Foundation Launches Scholarship to Promote Community-Based Mental Health Project at Rush

Herrendorf Foundation

The Herrendorf Family Foundation has launched a five-year partnership with Rush University Medical Center to support mental health in Chicago’s communities. The foundation's $50,000 donation will support scholarships for students entering their final year of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program pursuing community-based clinical projects with a focus on intervention for youth. 

Herrendorf Family Foundation is among the contributing founders of educational and youth projects with the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation. Through that connection, they learned about Live Healthy Chicago, a Chicago collaborative supported by the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation that assists older adults and other high-risk populations in the city experiencing disparities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through Live Healthy Chicago, we engaged closely with Rush University and learned the important nuanced needs of their scholars and the demands on nursing programs, specifically in the field of mental health,” said Kasondra Cohen-Herrendorf, CEO of Herrendorf Family Foundation. 

The scholarship program is designed to meet the needs of both students and Rush’s communities. The support allows students to fully focus on implementing their clinical mental health projects while providing essential care for adolescents and teens who have long been underserved.

“Unfortunately, COVID has pulled our students in many directions, but the grant will reduce financial burdens while also giving students an opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the community in a field they love,” said Michelle K. Heyland, DNP, APRN, director of the Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner program at Rush. 

Adolescent and teen programming in Chicago is an area of great need and one not routinely focused on in clinical projects, Heyland said. The grant will enable students to immerse themselves in nearby communities in a way that was not possible before Herrendorf Family Foundation offered its support.  

Hershel’s hope

Herrendorf Family Foundation’s donation to Rush reflects the values of its namesake, Hershel Herrendorf, as well as his longtime commitment to the city of Chicago.

Hershel Herrendorf was born in Haifa, Israel, on July 8, 1949. He attended school in Haifa until the age of 11 when his father, Samuel; mother, Pola; and brother, Joshua, all left Israel to be closer to Pola’s only two surviving brothers in Chicago. It saddened them to leave Israel, but it was important to be surrounded by a loving family. 

He started working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange at age 16 and became successful by the time he was 21. His hard work, motivation and drive to succeed were influenced by his desire to provide for his family. 

Hershel became a father at 35 to his only child, Kasondra. He was a devoted family man, later becoming an uncle to Sam and Alexa when his brother had children. Hershel’s values were always family first and ensuring those he loved were taken care of. His passion for success was always top of mind so that he could provide his family with more than he had growing up. 

During his last days, he instilled in his daughter how critical embracing the simplest things in life reap the greatest rewards. Hershel passed away suddenly on May 16, 2014, while flying home from spending a week in Vancouver, British Columbia, with Kasondra.

“Education and mental health were topics I spoke to my father about often. He felt education to be the key to success if one could attain it, and mental health was something he and I struggled with in our lives,” said Cohen-Herrendorf. “To be able to bring these two together, in a city my father held so dear, is creating a legacy I have dreamt of for him and for my family. We thank Rush University for this opportunity.” 

Supporting a new generation

Kasondra and her team at Herrendorf Family Foundation have begun the important task of building new relationships with Chicago-based organizations, creating a direct impact on the ground. The Herrendorf Family Foundation has been inspired by Rush’s dedication to mental health and their commitment to supporting youth, the LGBTQ+ community and veterans — all of which are close to the family’s hearts and minds. 

“Our hope for this scholarship program is to inspire and support students in completing their studies at Rush University in this field while providing necessary wrap-around services and the alumni opportunities Herrendorf Family Foundation is proud to offer all of our scholars,” Cohen-Herrendorf said. “Mental health is such an important aspect of overall health, and we want to encourage conversation, education and support for those seeking it.”

Heyland is hopeful about continuing collaboration between the Herrendorf Family Foundation and Rush University as a pathway toward strengthening relations with surrounding communities.

“I am excited to offer this grant money to the students as I know it will be a big relief,” Heyland said. “But more importantly, I’m excited to see the meaningful projects implemented in our communities that can help adolescents and teens for years to come.”

Learn more and support the scholarship program by contacting Jennifer Holmes at

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