education Archives | UnidosNow

UnidosNow Board Member Visits Families Together


Board Member Kathy Schersten joined the Families Together class at Gocio Elementary School in the Life Skills-English classes, led by Marnie Howell.

As an experienced teacher, Kathy was thrilled to see the high-quality classes Marnie is delivering to these parents looking to better themselves in order to have a higher quality of life in the United States, and to help their children reach their goals, educationally and in life.

It was a memorable day in which children and parents experienced together the joys of reading and learning.

Volunteer of the Year

This year the unanimous decision was to nominate Kathy Schersten as our Volunteer of the Year.

Kathy is one of our board members, a woman known for her exemplary leadership and support of education, arts, and civic programs in the community. Kathy was the co-founder of the Women’s Resource Center, and her leadership was instrumental in the planning and implementation of the St. Jude Hispanic-American Center.

As an educator, Kathy values the importance of empowering our youth to succeed through education. She has served on several boards including the American Association of University Women, the Senior Friendship Center, the Sarasota Education Foundation, and the Van Wezel Arts Hall Advisory Board.

During these years, she has received many awards and recognitions. Kathy is highly regarded for her visionary and philanthropic spirit. She is a role model for many of us as she brings her innate talents, wisdom, hard work, love, and passion to every task she takes on.

Just recently Kathy led a committee to work with her to successfully organize the Hispanic Heritage Celebration month for UnidosNow. The event raised over $50,000 thanks to Kathy’s leadership. We are so grateful to have Kathy in the UnidosNow family.

Ongoing FAFSA Outreach & Support Efforts

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The UnidosNow education team and partners have been crisscrossing Manatee and Sarasota counties in the last month, working to ensure high school seniors have the critical information needed to complete their FAFSA. We conducted numerous outreach activities to inform students and families about FAFSA labs, where volunteers help families fill out their FAFSA forms. Our outreach efforts included, for example, classes or lunch hours where seniors were in attendance at Palmetto and Bayshore high schools, a college fair at Palmetto High, an information session at Sacred Heart Church, the Hispanic Festival at Holy Cross Church, an info table at the Remote Area Medical event at MTC, and electronic outreach via our Remind system, which sends text notifications to students who are registered with us. UnidosNow engaged over 1,000 seniors through this outreach. Find pictures of all these events in our Facebook page.

Subsequently, in partnership with our community partners, FAFSA labs were offered at Sarasota Military Academy, North Port, Sarasota, Booker, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch and Bayshore high schools, where trained volunteers assisted approximately 254 families to complete the FAFSA. Our invaluable partners include Talent for Tomorrow in Sarasota County – comprised of United Way SuncoastSarasota Education FoundationGreater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and CareerEdge. – and the Local College Access Network (LCAN) in Manatee County – comprised ofthe Manatee Community FoundationUnited Way of ManateeThe School District of Manateethe Manatee Chamber of Commerce, USF Sarasota-Manatee, Manatee Technical College, Take Stock in Children of Manatee County, and CareerEdge. UnidosNow is a member of both collaboratives.

We believe these partnership efforts are significantly impacting FAFSA completion rates in our area, as evidenced in the below data charts from the US Department of Education for Manatee and Sarasota counties:

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For information on upcoming FAFSA labs or information sessions, click here.

“Myths & Facts” Presentation at Healthy Teens Coalition of Manatee County

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In November, UnidosNow’s Executive Director Luz Corcuera spoke to the Healthy Teens Coalition membership about the myths and facts associated with applying to college for low income, first generation high school students.

Some of the myths, which UnidosNow programming directly addresses, include the notion that college is too expensive to consider; it’s unattainable; the student doesn’t have “what it takes;” and/or studying out of state is too costly.

The truth is that these students underestimate their own potential, so that, without the appropriate support to help them realize that potential, they often drop out of college. However, statistics show that a significantly higher percentage of these students graduate when they attend smaller, more selective colleges than most large public universities in Florida.

Merit-based scholarships are often more substantial at such institutions. In order to access these opportunities, students need to take the first step, which is completing the FAFSA. This will determine if Pell Grant money is available to them and will allow them to apply for private scholarships, which require FAFSA completion.

“Inspiring Latinos to Achieve the American Dream” Presentation at AAUW

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The American Association of University Women invited UnidosNow to speak about our work last month. Executive Director Luz Corcuera and FLA Scholar Gabrielle, jointly, presented at this special meeting.

Luz discussed UnidosNow’s mission to empower and inspire young Latinos and their families. Gabrielle spoke about the impact of the programs in which she has participated, in particular, the Future Leaders Academy, and how it motivated her to revamp her resume and essay and apply to selective colleges.

Gabrielle, whose dream is to become a pediatric surgeon, will graduate from high school with an associate’s degree in 2017 and has been accepted to UCF and USF. Exploring all options, she is applying to other schools, as well.

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

UnidosNow Speaks about Social Justice with Japanese Exchange Students

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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.

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