On Thursday, January 16, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation (SWFLCF) hosted the “FutureMakers Season Opener” at Hodges University in Fort Myers. FutureMakers is an ambitious project that seeks to increase the number of high school seniors applying for college and federal financial aid at eight regional high schools in Southwest Florida.

Many residents of Southwest Florida have recently learned about Futuremakers through a series of innovative public service ads featuring Sherwood Brown, a former point guard for the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles and the 2012-13 Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year. In the poster and web ads, Brown points to a smartphone pre-loaded with GradApp, a mobile app that directs high school students to financial aid resources and important deadline reminders customized for their college search situation.

FutureMakers is the SWFLCF’s first regional call to action evolving from earlier research on broad regional needs last year. The FutureMakers coalition is currently focused on helping the high school graduating class of 2014 to successfully take their next step in higher education. The SWFLCF’s FutureMakers partners include the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, Southwest Florida Works, The Education Foundation of Collier County-Champions for Learning, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast.

“Less than one-third of high school seniors in our five-county area fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the SWFLCF. “Understanding what type of financial aid is available and how much a student can qualify for can make the difference between going to college or not.” Underscoring the importance of the FAFSA, the foundation’s website cites research from Florida C.A.N.! on the estimated $100 million in Pell Grants left behind by Florida’s high school seniors who fail to complete the FAFSA.

For more information about FutureMakers, click here.

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