The nonprofit group previously known as 209 Together has changed its name to 209 Scholarship to more clearly reflect its mission and avoid confusion with the more politically-focused group, Proviso Together.

A community-led scholarship fund benefitting students in Proviso Township High Schools District 209 is looking to raise an additional $3,000 before the end of the year and is partnering with a Forest Park insurance agent to try to do it.

The nonprofit group, 209 Scholarship, announced it is working with Mark Hanson, who owns and operates a State Farm Insurance agency in Forest Park. Anyone who requests a quote from Hanson and mentions 209 Scholarship will trigger a $10 donation to the fund as part of State Farm’s Quotes for Good program. There is no commitment required beyond the initial quote.

April Baker of 209 Scholarship said the $3,000 fundraising target, if reached, would allow the group to offer three additional first-time scholarships on behalf of the growing organization that recently added two new members to its nonprofit board.

In six years since its founding in 2015, 209 Scholarship has awarded more than $70,000 to alums of the Proviso high schools to help students attend more than 20 colleges, universities and trade schools across the country, Baker said. Those amounts include 51 first-time scholarships ($1,000 each) and 43 renewal scholarships ($500 each).

Baker and Ken Snyder, both Forest Park residents, have grown the nonprofit with the aim of highlighting Proviso’s scholars similar, Snyder said, to the way residents in other districts support their students.

“People understood that in Proviso, there wasn’t the kind of community support for getting our kids to college that there is in surrounding communities,” Snyder, one of the group’s founders, said. “While there are other scholarship programs in Proviso, it was just clear that there could be more, that the community had to step up and provide more support to our kids.”

The nonprofit grew from “basically nothing,” Snyder said, to raise $6,000 for six scholarships in 2015. Each year, the scholarship recipients represent all three of the district’s high schools, and winners are chosen by a selection committee that conducts blind reviews of about 10 applicants per school, per year.

In 2021, 209 Scholarship awarded four new scholarships per school (a total of $12,000) for the first time, and both Baker and Snyder said their goal is to continue to award more scholarships and more money as the donor-funded nonprofit continues to grow.

“The community response has always been good and the more scholars they see, and the more graduates they see, the better their response gets,” Snyder said. “It’s pretty remarkable that there are 30 scholarships [new and renewal] that got awarded last year entirely from community donations. … The fact that it keeps growing every year is a pretty remarkable testament to how much people in this community want their kids to succeed.”

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