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Villarreal Scholarships Touch Graduates' Lives in Many Ways

Back Country Roads

Back Country Roads

Since 2007, the Dustin Villarreal Memorial Scholarship has made attending college a little easier for 12 Geneva High School graduates. The honor that five of the recipients felt in being recognized with the scholarship, however, has played an even greater and significant role in their lives.

The Scholarship is funded in large part by the benefit concert taking place on April 28 at The Arcada Theater in St. Charles. All profits from the concert are devoted to at least two $2,000 scholarships awarded to graduating Geneva High School seniors.

For Trey Hemming, being awarded the Scholarship in 2009 was, he said, an “absolute honor” because of what it stood for: leadership, team cooperation, community service, and character.

“If there is anything I can be proud of,” said Trey, “it's the fact that that I was thought of as someone who represented such qualities as the scholarship entails.” He used the monies he received to help pay for a laptop and books; he will graduate from the University of Kentucky in May 2013.

Taylor Hines, another 2009 scholarship recipient, used the money to help fund tuition at the University of Iowa where he is studying Biomedical Engineering. He, too will graduate in May 2013.

“It meant a great deal for me to represent Dustin's tremendous character and whole-hearted personality,” said Taylor Hines, who had known Dustin since the two were in third grade together. “We played on the same traveling soccer team for about six years; our relationship grew and our families developed a close bond…. I would not be the person I am today without the positive impact Dustin and his family made on my life.”

Cory Hoffstetter, who graduated from Geneva High in 2009, used the money his first year of college to attend Western Illinois University (WIU). He and Dustin played sports together from elementary school until Dustin's passing.

The scholarship money Mike Mayzak received when he graduated in 2008 “went straight toward my first semester’s tuition,” he said. “ I'm playing Division II football which does not cover 100% so the money was very much appreciated. Not only did this help me out it really helped my parents. My sister was also away at school attending Iowa State University.“ Mike is currently attending Truman State University where he is a Business Management and Marketing Major, graduating this December. He plays wide receiver for the Bulldogs.

Chris Modjeski was one of the first two recipients of the scholarship, in 2007. He used the money to help pay his tuition at Waubonsee Community College, which he attended for two years before transferring to Northern Illinois University. He is currently a student teacher at St. Charles North High School, and will graduate from NIU next month with a degree in Physical Education.

“I came from a family of six so we had to pay our own way to college,” said Chris. The scholarship really helped me out a lot and allowed me to save money for the upcoming years of school.”

Mike Mayzak had the opportunity to become very close with the Villarreal family. “Since I was a captain senior year, I had constant communication with Mr. Villarreal…. We became very close friends. I tried to be there whenever he needed someone to talk to or if he just wanted to talk football. “ Although Mike didn't know Dustin as a close friend, he says it was Dustin's constant dedication to the team, friends, and most importantly family that made receiving a scholarship in his name such an honor.

“Dustin stood for much more than just football; he was a kind, loyal, hardworking kid so I believe that that is what the scholarship embodies.”

Like Taylor Hines, many of the scholarship recipients were close friends to Dustin and his family, and fondly remember the enthusiastic young man who could always make people smile.

“Dustin and I became great friends playing soccer and football together,” said Trey Hemming. “Our friendship was much more than just teammates; we were inseparable.”

Taylor Hines said that Dustin “lived his life with a very positive outlook. The scholarship not only represents Dustin himself, but all of the people he touched.”

Besides Taylor, Cory, Trey and Chris, past scholarship recipients include: Russell Acton and Bryan Strah (2011); Michael Stanfa and James James IV (2010); Philip Birschbach (2009); Kurt Smentek and Michael Mayszak (2008); and Ryan McMillin (2007).

Noted Trey Hemming, “I still wear the wristband dedicated to him, 'Dustin #66 RIP 5/5/06'. I'll never forget the friend that he was to me.”
Dustin Villarreal, then a 15-year-old student at Geneva High School, died unexpectedly of heart failure on May 6, 2006. (Read Dustin's story at The following year, the Villarreal family – his father Dave, mother Jena and brother David – set up the scholarship to honor their son and recognize deserving high school athletes.

To raise funds for the Dustin Villarreal Memorial Scholarship Foundation, and continue to provide annual scholarships top at least two Geneva High School graduating seniors, the Villarreal Family presents a benefit concert each April. This year's concert, on Saturday, April 28 (7:00pm) at the Arcada Theater in St. Charles, will feature the legendary Rick “Elvis” Saucedo, the popular C&W band Back Country Roads, and Rick Lindy and the Wild Ones. Tickets are just $20 in advance, $25 at the door for a fun evening of outstanding entertainment. Go to to purchase tickets online.

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