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‘Be strong, dad is waiting for you’: Father of missing Illinois college student issues heartfelt plea for her return and offers $50,000 for her whereabouts

The father of a missing University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign student has issued a heartfelt plea for her return, and a hefty reward, according to Daily Mail.

Yingying Zhang, 26, disappeared two weeks ago, on June 9, after spending a year as a graduate student at the prestigious university.

The FBI has been searching fervently for the student, who traveled here from China, but now her father, a simple truck driver, has gotten involved in a big way.

“Ying be strong. Dad is waiting for you here,” he said to his daughter, while talking to reporters from The News-Gazette. “I hope that being a good person you will be safe forever.”

The FBI is classifying the disappearance as a kidnapping, as friends say the student mysteriously vanished after leaving to go sign a lease on an apartment.

The 53-year-old father directly addressed the alleged kidnapper, pleading for a safe return.

“Just give my daughter back”, he said.

She was last seen wearing a black baseball cap, a pink-and-white top, jeans and white tennis shoes, and she was carrying a black backpack.

Authorities suspect foul play as security cameras spotted the 26-year-old getting into a black Saturn Austra, which stands in direct contrast to the bus she was supposed to board.

‘We have her on video getting into a car and that’s the last we see of her. That’s obviously very concerning,” university police department spokesperson Patrick Wade told reporters.

Authorities have asked the public for help identifying the vehicle.

A family member spoke to ABC News and noted that Zhang “always worked very hard” and she was extremely excited to “pursue her dream” in America.

That same family member also stated that the 26-year-old student repeatedly calmed them by saying that the neighborhood she lived in was “very, very safe.”

Though Zhang’s family is of modest means, her parents still cobbled together a large sum as a reward to anyone with information that leads to the discovery of their daughter. All told, they have raised $40,000, with help from a GoFundMe page. Additionally, the FBI has added $10,000 to that tally.

Contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI if you have any information as to the whereabouts of the missing student.

[Featured Image: University of Illinois Police]