Region News

EXCHANGE: Donations help Lanphier grad focus on education

In this Feb. 2, 2017 photo, Dominique La Salvia plays with the company dog, Benny at Brahler Tire and Auto Center during a fund- raiser for for her in Springfield, Ill. Ten months ago, La Salvia's story of being a senior at Lanphier High School who was living on her own and happened rank No. 1 in her class academically, became known during an interview with radio host Sam Madonia, and the fund-raiser was organized on her behalf. If not for the generosity of people who contributed, La Salvia says she isn't sure how she could have survived her first semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (Rich Saal/The State Journal-Register via AP)
The Associated Press
By JASON NEVEL
Posted: Jan. 14, 2018 7:00 am

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) If not for the generosity of people in Springfield, Dominique La Salvia says she isn't sure how she could have survived her first semester at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

She wouldn't have her own laptop, spending money to run to the store, new bedding, a microwave in her dorm, a cellphone that works or a car because she couldn't have afforded insurance.

But, thankfully, she doesn't have those worries, she said. She can simply focus on her education.

"I am more thankful than I can describe," La Salvia said. "I'm just focusing on school and not worrying about the other things."

Ten months ago, the Lanphier High School graduate's life was transformed after she appeared as a guest on Sam Madonia's "AM Springfield" radio show to discuss a school event.

A few innocuous questions from Madonia revealed La Salvia worked 30 hours per week at Burger King to pay rent and utilities for her own apartment, while still maintaining the highest grade-point average at Lanphier, which later earned her valedictorian honors.

After hearing the interview, Michael O'Brien, a financial representative at Country Financial, and Becky Hendricks with The Real Estate Group, contacted the radio show about setting up a fundraiser to help La Salvia pay for college.

A few weeks later, the radio station held a fundraiser on the air, and the next day La Salvia's story appeared in The State Journal-Register.

According to O'Brien, $23,000 was collected from the fundraiser an amount that far exceeded anyone's expectations.

"There was an amazing outpouring," O'Brien said.

Looking back, La Salvia said, she was blown away by people's generosity.

Scholarships covered her tuition, but the fundraiser gave her the luxury to focus on schoolwork. Through the first semester, she said, she's earning mostly As and enjoying her college experience.

But perhaps even more than the money, she added, the best part of the past 10 months has been the relationship she's developed with O'Brien and Hendricks.

Over the summer, O'Brien took her to Country Financial's headquarters, where she got to job shadow actuaries, the field she plans to major in at the U of I. His house also was where she spent time on Christmas Eve.

"It's like I have multiple families now," La Salvia said. "This has just been amazing."

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Source: The (Springfield) State Journal-Register, http://bit.ly/2lQEoYB

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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