College Ventures ease access to education

Students raise funds to send Champaign Central high schoolers to UI


Vishesh Anand

Dylan Abrams (left), Blair Polinsky (center-left), Katie Underwood (center-right) and Jake Tennant, founders of College Ventures, discuss the organization’s future plans on Tuesday evening. College Ventures was initially started to make education more accessible for those with limited financial means in the Champaign-Urbana area, with the ultimate goal of funding Champaign Central High School students’ University tuition.

By Elizabeth Sayasane, Assistant Features Editor

Dylan Abrams, senior in ACES, came up with an idea to bridge the educational gap between the wealthy and disenfranchised poor during his daily meditation. Through his gratitude training, he realized how important his education was to him, and he wanted to help others have the same experience.

College Ventures is Abrams’s initiative to get college students involved in raising money to help a high school student come to the University. He and his team hope to raise $10,000 for a student at Champaign Central High School.

Gratitude training is a practice Abrams does to help himself be grateful for the life he has. One day, as he was thinking about gratitude, he said he thought about how thankful he was for his education. This led him to think of the millions of students who do not have the same opportunities.

He said he felt an obligation to help those who lacked the same opportunities he had.

“Education is really, really important,” he said. “You see the cycle of the affluent and the well-off going to great schools and being successful monetarily after they graduate, and it’s that cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.”

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    College Ventures works as a fundraising campaign through a crowdfunding platform. As Abrams describes it, the initiative will be organized into teams of around 60 students. Each student will be expected to raise $150 by sending out their page to friends and family. By the end, he hopes the team will have collected $10,000, which they will give to a high school student to be used for college tuition.

    Abrams has plans to expand this organization to other campuses. When an acquaintance reached out on LinkedIn asking to get involved, Abrams helped him set up a chapter on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.

    After graduation this spring, Abrams will be attending a year of school at New York University and also hopes to set up a chapter there.

    “I plan on continuing to run it throughout the year, and I don’t have a deadline on when we’re going to stop,” he said. “It’s something that we’re always going to do.”

    Jake Tennant, senior in LAS and a founding board member, will also be continuing the mission when he attends law school.

    Tennant was a key player in the development process. Abrams brought the idea to him last summer, and Tennant said he readily agreed.

    “I’ve been involved with numerous nonprofits before,” he said. “When (Abrams) explained to me the idea of College Ventures, I was thrilled to be involved.”

    What attracted Tennant to the idea was it is a student-for-student charity. He said normally, older people are running nonprofit organizations. Having a college student-oriented outlook on the organization struck him as unique.

    Tennant said he wanted to have an impactful part in growing the organization. He has helped to develop a strategic game plan from Abrams’s initial idea. He brought on Katie Underwood, sophomore in ACES, to help with operations and outreach. He will also be bringing the organization with him wherever he goes next.

    “It’s important for current students to really enable the next generation to have the education that they are currently having or maybe just finished,” he said.

    After both Tennant and Abrams leave campus in the spring, the younger members of the executive board such as Underwood and Blair Polinsky, sophomore in Business, will continue growing the Champaign-Urbana branch.

    Polinsky knew Abrams from another organization she did marketing for, and he thought she would be an asset for College Ventures. She is currently doing the marketing and social media for the organization.

    While the organization is based on the idea of students for students, Polinsky said she has not seen the interest in this type of philanthropy from many students.

    “I honestly haven’t see that much of an urgency,” she said. “I feel that students don’t realize how lucky they are to be at such a great university and receive such a good education.”

    She hopes College Ventures will help grab the attention of students and focus it on this issue. Polinsky said this is an important cause for her. She said because she was fortunate enough to go to school with few monetary concerns, she would like to help lesson someone else’s anxiety about education.

    “College Ventures is really showing students that we are so fortunate to be able to be here, and we should be able to bridge that gap between low-income students and higher education,” Polinsky said.

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