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Local News

Lake County's Kerr Foundation continues to educate Latino students

LAKE COUNTY – The Roy G. Kerr Foundation, which launched in 1994 in memory of an Abbott Laboratories executive who died of cancer, is celebrating over 10 years of funding leadership education for top-performing Latino high school students, according to a news release.

The Foundation was established with the goal to provide funding and support to the Latino community in Lake County over a 25-year period. It will be closing its doors in 2019; however, its longstanding relationship between educators and donors will continue to flourish, the release stated.

In 2005, the Foundation began providing scholarship funds for Lake County students to partcipate in week-long summer programs through the National Hispanic Institute (NHI), which is based in Texas. Nearly one thousand students have received such scholarships to date.

Holly Kerr, Roy's wife, continues to manage the Foundation's operations, noting she was initially impressed with NHI because of its approach to leadership education. The legislative-based summer programs allow students to hold elections, write bills, and debate and vote.

"I was impressed, in particular, that the program had a number of returning students who helped run the program and serve as mentors," Holly Kerr said.

Jesse Villanueva, chair of the English Learners Program at Highland Park High School, grew up in Texas attending NHI programs. Villanueva said he was shy in high school but NHI helped him find his voice.

"It helped give me the self confidence to take chances," Villanueva said. "NHI also helped me meet other students who wanted to succeed, and who are interested in school and doing well in school, which was very important to me."

Cecilia Limon, a senior at Highland Park High School, said NHI has also helped her break free of her comfort zone.

"It [NHI] helps you do so much and teaches you things that you just don't get in school," Limon said.

Limon attended NHI programs each of the last two summers and will be traveling to the University of Tampa this summer for an NHI program that focuses on the college admission process.

"Lake County students have become an integral part of our programs based in the Midwest and that's got everything to do with the Kerr Foundation," said Nicole Sada, executive vice president for NHI. "The students that go through our programs develop into community leaders and the scholarships end up supporting the entire community, not just the students who receive them."

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