CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - The phrase "a good gesture can go a long way" stands true for Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Local businessman Barrett Rochman made an unusual and generous gesture that he hopes will benefit SIU.
Rochman funded a trip for 13 high schoolers from Carl Schurz High School, a public high school located in the Irving Park neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago.
The students traveled down last night where Rochman greeted the students.
Thursday morning, the University coordinated a presentation in the Student Services Building along with a day full of activities that will give the students a glimpse of what SIU has to offer.
One of the students, Amarriel Dickins, was ecstatic for her first visit to a college.
"I was looking for a school that could make me feel like home and I feel like I found it," said Dickins. "I really like it. I feel comfortable here."
Dickins and a dozen other students were very appreciative they received the opportunity to travel to Carbondale and tour SIU for free, with the help of Rochman.
"This whole trip, I've been really grateful for it because it's like if I wouldn't have came here, I would never know," said Dickins. "I would still be confused, still be stuck and I was like I'll actually visit the campus, I'll really love it. I really didn't think that but now it's like I know that. So it's like something I'm looking forward to."
After meeting with admissions, Dickins was accepted and has already picked her classes.
SIU's enrollment has been on a slow decline since the early 1990's according to the University Spokesperson. The 2017-18 school year has 14,554 students, while back in 1991, the peak enrollment was 24,869.
Businessman Barrett Rochman says he felt he needed to do something to help out.
"If it goes down, I'm not going down without a fight, at least from my end," said Rochman. "I'll do what I can to help. If I can be an asset to the university they have been a great resource for me. So, I'm hoping I can be an asset for them."
The students were so thankful for everyone that played a part in the tour.
"I feel really special because not many other kids get to have this opportunity," said Junior Johan Hernandez.
"I'm happy about it," Dickins added. "I'm surprised, I'm grateful, I'm thankful and I'm just excited, I can't wait to start."
Terri Harfst, the Director of Financial Aid, welcomes opportunities like this. It is the first time during her tenure she's seen anything like this.
There was one additional student that decided to attend SIU from that group. They are headed back to Chicago Thursday afternoon.
Businesses like Pagliai's Pizza, Quatros Pizza, and Best Western-Saluki Inn assisted with hosting the students.