Future of Promise Honoree Shares Profound Connection with Erie House Participant
December 15, 2015 | Chicago, IL
Joanna Hernández (center) will present scholarship benefactor, Terry LeFevour (far right), with the Corporate Leader Award on March 3. ZUNO PHOTOGRAPHY
When Terrence P. LeFevour accepts the Corporate Leader award at the Erie Neighborhood House Future of Promise awards dinner on March 3, 2016, it will be presented by an aspiring young leader with first-hand knowledge of the defense attorney’s generous spirit.
Former Erie House participant Joanna Hernández, an undocumented college sophomore at Dominican University, was asked by LeFevour to perform the honor typically reserved for a professional colleague or friend in the business community.
LeFevour and Hernández first crossed paths at the 2014 awards dinner, when the then high school senior delivered a moving keynote address in front of an audience comprised of successful corporate leaders and businesspeople.
That night, Hernández spoke of ways the YOU program had provided her with a support network that kept her on track in school. She also shared how the Citizenship and Immigration office at Erie House helped her apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, established by the White House to ensure undocumented children and youth whose parents emigrated to the U.S. could obtain work authorization in addition to protection from deportation.
In spite of these significant milestones, Hernández nevertheless lived in the reality that she was ineligible for federal aid and that the tantalizing dream of attending college would remain out of reach.
“She was just so calm and collected, and she told a compelling story,” says LeFevour, praising the poise with which Hernandez chronicled her struggle to figure out what it meant to be a bright, gifted student who might not be able to achieve her potential due to her immigration status.
LeFevour, who had attended the event out of support for Monterrey Security president and dinner honoree Juan Gaytan, says he was so moved by Joanna’s testimony that he knew he had to respond in a tangible way.
“Juan and I said right there, ‘Let’s do something,’” he recalls. LeFevour and Gaytan determined to create a scholarship fund—a sum totaling $40,000—for Joanna to ensure the DACA participant was able to afford college. On a night marked by giving, it was a shining example of the impact one individual’s generosity can make on a member of the Erie House community.
“It was such a shock,” says Hernández as she remembers the moment the two gentlemen approached her and expressed their intentions of funding her college tuition. “Up to that point I had mentally told myself that college just wasn’t an option.” Hernández had made plans to attend a community college, but even that seemed like a formidable challenge. “Everything changed that evening. I remember looking at my mom and feeling so relieved—she was crying and felt so proud of me,” she says.
She credits the experiences she had at Erie House and now at Dominican as life-changing. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and the potential I have.”
“Organizations like Erie House are Chicago,” explains LeFevour. “Their work is what makes the city what it is. Erie House is helping people—both kids and adults with a lot of promise—by creating opportunities and giving them the skills they need to succeed.”
Having built a successful law practice over the past three decades, LeFevour sees great value in his philanthropy work. “I always tell people, ‘Get involved and do something that fits into your values,’” says LeFevour. “If you don’t have the money to give right now, then volunteer. There’s a lot of good work to be done in the city.”
That spirit of giving back has clearly been handed down in the LeFevour family—his daughter, Genevieve, is a volunteer youth mentor in the TEAM program at Erie House. “That was completely independent of me and my connection with Erie House,” says LeFevour, admittedly a proud father.
LeFevour will be honored alongside Community Leader award recipient Ed Wehmer, CEO of Wintrust. For more information on attending the Future of Promise awards dinner on March 3 or becoming an event sponsor, please visit www.eriehouse.org/futureofpromise or call (312) 432-2238.