Keystone Supports HFS Chicago Scholars

Keystone Supports HFS Chicago Scholars

Keystone is proud to support HFS Chicago Scholars

In trying times like these, if you’re looking for a way to help others, or find a cause to rally behind, look no further!

As their website states, HFS Chicago Scholars, founded in 1993, helps economically disadvantaged Chicago high school students flourish in and out of the classroom by providing educational enrichment through lifelong mentoring, college readiness and academic excellence programs, as well as providing financial assistance to attend top Chicago-area schools.

Over 90% of HFS Scholars make the honor roll at Chicago’s top high schools and 100% of their graduates have gained acceptance to accredited universities with substantial financial aid support.

Keystone was proud to be a Bronze-Level Sponsor for HFS Chicago Scholars for their 14th Annual Leadership Breakfast event this year!

If you missed their biggest annual fundraising event, it was a fantastic, truly inspiring virtual gathering that took place on Thursday, September 17th via YouTube this year due to COVID-19.

Please click here to watch the video.


The 14th Annual Leadership Breakfast

Tanja Babich, anchor for ABC 7 News, and Board member of HFS, kicked off the event.

She proudly told a story about being an immigrant’s daughter and being the first to go to college in her family.

As she stated, “Let’s be the ones who open doors for those who are full of potential, so they too can fill the chairs, new anchors, and otherwise, that we fill today.”

She then passed it over to Ms. Desirèe Pepper-Venzant.


Desirèe Pepper-Venzant – HFS Scholars Executive Director

Whether a term of endearment, or a way to show respect, or both, it seemed everyone who knows her refers to her as “Ms. Desirèe”.

Just like Tanja, Desirèe was the first in her family to go to college.

As she stated, “These are the students who will run and take over this world when our time is done. It is our responsibility to make sure we are giving them the tools they need to do that.”

She went on to describe how at HFS, they’re providing Academic Excellence, College Readiness & Lifelong Mentoring. “These things are so important to make sure our students are on track”, she said.

Desirèe mentioned how HFS has students representing at least 51 different zip codes in Chicago.  They are travelling near and far to participate in the program, and none of that would be possible without the support that they’ve received.

She concluded, “Our world is changing and there a lot of things that are happening that are not necessarily so great.  But our students will make it great. Education is the key.  And it is because of you that 100% of our students have gained admission into college.  And the college persistence rate is 92%.”

It’s worth noting that 88% of HFS students are the first to go to college in their family.

Next up was Raymond Whearley II.


Alumnus Keystone Speaker – Raymond Whearley II, Walsh Construction Company

Ray is a proud HFS alumnus, who graduated in the class of 2007 from St. Ignatius Prep Academy.  He then went to Michigan State University where he received his Bachelors degree in Construction Engineering Management.

After that, he went on to obtain his Masters from the University of Alabama – Birmingham, also in Construction Engineering Management.

Ray now works for Walsh Construction Company. He was recently involved in some wonderful projects, including:

  • the new Hotel Zachary across the street from Wrigley Field
  • the Old Cook County Hospital that was renovated into a Hyatt Hotel

As we learned with Tanja and Desirèe, Ray was also the first member of his family to graduate from college.

“HFS truly cares about the students”, he said.

“If I can do it, you can do it”, he continued.

Ray then went on to echo the important ways that HFS helps their students, including:

  • Financial Assistance
  • College Readiness
  • Academic Support
  • Lifelong Mentoring

He concluded, “HFS provided me with a pathway to success”.

After three recent HFS graduates told their stories, we were then introduced to former Chicago Bear Chris Zorich.


Chris Zorich, Notre Dame Alum, Former Chicago Bear ’91-‘97

Chris stated, “When you support this organization, you supports 100’s of talented students as they pursue their dreams.  You create opportunities for them, open doors to meet new people & experiences that will shape their future.  I know first hand because I benefited from having mentors in my life”

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime to support a young person on their education journey – but more importantly finding a way to be that mentor, finding a way to make a true difference in their life. GO BEARS!

After Chris spoke, a student introduced the partnership that ComEd has developed with organization, and introduced their CEO, Joe Dominguez.


Honoree and Keynote Speaker – Joe Dominguez, CEO, ComEd

Joe said that “scholars – there’s no straight line to success, know that you’re going to face challenges along the way, but also know that there are going to people to support you and inspire you along the way.”

Finally, Mike Kennelly brought things home.


Mike Kennelly – HFS Founder & Chairman

Mike said that, “by giving a little bit, we can accomplish so much, in our lives and in the lives of other people, and in our great city.”

He noted that HFS is still working in the most under served communities in Chicago, but because of the support they’ve received, we can stand up for those that have no voice.

His final statement gave us all a call to action:

“The time is now for all of us to stand up and make a difference.”


More Information

To get inspired, watch the event here:

For more information on how to donate or get involved, visit the HFS Chicago Scholars website at

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Seth is the Marketing Manager for Keystone Business Services.  He is responsible for developing and maintaining the annual marketing calendar and budget, as well as executing and analyzing marketing campaigns for Keystone.  Seth has over 10 years of Marketing experience, having spent a year as Assistant Marketing Manager for Officite, as well as the prior 5 years as Marketing Coordinator for Tauer & Johnson.  He has over 10 years of experience with a variety of different ERP and CRM platforms, including NetSuite, Salesforce, Goldmine, ACT, and Pivotal.  Seth recently received his MBA from Louisiana State University-Shreveport and holds a BS in Speech Communication with a specialization in Public Relations from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.