.
"It was a really stressful semester," she says. "All of the money that I was making at work was going straight to the medical bills for both my mother and father."
Then she found out what she would need for her CNA course -- items such as scrubs, waterproof shoes, a watch, a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and a gait belt.
"I (also) needed a long list of vaccines and tests in order to still be eligible to stay in the CNA class," she says. "None of it was covered from my medical card so it all ended up being paid out of pocket. I (spent) a little over $300 just on those."
As for the necessary equipment, Alcantar asked her teacher if she could borrow items from the school. Instead, her teacher referred her to her counselor.
"(The counselor) reached out to the Education Foundation, which fortunately chose to help me," she says. "This foundation truly helps everyone. The foundation reached out to sponsors. Someone decided to step in and help me."
Thanks to that donor, Alcantar completed the CNA course and passed the state exam to become a certified CNA. Today, she is working toward her associate's degree at Harper and plans to transfer to a four-year college her junior year.
"Unfortunately, unexpected things can happen in anyone's life," she says. "It happened to me. Thanks to the Education Foundation, I've managed to get back on my feet. If it wasn't for my donor, I wouldn't have been able to get as far as I did in my education journey. I'm forever grateful for my donor … for making such a huge impact in my life."