Supporting Students When They Need It Most

By Joe Giovannetti
Xavier “Xavy” John (CE ’19)
Xavier “Xavy” John (CE ’19)

In 2017 the Student Gift Committee convened to decide how the members of the Class of 2017 would leave their mark at Illinois Institute of Technology. They also wondered if there was a way to make a difference right away.

Committee member Xavier “Xavy” John (CE ’19), a phonathon caller in the Office of Advancement, remembers the group, including Tristan Busch (EMGT ’17),

Briana Tyler (ME ’19), and Akena Latigo (CHEM ’18), gravitating toward two concepts.

First, they discovered that they all had stories about fellow students who were, in John’s words, “quietly dealing with financial instability.” In some cases, students just a few semesters shy of graduating were struggling to pay tuition because of some unforeseen hardship.

Second, they recognized that those students had little recourse to help them meet their financial needs because of those unforeseen hardships.

“You would receive your scholarship, but there was no way to get the money to students whose circumstances changed, who suddenly needed it because they were having a hard time or their family lost its breadwinner,” John explains.

Hawks 4 Hawks Hardship Fund

The committee created the Hawks 4 Hawks Hardship Fund as a different kind of fund which would make financial assistance available as quickly as possible when students need it most. What’s more, the application process and distributions from the fund are all private, so students would have no need to make public any information they did not wish to share.

Since the inception of Hawks 4 Hawks, alumni, current students, and friends have made thousands of dollars in gifts to help support their fellow Hawks through hard times. And since March 20, as a way to help students overcome challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fund broke records, receiving more than $67,000 in donations from alumni, current students, and friends.

John is delighted to hear the fund he helped create is being put to such good use.

“Honestly, it feels amazing to hear that,” he says. Personally, as an alumnus, I always wanted to leave a legacy. I may not be able to leave behind a bench or a statue, but I feel that I left a legacy of real, lasting value that can really help.”