During the fall of 2021, FCAN kicked off its first Advocacy Fellowship, working with Local College Access Networks (LCANs) to bring student voices to Tallahassee and advocating for statewide policies to reach Florida’s SAIL to 60 Initiative and achieve a Talent Strong Florida. This is the second part of a spotlight series featuring the LCANs who participated and provide the real stories of their students who advocated for emergency financial aid and a universal FAFSA completion policy. Read Part 1.
PLANit Sarasota is the LCAN for Sarasota, supported by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. In this LCAN, an alliance of community organizations and corporate partners is actively working to increase the rate of students who pursue postsecondary education. PLANit’s goal is to convene, connect, and collaborate with organizations and individuals to address the barriers that prevent students from accessing education beyond high school. Currently, only 42.5% of Sarasota residents (ages 25-64) hold an associate degree or higher. However, 60% of Florida jobs by 2025 will require education beyond high school. Through various workgroups, PLANit provides students in their footprint with the tools and information they need to access higher education opportunities. Their workgroup on FAFSA emphasizes the importance of completing this free application and provides students with information on how to pay for their education. Aligned with FCAN’s advocacy goal of a universal FAFSA policy, PLANit aims to increase its county’s completion rate to 60% and higher. Understanding the abundance of educational and workforce pathways in our state, PLANit also has a career explorations workgroup and hosts events for students in Sarasota County Schools to better inform them about postsecondary paths available in Florida.
Click the following link to learn more about the impact PLANit has on students and some additional efforts in their community.
Participating in FCAN’s first Advocacy Fellowship (2021-2022), PLANit Sarasota was joined by Noah Ferebee, as they advocated for a universal FAFSA policy in Florida.
Noah Ferebee was born and raised in Venice, Florida and is currently attending State College of Florida, pursuing his degree in political science.
“Over these last few months, I have teamed up with FCAN and Thomas Williams, from PLANit Sarasota, to help share my story on why I believe the FAFSA is a key factor in helping further one’s educational pathway and how it has [personally] impacted me post-high school. If it weren’t for FAFSA, I would not be attending college right now. I am a first-generation college student and am looking to be the first one to achieve a degree.”
Noah shares with us that he and his family have past financial barriers that still affect their life today. He recognizes that the FAFSA was his door to pursuing a postsecondary degree without burdening himself with unmanageable costs.
“In 2008, during the Great Recession, my family struggled. The effects have lingered ever since and have resulted in us moving houses three times within the last three years. Therefore, I was not able to receive any financial support from my family. I found myself at a crossroads. I started working full-time to both, support the needs of myself and my family, and to try to fund my educational future. When I discovered the FAFSA, I felt as if my hard work had paid off. The assistance it has provided is indescribable. I have received over $18,000 in scholarships and grants from the FAFSA alone, and without it, I would not have been able to afford college.”
FAFSA is the key to unlocking aid for students attending a variety of postsecondary institutions, including technical colleges and career programs. The FAFSA doesn’t only award Pell Grant funds to eligible students, it also provides access to federal student loans and certain institutional scholarships as well, like the ones Noah was able to receive at his local college.
“Ultimately, I plan to run for public office one day and following that career path takes a lot of credentials, connections and currency. The FAFSA helped jumpstart the path to my political future and I am so grateful for the opportunity to further my career.”