Sarasota County Wins State FAFSA Completion Award

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The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is proud to announce that Sarasota County Schools has won four awards for highest FAFSA completion rate in the state from the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, a campaign to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through leading local efforts made by the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, 45.5% by Sarasota County high school seniors have completed the FAFSA. This is a 9.1% change over the previous application year, which equates to an estimated additional $513,180 in Pell grants awarded to Sarasota County students. Additionally, the Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN) has awarded Sarasota with the following honors:

  • Sarasota County Schools–“MVP for Large School District” (Having the highest FAFSA completion rate through March 31st, 2017)
  • Riverview High School–“Biggest Boost for Large Schools” (Largest week-to-week change in percentage of students completing the FAFSA)
  • All-Stars”—(Achieving an increase of FAFSA completion by at least 5% over last year):
  • Sarasota County School District
  • Suncoast Polytechnical High School
  • Sarasota Military Academy
  • Booker High School
  • Venice Senior High School
  • Sarasota High School
  • North Port High School
  • Riverview High School

 

FAFSA Awards 2017-edit
Talent4Tomorrow Partners and Sarasota County School District Officials accepting the award for “MVP for Large School District”

 

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is a community collaborative known as a “Local College Access Network”, and consists of CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Schools, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership seeks to increase career awareness and postsecondary attainment through increased college and career awareness, aspiration, and affordability initiatives. Kevin Cooper, President of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce stated, “Every dollar counts when it comes to accessing post-secondary education.  When we come together, focus together, and lead together, it’s gratifying to see results getting our students one step closer to where they and we want them to be.  This is a truly great example of leadership through collaboration.”

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership has spent several months planning and executing FAFSA awareness and support activities, including FAFSA completion assistance during community- and school-based events. Community volunteers as well as financial aid officers from Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and Keiser University assisted families of high school seniors in completing the FAFSA form at North Port High School, Booker High School, and Sarasota High School, as well as community-based FAFSA events and United Way Suncoast VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs.

According to the Florida College Access Network, less than half of all eligible Sarasota County high school students in 2012-2013 completed the FAFSA form, thus leaving over $2 million in Pell Grant dollars untapped. 59% of Florida students in 2013 were eligible to receive a Pell Grant, which awards up to $5,815 a year per student.


For more information regarding the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, contact Mimi Cirbusova at mcirbusova@sarasotachamber.com or (941) 556-4038.

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Reach Higher Convening Recap

“The ultimate outcome of education is not a diploma. It’s a great job and life.”

Brandon Busteed, Executive Director, Education & Workforce Development, Gallup

It’s often been said that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Just as true: you don’t know what you’ve got until you see what someone else has. Last week, GSCC staff members were part of a small delegation to represent Florida at First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Reach Higher” convening in Colorado. This conference focused on preparing students with work ready skills. Presenters, ranging from corporate leaders of Fortune 500 companies to the President of the Education Commission of the United States, discussed the growing national need for education policies around work readiness for all students.

Much of the conversation revolved around the critical need for talented, engaged, and well-supported school counselors. Nationally, more than 20% of high schools lack any school counselor, and over 1.6 million students attend a school with a sworn law enforcement officer but not a school counselor (Dr. Joyce V. Brown, National Consortium for School Counseling and Postsecondary Success). Reflection from these presentations highlighted the great resource guidance counselors are for our own community. In Sarasota County, our students are fortunate to school guidance counseling staff at every school K-12. Our local guidance counselors have been the key to our Talent4Tomorrow Partnership efforts in increasing FAFSA completion, and expanding awareness of financial opportunities for post-secondary education.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) was another primary area of focus of several presenters and panelists, including an informative site visit to Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus in Colorado Springs District 11. Departments of Education around the country are seeking opportunities to partner with companies to align CTE programs at the high school and postsecondary levels to workforce needs. Ensuring that students are aware of these opportunities is a key component of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in December 2015 as a replacement for No Child Left Behind. Locally, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Talent4Tomorrow Partnership has placed career awareness at the forefront of its programmatic work. Recently, Talent4Tomorrow gathered 84 of Sarasota County’s brightest students for an “Experience Engineering” luncheon. Students engaged in roundtable discussions with 31 engineers from 14 local companies about the many engineering opportunities available in the greater Sarasota community, the diversity of specialties within that field, and tips for gaining the most of their time while in college.

Internships and hands-on career opportunities was also a strong theme. During a panel presentation, Noel Ginsburg, Chairman and CEO of Intertech Plastics, spoke of the 2.6% youth unemployment in Switzerland due to apprenticeship programs and the economic benefit to companies that invest in these opportunities, including lower long-term training costs. Carl A. Marchetto, Vice President and General Manager of Commercial Space at Lockheed Martin, also discussed the need for a stronger infrastructure for smaller companies to “plug and play” in experiential opportunities for students. However, Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Education & Workforce Development for Gallup, shared that only 4.6% of students in grades 5th-12th are interning for a local business. With little hands-on experience, how is a student to discern whether a career path is right for them? And without the confidence of an internship to guide their career pathway, how can students feel comfortable taking on massive debts to pursue a degree in a particular field? Again, Sarasota County boasts strong relationships between business, schools, and universities that allow students to gain those hands on experiences. Whether it be at the annual State of Jobs conference for high school (and soon, middle school) students, or internships with incredible organizations such as PGT, Sun Hydraulics, FCCI Insurance and Mote Marine Laboratories (to name a few), there are many exciting ways for local students to gain real-world knowledge of career pathways. Career exploration continues to expand within the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership’s Local College Access Network, and a community asset map focused on internships is in the final data-gathering stages.

During the long flight home, it was easy to think about the incredible community we have in Sarasota. Though we learned so much from Colorado, and well as the other 48 states present at the “Reach Higher” convening, it is safe to say that Sarasota is making enviable strides towards preparing our students to be ready for the 21st century workplace.