2019 HEAR Summer Scholar Event

In July, we held our annual HEAR Summer Scholar Event. We are grateful to Chicago Scholars who very generously allowed us to use their offices for the occasion. It is always wonderful to see our new class of scholars connecting with each other in a less formal setting, where they get an opportunity to discuss their impending journeys. We are fortunate to have generous donors and supporters and it is particularly rewarding to see this event grow year-on-year as the number of scholars in each new class increases.

Given the success of last year’s format, we kept to a similar structure this year. HEAR’s Executive Director, Vera Pollina, spent time presenting techniques and giving advice on how to succeed at college. Pertinent information included getting to know tutors and teaching assistants, becoming acquainted with the different resources and support services available at college, registering for classes early and, most importantly, turning up for classes. Our incoming class of freshmen were vocal during the presentation and many made additional suggestions to ensure a successful college experience.

Mary Sue Smith, chair of our HEAR Enrichment Committee, joined us to explain her group’s role in solidifying the family feeling of being part of the HEAR Program. She gave each scholar their first HEAR Care Package to take to college. Contents included a mini first- aid kit, wipe-board and pen, USB stick, water bottle, post-it notes and snacks.

We were very grateful to be joined by representatives from Spencer Stuart, a Chicago-based executive search and recruitment organization, who gave an insightful presentation on completing applications for future internships and jobs. There was an energetic discussion about networking, resume writing and building an appropriate online presence. Their advice was very well received and we are grateful to them for donating their time to help support our scholars.

Towards the end of the day, we were fortunate to be joined by some of our existing and graduated scholars. Over pizza and cookies, they gave advice and shared experiences from their own journeys. Talking to peers who have an understanding of how our new scholars feel hopefully dispelled some of their concerns.

Thank you to everyone who made our event such a success. We look forward to watching their progress over the next four years!

Upcoming Events


HEAR Scholar Winter Event

Date/Time: Saturday, January 4th 2020.
Location: tbc.

Save the date for our annual winter HEAR Scholars event. This is a great opportunity to meet up with your current classmates and discuss how the successes and challenges of your college journey so far. 


The HEAR Annual Awards Ceremony Was A Celebratory Affair!

We had a wonderful time at our recent Annual Awards Ceremony. As our family of HEAR Scholars grows, so does the number of people who attend this wonderful celebration to recognize the academic high school success of our new class of HEAR Scholars. This year, we welcomed 30 new students into our HEAR Family and applauded the scholars who made up our graduating HEAR Class of 2019.

We were honored to be joined by Shermin Kruse as our Keynote Speaker. A novelist, partner, and COO of Kruse Asset Management and partner at law firm Barrack Ferrazzano, Shermin was named as one of Chicago’s “Women of Inspiration” by Today’s Chicago Magazine, and one of the nation’s top 100 “Women to Watch” by Biz Women Magazine, Shermin is committed to improving local communities within the Chicagoland area.

After immigrating to the US, Shermin attained an educational pedigree, including an honors BSc. degree from the University of Toronto, a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, a mediation certificate from the Northwestern School of Professional Studies and an Emerging Leader fellowship at the Chicago Counsel on Global Affairs.

Shermin likened walking through life as a lot like playing the world’s most popular video game, where competition is fierce and sometimes you get betrayed. She set out the top five rules of life as taught by Fortnite:

  1. Just like in life, you will lose. A lot;
  2. Don’t play like a coward;
  3. Don’t forget what makes Fortnite special – building;
  4. Never, ever forget to dance!
  5. Learn to emote. Put your heart out there.

Her final words to our HEAR Scholars and their families were to have the strength to own the action. Dream every day, but build that dream from the ground up. Put in the work to crafting your base, which begins, first and foremost with your education. Don’t forget to dance along the way. And above all, have the courage to hold out your heart, and trust that the right people will not betray you.

We are very grateful to Shermin for taking the time out of her busy schedule to attend our event and also to St. Ignatius for allowing us to host our awards ceremony in their beautiful Foglia Library.

For more information on Shermin visit:

Phoographs from left to right: HEAR President, Chris Eigel welcomes our guests; Shermin Kruse, our Keynote Speaker engages our audience by comparing life to a game of Fortnite; HEAR Executive Director, Vera Pollina, talks to our new HEAR Class of 2023; our guests are absorbed by our speakers.

Scholars Had Fun At The 2018 Winter Event

In late December, the HEAR Family of Scholars came together for our annual Winter Social at Pompei Pizza in Little Italy. We love this event for many reasons, not the least of which is that we get to reflect upon a full year with our scholars. Our Freshmen in particular have had life-changing experiences, and we were thrilled to have an opportunity to share a meal, listen, and learn.

Along with several of our staff and directors, this year HEAR also welcomed two special guests: Dr. Terri Thorkildsen from the College of Education at the University at Illinois at Chicago, and Jerrold Rumps, Outplacement Specialist and Career Transition Strategist with Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Professor Thorkildsen met with the Freshmen for a very lively Q&A on their first college year. Our Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors were able to gain invaluable insights from Mr. Rumps about what is now uppermost on many of their minds: resume building and job searches, the right internship, a good interview strategy, and how to combat the jitters. Our scholars asked great questions and made excellent use of this unique opportunity. A big thank you again to Jerome and Terri for becoming part of the HEAR Family!

HEAR Directors joined the scholars for pizza and dessert and some necessary shop talk. They were able to find out directly from the scholars what their needs and concerns are, and in what ways we can help – be that with guidance and advice, contacts for internships, or specific expertise in a field of interest.

Events like these allow our scholars to build the networks that they need to be successful. If you want to be part of it, please do not hesitate to contact us!

– becoming a mentor and working directly with a scholar;
– supporting a scholar with access to internships, job shadowing, or even job openings;
– joining us as a guest speaker at one of our scholar events and workshops;
– sharing opportunities and expertise from your industry with us.

Simply send an email to;
visit our website at;
or give us a call at 847.834.9124 to find out how.


Join HEAR and be the change!

Our 2018 Holiday Fundraiser Was A Great Success!

The annual HEAR Fundraiser was the highlight of our year! On Saturday, December 8th, over 200 guests helped us celebrate our most successful year to date as a Foundation helping financially disadvantaged, exemplary high school seniors fulfill their dream of a higher education.

A fantastic silent auction, sold out scholarship square board, great food and wonderful band ensured the event was a resounding success and a great way to help our scholarship funding for 2019. A full photo album will be available soon, but we wanted to share a few shots with you now!

A HUGE thank you to everyone involved in ensuring our party was one of the best in the Chicagoland area!

Annual HEAR Summer Scholar Event

Sunday, July 8th 1018 was our annual HEAR Summer Scholar Event and we were fortunate to be able to hold it at the Chicago Academy for the Arts who very kindly let us use their space. The main focus this year was on our newest, and largest, class of HEAR Scholars. In the fall, 27 new scholars will be heading off to college and, given that many of them are first-generation college goers with no one to turn to for help and advice, we wanted to ensure that they are as prepared as possible.

Vera Pollina (HEAR’s Executive Director) gave an informative presentation with many pieces of advice on how best to get a head-start at college and to set goals to work toward. Tips included getting to know your teaching assistant, always attending class, creating and sticking to a budget, finding & using school resources (fitness centers, health clinics, dining halls, writing centers, tech support centers, counseling centers), learning how to schedule, early class registration, practicing professionalism and much more.

We were very grateful to have HEAR Volunteers participate; Mary Sue Smith, chair of our HEAR Enrichment Committee, gave each scholar their first HEAR Care Package, explaining what was in the box and what it signified. She also shared a few thoughts about keeping healthy. Lynn McCreery, an expert in the field of training and facilitation, conducted a very popular change and leadership workshop that was not only very informative, but also interactive and fun! Finally, a number of current and graduated HEAR Scholars attended, sharing their experiences and providing another opportunity for our new class to ask questions before they embark on their college journey.

Feedback from the day was incredibly positive and, as our family grows, we feel that these kinds of seminars will really help our scholars prepare more for their college experience. We are very grateful to all our volunteers who gave up their Sunday afternoon to help with the event.

Our Annual Awards Ceremony Was Inspiring!

On May 8th, The HEAR Foundation was delighted to announce our new HEAR Class of 2022 at our annual awards ceremony at St. Ignatius College Prep. in Chicago. Thank you to John Chandler, Vice President at St. Ignatius, for allowing us once again to use the beautiful Foglia library (and courtyard) for our celebration.

We were delighted to welcome Dr. Toinette McClellan Gunn, Vice President of Programs at Chicago Scholars, as our keynote speaker. Her speech resonated with all of our scholars, and many others in our audience, as she described the challenges she faced in pursuit of her own academic career.

This year, thanks to the continued generosity of our donors and supporters, we were able to offer 25 scholarships – our biggest class yet. We look forward to watching these exemplary Chicagoland students succeed in their own college journeys, and we will be there to help them every step of the way.

We also celebrated the perseverance and determination of our HEAR Class of 2018 as they prepare to graduate from their respective colleges and look towards their futures as college graduates.

The 11th Annual HEAR Fundraiser Was So Much Fun!

Thanks to everyone who came out to support us.

Our record breaking year ended on a high at our annual fundraiser in December. We were delighted that so many of our supporters were able to join us to celebrate the most successful year to date for the HEAR Foundation. Guests enjoyed fantastic music from our live band and danced the night away with their friends. The auction items were a hit, as was our First Annual Scholarship Squares competition – congratulations to Mike O’Leary who won a beautiful diamond bracelet.

Bob Wise, HEAR President, received an award for his years of service, and Kirk Kirkegaard received a Man Of The Year Award for his continued support of our Foundation. We are grateful to everyone who made 2017 such a successful year for the HEAR Foundation and we look forward to the next event!

Here are a few pictures from the event…….

Our 2017 Winter Scholars Social Brought Out Everyone’s Competitive Side!

Our Winter Social focused on team building: HEAR Scholars played games together and got a chance to talk to directors, mentors, and other supporters. 2017 was an eventful year for all of our scholars, but especially for the freshmen. This break is a great chance for all to decompress and set goals for 2018.

For the event we hosted Game Night at Pompei Taylor St restaurant in Chicago – because playing games together builds team spirit, fosters a sense of community, and gives our more competitive family members a chance to pit their strengths against each other.

Get all the updates on upcoming HEAR events