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UnidosNow Associate Executive Director Catalina Kaiyoorawongs Chosen Fellow into NCLR’s National Institute for Latino School Leaders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
February 25, 2016
Contact: Camila Gallardo
cgallardo@nclr.org
(305) 215-4259

 

Top Latino Educators Named 2016 Fellows for NCLR’s National Institute for Latino School Leaders

Unique program enhances advocacy efforts on behalf of Latino students

 

Sarasota, FL—UnidosNow is proud to announce that its Associate Executive Director Catalina Kaiyoorawongs was recently accepted into NCLR’s National Institute for Latino School Leaders fellowship program. UnidosNow has been fortunate to benefit from Catalina’s passion, creativity, and expertise over the last 4 years.

NCLR (National Council of La Raza) is pleased to announce that 10 exceptional school leaders from California, Utah, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Nevada and Florida were selected from a competitive pool of applicants as the 2016 fellows for the National Institute for Latino School Leaders (NILSL). The program is generously funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The selected fellows have invested decades in the field of education working with Latino students, the majority of them English learners, from low-income communities. Designed for high-potential mid- to senior-level education leaders, the NILSL program will equip NCLR fellows with the advocacy and communication skills needed to influence policy and serve as spokespeople for NCLR.

NILSL, launched in 2011 by NCLR in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is the only institute that trains tenured school administrators and community-based organization leaders to advocate for federal- and state-level policies that strengthen the education of Latino students and English language learners. Since its inception, the NILSL program has recruited four cohorts and trained 33 fellows and five master fellows from eight states and the District of Columbia. This is the fifth cohort and will be composed of 10 fellows from seven states.

The ultimate goal of this institute is to elevate the voices of school leaders advocating for reform measures, accountability systems and quality programs aimed at improving the educational outcomes for students in the Latino community.

“In light of important changes to our nation’s education system, particularly the passage of a new ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act), these fellows will play a critical role in helping to improve educational outcomes and accountability for our nation’s Latino students who represent about one-quarter of the nation’s school children,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President, Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation, NCLR.

Over the course of two years, the fellows will receive in-person and virtual training sessions that will equip them with the necessary skills to fulfill the envisioned dual role of serving as NCLR spokespeople as well as active agents in the policymaking process.

“We are extremely fortunate to have such a group of talented and devoted educators participate in this program and enhance their advocacy skills. They have dedicated years to helping students in some of our nation’s underserved communities excel, ” said Margaret “Peggy” R. McLeod, Deputy Vice President, Education and Workforce Development, NCLR.

The NILSL fellowship will kick off with two-day training on March 7–9, 2016 in Washington, DC. Fellows named this year include:

Fellow’s Name

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Title

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Site

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State

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Jose Enriquez

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Executive Director

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Latinos in Action

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UT

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John Joseph Monteleone

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Administrator

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Lorain City Schools

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OH

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Rafael Gaeta

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Principal

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LAUSD – Nightingale Middle School

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CA

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Mayra Samantha Lopez-Zuniga

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Lead Education Organizer

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The Resurrection Project

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IL

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Christopher R. McBride

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Director

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Mariposa Academy of Language & Learning

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NV

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Marla Angelita Fernandez

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Principal

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South Bay Union School District

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CA

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Jesus F. Sanchez

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Director of Programs

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Esperanza Inc.

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OH

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Ana Martinez

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Executive Director

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New Leaders

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IL

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Dalila Maria Duarte

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Director

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Casa Azafrán Early Learning Center

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TN

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Catalina Kaiyoorawongs Associate ED UnidosNow FL

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NCLR is the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visitwww.nclr.org or follow along on Facebook and Twitter.

UnidosNow was founded in 2010 to represent the integration needs of the region’s fastest-growing and most under-represented demographic. Incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit, its goal is to elevate the quality of life of the Hispanic/Latino community through education and, in doing so, elevate the quality of life of the entire community.

Fill Out FAFSA Party at Palmetto High

Our Palmetto High School “Fill Out FAFSA” party was a great success with over 90 people attending, and 42 families. Our sponsor, State Farm, also put in an appearance and gave some families gift cards. Thanks go out to our extraordinary volunteers, and the great team of counselors at the school! What a successful event!

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March Volunteer Meeting

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Please RSVP here

A message from Executive Director, Luz Corcuera

“Since joining the Dream Team of UnidosNow, I have been learning about the strengths of the organization. I am amazed at the number of talented and committed volunteers who share their valuable time and skills in myriad capacities.  Some work directly with students in the various settings where we engage young people, such as the high school clubs in Sarasota and Palmetto, the Future Leaders Academy, and others providing assistance at the FAFSA workshops we offer with our community partners.  And still other volunteers share their insight and expertise via UnidosNow’s several advisory boards.

While our team is mighty, it is also small, so without the invaluable support of our volunteers, we couldn’t accomplish our goal of leading low-income students and families to success.

We are committed to empowering young people who want to succeed and go to college but might not have access to other outlets or opportunities to help them do so.  While most of our clients are Hispanic, we have served Eastern European and Asian students, and we will never turn away a student who wants to participate in our programs.

We are inviting all of our volunteers to a meeting to have the opportunity to thank them and provide updates on our programs.  Please join us for our March volunteer meeting on Thursday, March 10th at 5:30 pm at the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center, 1750 17th Street, Bldg. J-1- Loevner meeting room in Sarasota”.

Remember:

Thursday, March 10th

5:30pm

Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Services Center

1750 17th Street, Bldg. J-1- Loevner meeting room

Sarasota, FL 34234

Please RSVP here

State Farm Insurance Sponsors Workshop for FLA Students

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, our students and parents from the FLA School Program in Palmetto and Sarasota High Schools had meetings in which they learned how college financial aid works. Additionally, they learned basic household budgeting and money management. The workshop was sponsored by State Farm, and insurance company that believes in, and support the mission of UnidosNow. We are thankful to Kim Vole and Ric Coffey who participated in these events.
 

Palmetto High School

 
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Sarasota High School

 
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HUGE SUCCESS for UnidosNow: Sarasota High now ranked #1 for most improved for FAFSA completion

From Catalina Kaiyoorawongs

We wanted to share the news released by the Florida College Access Network. UnidosNow has a huge success to celebrate! As a result of our  workshop with all seniors, reaching out directly to students at Sarasota High, and taking data to identify who we need to reach out to, Sarasota High is  now ranked # 1 for most improved high school is in the State for FAFSA completion as of the beginning of February. This is even before we join forces as a community to host the School sponsored workshop! Let’s see if we can keep this up! I wanted to personally reach out to our major supporters and let them know! Thanks to all our volunteer efforts, we are truly making strides to help low income students obtain the money they need for college. Please refer to the second info graphic.

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From: Florida College Access Network <amartinez@floridacollegeaccess.org>
Date: Wed, Feb 17, 2016 at 10:41 AM
Subject: Florida CAN releases FAFSA data for over 600 Florida schools
To: Catalina <catalina@unidosnow.org>

Press Contact:
Ashley J. Martinez, (813) 974-8606
amartinez@floridacollegeaccess.org

Florida CAN releases FAFSA data for over 600 schools

New, interactive dashboard allows users to track school, district and state-level FAFSA completion data through spring 2016

Tampa, FL — Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN) has released theFlorida FAFSA Finish Line dashboard with new data for 2016, showing the number of 12th graders throughout the state who have completed the form.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) determines eligibility for $150 billion in federal financial aid programs each year, yet tens of thousands of eligible Florida students neglect to fill out the form.  Previous estimates from Florida CAN show Florida students leave behind over $100 million in federal Pell Grants each year, not including state aid programs like the Florida Student Assistance Grant, which also requires a completed FAFSA.

The Florida FAFSA Finish Line data dashboard allows schools, districts and community partners to view FAFSA completion rates in near-real time with data updates taking place weekly through March and bi-weekly through June.

 Click image to view data

“Money should never be the reason why students choose not to go to college,” said Troy Miller, Associate Director for Research and Policy for Florida CAN. “This data dashboard can help schools, districts and community partners make sure their students complete the FAFSA and have a plan for life after high school.”

To spark an increase in FAFSA completions among high school seniors, last December Florida CAN announced the Florida FAFSA Challenge to encourage all schools and districts to raise FAFSA completion rates by 5% in 2016.  Schools and districts that sign up for the challenge receive support, resources and recognition, with trophies going to top performers in the state.

Each week, schools and districts with the highest FAFSA completion rates (“MVP”), the most improved FAFSA completion rates (“Most Improved”), and the closest to the 5% goal in the fewest amount of days (“Fastest Lap”) will be featured in the FAFSA Challenge Leaderboard, updated each week through March 31, 2016.  A downloadable version of the most recent Leaderboard with data through February 5, 2016 can be found here.


 Click image to view leaderboard

Schools and districts interested in participating in the Florida FAFSA Challenge can learn more and register here.

For more information on FAFSA completion data, research and resources, see these previous releases by Florida CAN:

A downloadable version (.PDF) of this press release can be found here.

The Florida FAFSA Challenge is possible thanks to the support of the Helios Education Foundation and Swift Family Foundation.

About Florida College Access Network
The mission of the Florida College Access Network is to create and strengthen a statewide network that catalyzes and supports communities to improve college & career preparation, access, and completion for all students. Our Big Goal is to increase the percentage of Florida residents who hold a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential to 60% by the year 2025. For more information, visitwww.floridacollegeaccess.org.
                                                                                          
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UnidosNow Speaks about Social Justice with Japanese Exchange Students

conversation with Japanese students

A delegation of Japanese students are visiting St. Stephen’s Episcopal School as a part of a exchange program, and Mr. Patrick Whelan, Head of Social Studies, invited UnidosNow’s Executive Director Luz Corcuera to speak with the students.

The discussion was centered in social justice and peace. Issues of poverty, immigration, marginalization, education, and social determinants of health were explored. “This will be the generation crossing across the divides to create a just and peaceful world for our future generations”, Mrs. Corcuera explained.

Local initiative strives to broaden college access

As published in The Herald Tribune

Published: Monday, February 1, 2016 at 1:00 a.m.

As students immerse themselves in the second semester of this academic year, it is a good time to recognize that a quality education is essential to getting a good job, and that education and training are becoming the new “economic development currency.” The students of our greater Sarasota community no longer compete just with students from other states, they are competing with students from other countries. While the Sarasota County School District is one of the very best in Florida, we need all hands on deck to ensure that students can compete globally and can succeed on a positive career path locally.

A quality education now usually means additional steps after high school — college and/or focused training programs. In late 2015, our region’s Talent4Tomorrow coalition examined the barriers to post-secondary education and training. Not surprisingly, being unable to afford college or technical and specialized training programs was frequently identified as an obstacle.

In response, a collaborative effort is being made to help more of our young people advance beyond high school. The Local College Access Network is composed of representatives from more than 30 organizations that came together to increase educational attainment and workforce preparedness on the Suncoast. Because these goals are priorities of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, our organization has been happy to coordinate the efforts of LCAN — with key support from partners, including the CareerEdge Funders Collaborative and Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

One of LCAN’s key projects is increasing the number of students and families who complete the most important financial assistance application.

Known as FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the only way to apply for federal student aid. Many states and colleges also use information from FAFSA to provide their own student aid. The FAFSA is currently available for the upcoming school year. It is best to fill it out as early as possible because some aid is first come, first served.

When individuals or families complete the FAFSA, they provide personal and tax information. If you’ve filed your taxes already, you may be able to automatically retrieve the information from the IRS. If you haven’t, just estimate your tax information and update it later.

The following facts confirm the importance of FAFSA completion:

Research we requested from the Florida College Access Network indicated that Sarasota County was “leaving $2.1 million of this free financial aid on the table.”

For every 10 percent a school increases its FAFSA completion rate, its college-going rate increases 3 percent.

Florida ranks 35th in FAFSA completion, but is the fifth highest state in eligibility for federal Pell Grants, which are based largely on financial need.

Students who complete the FAFSA in January through March receive twice as much state/institutional funding as students who complete the FAFSA later.

If 5 percent more Florida students were to complete the FAFSA this year, it would equal an additional $8 million in Pell dollars awarded.

Students and their families can get information about, and assistance with, FAFSA several ways:

Go to: www.fafsa.ed.gov

Visit the United Way Financial Empowerment Expo between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Feb. 6, at North Sarasota Library.

Attend special events where trained volunteers will help you complete the application: Feb. 11, 2 to 8 p.m. in the North Port High School cafeteria; and Feb. 21, 1 to 4 p.m. at Sarasota High School, Building 13, Room 101; and the Sarasota YMCA’s FAFSA Day at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus Feb. 27, 9:30 a.m. to noon.

Call 211 (the community Helpline); Star Conti, Sarasota High School: 941-955-0181; Kristen McMahon, Riverview High School: 941-923-1484; Rose Beach, North Port High School: 941-423-8558 or your student’s school counselor.

The incredible community collaboration that is increasing awareness of, and access to, the form and assistance in its completion has been fantastic. Just a few examples are that United Way has added FAFSA support to its successful tax assistance program (known as VITA). Financial Aid representatives from State College of Florida, University of South Florida—Sarasota/Manatee, and Ringling College, along with representatives from the Education Foundation, Unidos Now, the Chamber’s Young Professionals Group, and other groups are volunteering. The district is dedicating additional guidance counselor support; community organizations like Take Stock in Children and ALSO Youth have helped to plan and organize the events. Plus, the Sarasota Film Festival sponsored a video contest that tapped student creativity in getting out the FAFSA message.

Please help the new Local College Access Network increase understanding of FAFSA’s importance and awareness of the types of assistance available to help families apply. More students getting these aid dollars will help them, our employers, and the total community.

Steve Queior is president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce; the Chamber has made improving educational outcomes and workforce preparedness one of its top strategic goals.

New Executive Director to Lead UnidosNow

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Sarasota/Manatee, FL – UnidosNow, a Bi-County organization that provides education programs and promotes civic integration for Latinos in Sarasota and Manatee Counties, welcomes Luz Corcuera as its new Executive Director.

“We are so pleased to bring Luz on board, given her exemplary abilities to bring people together and her extensive experience in community-building and engagement. With a long history, locally, of developing and implementing diverse community-based programs, Luz has a stellar reputation across both counties, where she has developed strong relationships with private, public, faith-based, and civic organizations. With her leadership, UnidosNow will continue to grow in its ability to empower Latinos to achieve their American dream.”

Ms. Corcuera has worked in the mental health, maternal-child health, and community health arenas over last two decades, most recently with the Healthy Start program and a local health department, leading prevention and education community-based initiatives, including a community needs assessment and community health improvement taskforce. “I am passionate about working with diverse communities, promoting education, health, and cultural competency”, said Ms. Corcuera. “I’m honored to have this opportunity to combine my passion and my experience, and to lead Unidos in fulfilling its goal to educate, elevate, and integrate our Latino community. We face some challenges to closing the education achievement gap, reversing negative health trends, and empowering people to civic integration. I will like to ensure we are the trusted link with the community,” she added.

As the organization welcomes Ms. Corcuera, it also thanks Hector Tejeda for his service, as UnidosNow’s immediate past Executive Director. “UnidosNow has been transformed thanks to Hector’s leadership and contributions over the last two years,” said Mr. Kirschner. Fortunately, Mr. Tejeda will continue to serve in an advisory capacity. “Hector fostered an environment that gave UnidosNow students an Ivy League, best of class experience in preparing them for college,” Mr. Kirschner added.

UnidosNow was founded in 2010 to represent the integration needs of the region’s fastest-growing and most under-represented demographic. Incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit, its goal is to elevate the quality of life of the Hispanic/Latino community through education and, in doing so, elevate the quality of life of the entire community.

Sarasota High School Workshop

Parents and students from Sarasota High School’s FLA Program participated in a workshop. They learned what the factors are that colleges consider in the admission process. Additionally, parents and students suggested wonderful ideas for UnidosNow fund-raising projects to help finance college entrance education activities.

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