A new Quad Cities scholarship fund hopes to mitigate some of the economic challenges faced by new Americans seeking higher education.
The fund, to be titled “Quad Cities Scholarship for Immigrants and Refugees,” will be managed by the Community Foundation in partnership with World Relief Quad Cities. It was inspired by Julie Eisenband and Chris Strunk’s experiences in working with talented refugee and immigrant students.
Bridging the Gap
Eisenband teaches at United Township High School in East Moline, one of the most diverse high schools in Illinois. It’s also home to the children of many World Relief clients.
But despite Rock Island and Scott County’s significant immigrant and refugee populations, new Americans are often a small percentage of area universities’ student bodies. Augustana College, where Strunk teaches, sees just a handful of refugee and immigrant students each year.
Refugees in the U.S. face financial barriers like understanding hiring processes, language barriers, needing new certifications and credentials, and discrimination.
Both educators hope the fund will be an opportunity for refugee and immigrant students to bridge the gap between high school and college.
“I have taught so many first and second generation immigrant students who are brilliant, brave people, but who face massive barriers to going to college,” said Eisenband, “Our hope is that this scholarship will provide one less thing these students have to worry about.”
World Relief Quad Cities will play a key role in encouraging new Americans to take advantage of the new scholarship opportunity.
“It made sense to partner with World Relief because it plays such a vital role providing services and advocating for immigrant and refugee families in our community,” said Strunk.
Refugee and immigrant students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the scholarship. Staff and other students alike are rewarded by a more diverse learning experience.
“I know how other students and professors benefit from having first and second generation immigrant students in our classes, just as we benefit from our location in a city like Rock Island that has welcomed so many newcomers in recent decades,” Strunk continued.
Overall, the scholarship fund’s goal is to help immigrant and refugee students successfully navigate their college experience and equip them with the skills to continue strengthening the community after receiving their degree.
All first or second generation refugee and students in Rock Island or Scott County will be eligible to apply for up to $4,000 of education expense coverage, which can be renewed for up to 6 years. And while Strunk hopes some recipients choose to attend Augustana, the scholarship can be used at any 2- or 4-year college.
First applications for the scholarship will be accepted in November 2021.
Written by Erica Parrigin