HEAR Scholarship Foundation Inc

Glenview, IL   |



Ruling year info


Executive Director

Vera Pollina

Main address

P.O. Box 260

Glenview, IL 60025 USA

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NTEE code info

Public Foundations (T30)

Scholarships, Student Financial Aid, Awards (B82)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The HEAR Scholarship Foundation serves low-income high school seniors from schools within the Chicagoland area who wish to pursue a college education but do not have the financial means to pay for it or the crucial support framework necessary to complete it. The cost of a secondary education isn’t the only barrier that many students are faced with when embarking on a college journey. Many low-income students, especially from the Chicagoland area, are first-generation college-goers who have no one within their social network who can provide advice, support and guidance on their journey. Even before the current crisis, the average college graduation rate for students from low-income backgrounds was approximately 16%. The resulting outcome is a lack of diverse, talented individuals in the employment sector, a bigger wealth gap, and rising inequality. HEAR's college access program provides much needed guidance and support to ensure perseverance and ultimately graduation from college.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Scholarship Program

The HEAR Foundation has been awarding college scholarships since 2010. HEAR Scholarships are given to exemplary high school seniors in financial need, providing access to further education for some of the Chicagoland areas’ most vulnerable young adults. 

Each scholar receives an award of $20,000 over a four-year period. This award is paid directly to the scholar’s college each semester to help cover fees. Our scholarship is renewable and each scholar must maintain strong scores throughout their college careers.

We use a structured approach to identify every incoming class of HEAR Scholar. Our selection criteria are strict - a minimum GPA of 3.0, possess excellent character, impeccable work ethic, a demonstrated commitment to service, and a proven financial need.

Our online application system receives 100's of applications each year (students must submit essays, high-school transcripts and teachers recommendations). A carefully selected review panel evaluates those applications that meet our selection criteria and decide on those to invite to interview. After a brief interview in front of the panel, the final (difficult) decision is selecting those successful applicants to become the next class of HEAR Scholar. These students are celebrated at our official Annual Awards Ceremony, held in May.

We maintain strong relationships with many college counselors and local organizations throughout the Chicagoland area including Chicago Scholars, Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, Boys Hope Girls Hope and Evanston Scholars. This is where we currently receive many of our applications.

In conjunction with our scholarship program, we continue to develop both our mentoring program (to ensure the success of our scholars), and our internship programs with prominent Chicagoland companies.

To date HEAR Scholars hold a 98% college graduation rate, and all have gone on (and in some cases completed) a higher level of education or are in full-time employment.

Population(s) Served
Economically disadvantaged people

Where we work


National Scholarship Provider of the Year 2021

National Scholarship Providers Association

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of students enrolled

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Scholarship Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

Please note the year relates to the year of college graduation. Numbers are increasing again after dropping due to funding constraints as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

HEAR is committed to increasing the number of minority students from low-income communities within the Chicagoland area who pursue and ultimately complete a college education. HEAR believes that a college education should be available to all who seek it, regardless of their diversity and financial situation. This ensures a diverse workforce of talented individuals and reduced inequality. One of HEAR’s main goals is to help channel some of Chicago’s potential in the form of young diverse students back into the local workforce.

By finding gifted students from a low socioeconomic background and providing financial, mentoring and program support to assist them in their college career, HEAR offers a solution to diversity-related workplace challenges and fosters financial stability, which in turn increases the quality of life for the individual concerned.

HEAR recognizes in particular the psychological pressure that its students face and strives to provide support in this area. Many low-income and first-generation students report feelings of "imposter syndrome" at college. In order to overcome this, and indeed to ensure these students feel that they deserve to be in college, a different form of attention and support is needed. HEAR provides this through its one-on-one mentoring program and with regular check-ins from HEAR staff.

Many students are reluctant to or don't know how to seek help when they face academic and financial struggles at college. Many first-generation students cannot easily get advice on what courses to take, how to find a job and balance responsibilities as their parents are unable to offer help in these areas. Through its workshops and overall family approach to support, HEAR works to help students overcome these issues. The freshman workshop in particular has proven to be very beneficial. It provides a "College 101" session, explaining where to look for resources at college and providing advice on time management, budgeting and how to feel at home on campus.

A college degree is increasingly necessary to find meaningful employment, build a successful career and live above the poverty line. Approximately 42% of jobs today require a college degree, and degree holders will out-earn non-degree workers by up to $20,000 a year. The trend across the Chicagoland area is the reverse. In 2016, the Urban Education Institute at UIC released research stating that less than 18% of Chicago Public School students will earn a degree within 10 years of starting high school By providing access to higher education and supporting students while in college, HEAR is determined to improve these statistics. This in turn will lead to a more educated, diverse workforce within the Chicagoland area and address issues of equity and inclusion throughout the region.

HEAR believes the differentiating factor that sets it aside from other scholarship providers, and the main reason for the graduation rate to-date, is the college access program offered to every incoming student in its program. HEAR's strategy for ensuring students persevere, thrive and ultimately succeed in college is to provide a support framework. This is in addition to the financial assistance offered in the form of a $20,000 scholarship, which is paid directly to the college in increments of $2,500 per semester over the course of 4 years. The framework comprises three parts; a mentoring program, workshop provision and internship assistance.

HEAR is committed to increasing the number of minority students from low-income communities within Chicagoland who complete a college education. In this, HEAR seeks partnerships with organizations, individual donors and grant givers whose focus is on supporting a diverse workforce of qualified, trained talent with a growth mindset. By finding gifted students from a low socioeconomic background and providing financial and mentoring support to assist them in their college career, HEAR offers a solution to diversity-related workplace challenges and in turn hopes to reduce the number of students in need of assistance to complete a college education in the future.

HEAR's college access program is available to all low-income students in all public and private schools in the Chicago Metropolitan area. Over the last 9 years, HEAR has developed lasting relationships with college counselors at numerous different schools in the Chicago area. These counselors recommend HEAR's College Access Program to those students who they know will meet the selection criteria. In addition to working directly with individual high schools, HEAR partners with various support organizations, including Daniel Murphy Scholarship Fund, Chicago Scholars, Evanston Scholars and Boys Hope Girls Hope.

HEAR also partners directly with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) through their scholarship provider database. This is an online tool available to all CPS students. This database promotes higher education scholarship opportunities. HEAR also uses its social media presence to promote its college access program. Finally, HEAR often receives applications from siblings or friends of students already enrolled in the program.
As a result of these growing relationships, social media presence and word of mouth, the foundation receives approximately 600 applications annually from over 120 different high schools. The number of high schools from where HEAR received applications increased by 20% over the past 12 months.

In order to support the students in its program, HEAR must ensure continued funding for its endeavors. Partnerships with organizations are crucial to ensure the future of HEAR's college access program. Financial support, along with the provision of internship opportunities will help HEAR be successful in achieving its mission.

HEAR has a committed and structured mentoring program, providing direct, one-to-one personal support for each scholar. Empirical evidence shows that the right mentor at a critical moment is the difference maker between college attrition and college completion. A positive role model is the most essential aid HEAR can provide, especially for first- generation college students who make up 70% of the total scholar population. Mentors provide counsel, guidance and support to scholars throughout their college careers. They help scholars stay on track by listening, encouraging and motivating them to succeed. Graduates from our program have now become mentors to incoming classes of scholars. Who better to guide a student through their college journey than someone who has walked in the same shoes?

Workshops are another important aspect of HEAR’s unique support framework. Twice a year or more, interactive presentations from friends of the Foundation and members of the professional community focus on strengthening scholars’ career readiness. One of the most impactful workshops that HEAR offers is “College 101” which is focused on our freshman classes. The workshop covers college preparedness and provides detailed overviews of what resources are available at colleges for new students, how to register for classes, communicate with tutors and teaching assistants, the importance of joining clubs, meeting peers, what to do if a student is struggling or stressed, and much more. Other workshops focus on upperclassmen and include maintaining an appropriate online presence, resume writing and interview techniques.

The final part of HEAR’s support framework is the development of an internship assistance program. This new initiative resulted from feedback from students in the HEAR Program. The majority of HEAR Scholars have few, if any, connections to organizations or individual professionals with whom to network. Many graduate from college without significant relevant work experience. This has been a stumbling block for some in the search for permanent employment post-graduation. HEAR has begun building this program using its wider network of supporters to connect students with internship and employment opportunities. It will continue to develop relationships with organizations in the Chicagoland
community to source new engagements.

Expanding relationships with organizations and individuals ensures that HEAR's capabilities to support its scholars can continue. HEAR relies on volunteers for its mentoring program and often invites friends of the foundation to help run its workshops. Increased organizational outreach will ensure further opportunities for students to gain invaluable insights into different career opportunities and will also hopefully provide future funding opportunities.

The impact that HEAR's program is having is clear from its 96% four-year graduation rate. Since 2011, over 180 students have successfully been enrolled into HEAR's College Success Program.

Results of the program include:
- enrolled over 200 students into HEAR's College Success Program;
- successfully graduated 100 scholars from its program;
- achieved a 98% college completion rate;
- enrolled students from over 76 high schools within the Chicagoland area to enroll at over 80 different universities in the US and beyond;
- helped scholars find internships and employment or enter graduate school;
- continued to support scholars through academic and personal challenges, ensuring that first-generation and low-income students within the program are resilient enough to finish their studies even during times of stress;
- achieved a current cumulative GPA of 3.54;
- achieved a 100% post-degree employment or graduate placement rate;
- provided skills workshops that give students the knowledge to continue to succeed post-graduation (interview skills, resume writing, how to maintain an appropriate online presence etc.);
- fundraised and committed over $4,000,000 to the program.

The need for programs that support a college education are abundantly clear. HEAR's charge for the coming years is to continue to raise funds to ensure that incoming classes have the support they need to not only access but complete a college education. The Board recently resolved that it would only enroll the number of students it can fully support from funds held at any given time. HEAR is expecting significant financial
repercussions from the current economic situation. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting impact on market and employment still severely affects not only the population the Foundation serves, but also the charitable giving that enables HEAR to compensate for this.

For the past three years, the HEAR Board of Directors and staff worked toward a goal of 30 new program recipients annually. HEAR recognizes that increasing the number of recipients on an annual basis while still maintaining the family feel and support framework that sets it apart from so many other college programs requires additional investment in its programs and resources. The current level of staffing will need to be increased and resources, particularly those focusing on the 55% of STEM students in the program, need to be identified before increasing the number of students admitted to its program each year.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We aim to collect feedback from as many people we serve as possible, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time


HEAR Scholarship Foundation Inc

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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HEAR Scholarship Foundation Inc

Board of directors
as of 08/23/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Joseph Lamberti

No Affiliation

Term: 2023 - 2021

James Weiss

No Affiliation

James Ziemba

No Affiliation

Chris Eigel

No Affiliation

Karoline Eigel

No Affiliation

Stephen Hall

No Affiliation

George Silca

No Affiliation

Michael Spaniak

No Affiliation

Greg Cadichon

No Affiliation

Mary Kate Hatfield

No Affiliation

Rula Marziani

No Affiliation

Teresa Devereux

No Affiliation

Joseph Lamberti

No Affiliation

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 2/9/2023

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation

No data


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 10/06/2022

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.