FCAN selects a cohort of 15 student advocacy fellows to participate in its third annual Advocacy Day in Tallahassee. This event provides students with a unique platform to engage with elected officials and champion needed improvements in education policies.

“Student experiences vary throughout the state for many reasons, so it’s important to represent a broad sector of Florida’s communities to highlight the impact of education policy and advocate for improvements,” said Deborah Martin, FCAN’s policy analyst and program lead.

The fellowship kicked off with a meeting between the fellows and five Local College Access Network (LCANs) leaders who will provide guidance and mentorship through March 2024. Student fellows will proactively acquire and apply essential advocacy skills and hone their storytelling abilities to engage with their elected officials actively. They will also hear from leaders throughout Florida in preparation for FCAN’s Advocacy Day in January ’24.

Photo: Natalie Gelman Miami Dade College Political Science

“I learned how to become an advocate for pressing issues in education and how policy plays a role in mitigating these issues,” said Natalie Gelman, a 22-23 student advocacy fellow with Graduate Miami-Dade LCAN and sophomore at Miami-Dade College.

Communicating directly with influential leaders is a life-changing experience for students learning how education policy impacts their communities. Students learn how to continue their advocacy work beyond the fellowship program. After Gelman completed her advocacy fellowship with FCAN, she collaborated with the District 9 School Board to craft a policy item that would promote FAFSA completion in her local schools, inform families about the mandated changes in the FAFSA application, and use the FCAN Florida FAFSA Challenge to help increase the number of completed FAFSA applications in her school.

“Once they learn how to tell their story and use their voice for change in this FCAN process, it becomes a skillset they can rely on throughout the rest of their life,” said Morgan Evers from ASPIRE Capital Region, which represents Gadsden, Leon, and Wakulla counties.

The 23-24 Advocacy Fellowship cohort is self-motivated and displays diverse educational experiences. “It is an honor to spend time with these young adults, who desire to learn how to use their voices best to support other students like themselves and positively influence the experiences of future generations of postsecondary students,” Evers said.

ASPIRE is one of 18 LCANs committed to increasing college and career readiness, access, and completion rates for students within their communities who are outside the mold of the traditional college student–such as low-income students, adult learners, and those who are the first in their families to attend college.

“This fellowship is a great beginning point for students who learn to engage directly with policymakers,” Braulio Colón, executive director of FCAN, said. “Our goal is to support Florida’s SAIL to 60 Initiative and help ensure a Talent Strong Florida by keeping postsecondary students at the center of this work.”

This year’s fellowship class includes five LCANs from eight counties, each with three students on different postsecondary journeys.

ASPIRE Capital Region

Andres Felipe Gil Arana
Florida State University
Cell and Molecular Neuroscience


Vanessa Jimenez
Florida Atlantic University
Psychology, Minor: History

Rayatah Omawale
Valencia College
Health Sciences

Broward Bridge 2 Life

Brandon Agcaoili
University of South Florida
Business Analytics and Information Systems

Abigail Koester
University of Florida
Industrial and Systems Engineering

Jahnee Smith
Florida International University
Global Studies, focus on Latin American society and culture

Graduate Miami Dade

Isaac Benjamin Washington
University of South Florida
Civil Engineering

Sheila Cuba
Hillsborough Community College

Ismaray Govea
Florida International University
Biological Sciences,
Minor: Business

LEAP Tampa Bay

Eric Gosling
Hillsborough Community College

Diana Garcia
University of South Florida
Public Health

Arisa Nakamichi
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
Homeland Security and Intelligence

Plan It Sarasota

Ke’Andre Chisom
Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
Project Management (Master’s Program)

Giselle Galvan
Florida Atlantic University

Jailynn Youmas
University of South Florida
Cell and Molecular Biology,
Double Minor: Public Service & Leadership and Sociology

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