Families, Others Thankful for Empower Illinois Aid
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
September 6, 2018
ROCKFORD—Aug. 30 seemed like Thanksgiving Day for the benefactors and beneficiaries of Empower Illinois Scholarships.
Families, principals, faith leaders and legislators including Rockford area state Senators Steve Stadelman and Dave Syverson and Rep. Joe Sosnowski, and Bishop David Malloy gathered to celebrate the first success of the Invest in Kids Act and to hear stories from grateful families and students. 
They also took part in receiving a ceremonial check for $438,063 representing the  scholarship money given out in the Northern Illinois Region. 
The scholarships are from the approximately $5 million dollars raised in this region and supplied funding for about 75 students. 
Elizabeth Heitkamp, assistant superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Rockford, joined other private school officials in thanking the legislators and donors for making the Invest in Kids Act possible. 
After the Invest in Kids Act  passed, Heitkamp worked fast to get the word out to donors and families throughout the diocese. She said 62 Catholic school students in the diocese received scholarships. 
One is Boylan Central Catholic High School freshman Mariana Argumedo. Her father, Javier, just having got off work in his blue uniform shirt, attended the event.
“I want to thank God first and everyone from Empower,” he said. “I am just very happy. My daughter went to St. James and she said, ‘I want to go to Boylan.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, what am I going to do?’ ” 
Argumedo explained he heard about the scholarship, applied on his phone and was one of the lucky ones to get the application in before the Empower Illinois site crashed in the initial days of applications. 
Later Argumedo received a call that his daughter was awarded the scholarship. 
“I felt like I won the lottery,” he said, as the room erupted in laughter and applause.
Sen. Syverson said hearing the stories from families like the Argumedos tells us “something about the need for choices and the quality of our private schools here in Illinois.” 
He added that every child in private school saves the state money and he “appreciated hearing stories of the impact of the program.”
According to Scott Dabson, regional director of Empower Illinois, the largest scholarship granting organization for the state’s $40 million program, the event at Alpine Academy in Rockford recognized “the work being done locally by our legislators allowing the Invest in Kids Act to work.”
This Invest in Kids Act is a five-year pilot program that allows income tax credits for Illinois taxpayers who make authorized contributions to a Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO). The SGOs, in turn, provide scholarships for eligible Illinois students to attend qualified, non-public schools in Illinois.
Info: Invest in Kids Act,  empowerillinois.org