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Ongoing FAFSA Outreach & Support Efforts

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The UnidosNow education team and partners have been crisscrossing Manatee and Sarasota counties in the last month, working to ensure high school seniors have the critical information needed to complete their FAFSA. We conducted numerous outreach activities to inform students and families about FAFSA labs, where volunteers help families fill out their FAFSA forms. Our outreach efforts included, for example, classes or lunch hours where seniors were in attendance at Palmetto and Bayshore high schools, a college fair at Palmetto High, an information session at Sacred Heart Church, the Hispanic Festival at Holy Cross Church, an info table at the Remote Area Medical event at MTC, and electronic outreach via our Remind system, which sends text notifications to students who are registered with us. UnidosNow engaged over 1,000 seniors through this outreach. Find pictures of all these events in our Facebook page.

Subsequently, in partnership with our community partners, FAFSA labs were offered at Sarasota Military Academy, North Port, Sarasota, Booker, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch and Bayshore high schools, where trained volunteers assisted approximately 254 families to complete the FAFSA. Our invaluable partners include Talent for Tomorrow in Sarasota County – comprised of United Way SuncoastSarasota Education FoundationGreater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and CareerEdge. – and the Local College Access Network (LCAN) in Manatee County – comprised ofthe Manatee Community FoundationUnited Way of ManateeThe School District of Manateethe Manatee Chamber of Commerce, USF Sarasota-Manatee, Manatee Technical College, Take Stock in Children of Manatee County, and CareerEdge. UnidosNow is a member of both collaboratives.

We believe these partnership efforts are significantly impacting FAFSA completion rates in our area, as evidenced in the below data charts from the US Department of Education for Manatee and Sarasota counties:

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For information on upcoming FAFSA labs or information sessions, click here.

“Myths & Facts” Presentation at Healthy Teens Coalition of Manatee County

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In November, UnidosNow’s Executive Director Luz Corcuera spoke to the Healthy Teens Coalition membership about the myths and facts associated with applying to college for low income, first generation high school students.

Some of the myths, which UnidosNow programming directly addresses, include the notion that college is too expensive to consider; it’s unattainable; the student doesn’t have “what it takes;” and/or studying out of state is too costly.

The truth is that these students underestimate their own potential, so that, without the appropriate support to help them realize that potential, they often drop out of college. However, statistics show that a significantly higher percentage of these students graduate when they attend smaller, more selective colleges than most large public universities in Florida.

Merit-based scholarships are often more substantial at such institutions. In order to access these opportunities, students need to take the first step, which is completing the FAFSA. This will determine if Pell Grant money is available to them and will allow them to apply for private scholarships, which require FAFSA completion.

“Inspiring Latinos to Achieve the American Dream” Presentation at AAUW

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The American Association of University Women invited UnidosNow to speak about our work last month. Executive Director Luz Corcuera and FLA Scholar Gabrielle, jointly, presented at this special meeting.

Luz discussed UnidosNow’s mission to empower and inspire young Latinos and their families. Gabrielle spoke about the impact of the programs in which she has participated, in particular, the Future Leaders Academy, and how it motivated her to revamp her resume and essay and apply to selective colleges.

Gabrielle, whose dream is to become a pediatric surgeon, will graduate from high school with an associate’s degree in 2017 and has been accepted to UCF and USF. Exploring all options, she is applying to other schools, as well.

Future Leaders Academy (FLA): Ongoing Parent Engagement

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UnidosNow recently convened a group of parents of our summer FLA scholars who are, now, in their senior year. The goal of the meeting was to provide follow-up and to support their efforts to help their children complete college applications. We were thrilled to learn how engaged the parents are in the process! We are here to offer them additional tools, encouragement, and support, as they work with their children to meet deadlines and benchmarks that will ensure college entrance.

New UnidosNow High School Clubs

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High School Club at the Sarasota Military Academy.

After last year’s successful pilot program offering of on-site college prep information and one- on- one support to low income, first generation students at Palmetto High School and Sarasota High School, UnidosNow is thrilled that other high schools have invited our program in as official clubs this year!

The new UnidosNow Clubs target freshmen and sophomores and meet weekly or biweekly, depending on the school, to engage students interested in pursuing a post-secondary education with tools and information to help them get on their desired pathway. Clubs have been launched at the following schools and meeting details are available here:

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High School Club at Manatee High School.

FAFSA Preparation Activities Underway

In 2015, more than $2.7 billion in financial aid for college went unclaimed.  Data show that 85% of students who complete the FASFA receive student aid. This is why UnidosNow and community partners in Sarasota and Manatee counties have been busy with launching this year’s FAFSA support for high school students and their families.

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UnidosNow Team at Holy Cross.

The UnidosNow education program team held outreach and information events at Holy Cross and Sacred Heart churches in Manatee County to promote the upcoming workshops in November, and into the New Year, where free, one-on-one assistance will be provided to families to complete the FAFSA form.

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Juan Arcila at a FAFSA workshop at Palmetto High School.

Last month, our collaborators from USF Sarasota-Manatee, Katie Fleck and Juan Arcila, gave a financial aid presentation, including FAFSA tips, at Palmetto High, where we will hold a FAFSA workshop on November 8th from 4:30 to 7:00 pm.

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Sarasota High School FAFSA Workshop.

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FAFSA Volunteer Training Workshop at United Way Suncoast.

The team also held a workshop at Sarasota High last month, where more than 100 attendees were able to complete their FAFSA forms. Our Sarasota partners, including the United Way Suncoast and The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, as well as financial aid officers from USF Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida, and the Ringling College of Art and Design were on site, assisting families with the process. Additional FAFSA sessions at other schools in Sarasota County will be offered this month.

Students and parents attending the FAFSA workshops will need to take the following information with them to be able to complete the form:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License number (if applicable)
  • Parent & Student 2015 Federal Income Tax Return
  • Alien Registration or Permanent Resident Card (if applicable)
  • 2015 untaxed income records

We wouldn’t be able to offer this valuable service for students who want to pursue post-secondary education without the dedicated volunteers who assist families through the FAFSA process. We held two trainings in October to prepare this special group of committed individuals for their task and we are very grateful for their critical contribution to this effort. Our thanks also go to USF Sarasota-Manatee and United Way Suncoast for hosting the trainings.

For more information and resources on FAFSA, click here.

All these workshops and training would not be possible without the remarkable collaborative work with our partners:

Thank you!

UnidosNow at the FCAN Summit

With the theme “Better Together”, the 2016 Florida College Access Network Summit was held at Lake Buenavista. Its goal: to keep empowering communities to work constructively together with our schools and build partnerships with universities, colleges, schools, community organizations, businesses, parents, and students.

Pumariega gave the closing remarks at the summit emphasizing that colleges, business, community leaders and community-based organizations need to work together so that college attainment and college graduation is a reality for all.

UnidosNow Executive Director, Luz Corcuera, participated in the Summit to learn about best practices to bring back to our community. Corcuera was touched by the stories she heard from first generation college students, reminding her to UnidosNow’s scholars.

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First generation college students sharing their experiences at the FCAN Summit.

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UnidosNow Executive Director, Luz Corcuera (left), with Madeline Pumariega (right), Chancellor of Florida Colleges.

Farewell, Catalina

A very special person from the Dream Team has ended a chapter of her life to start a new one. Cathaleen Kaiyoorawongs will be going to the University of Michigan to pursue her MBA and Masters in Education, Leadership and Policy. She continues to be a role model for the students she passionately helped and empowered all these years. Catalina, you will truly be missed. Thank you for everything you have done at UnidosNow to help us #DREAMBig‬!

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Future Leaders at Palmetto High Graduate!

The FLA School Program in Palmetto High closing ceremony with the participation of family and friends was held on May 6th, 2016. The very involved Parent’s Advisory Board prepared a fundraising event before the ceremony to support college tours for next year. Congratulations to all our wondrous Future Leaders Scholars: we are very proud of all of you!

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