The effort is led by the Citrus County Coalition for College and Careers, which kicked off its support of the county’s high school seniors this year with a two-day summer camp in July.
The coalition teamed with the Citrus Memorial Health Foundation YMCA, College of Central Florida – Citrus Campus, and the Citrus County Education Foundation for the camp, which is in its second year.
“We started this camp based on our experience volunteering in schools and noticing that students were not as clear on the process required to progress from high school to college or a technical school,” said Patrick Simon, president and founder of the Citrus County Coalition for College and Careers. He previously worked as a teacher and principal in Citrus.
Following last year’s inaugural summer camp, Simon said volunteers and local counselors and other volunteers remained in touch with student attendees throughout the year, helping them fill out college application forms and apply for financial assistance.
The positive feedback convinced Simon and the coalition’s partners to do it again.
The most recent camp hosted about 35 students, more than half of whom came from low-income families, according to Simon. Students learned about free resources at their disposal and took part in mock interviews with community and business leaders. Additionally, five randomly-selected attendees were awarded $500 scholarships and organizers gave away an extra $500 in gift cards.
Students were also given assistance developing a timeline with key dates for their senior year, which was synched with the Remind mobile app. The next key date for the fall is October 1 — the first day students can submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) — but the app also sends reminders prior to the application deadlines for state and private institutions.
In addition to assisting students who attended the camp, the coalition introduced a database of local scholarships available earlier this year designed to help all Citrus County students pay for their postsecondary educations. The database currently lists more than 50 scholarships for college, vocational and trade education, pilot training, and more.
“We have found that these students (who attended the camp) felt like they had an edge and were able to focus on other things at school,” Simon said. “We’re very excited it’s having a positive impact.”