Ongoing FAFSA Outreach & Support Efforts


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:

fafsa_manatee-11-11-16 fafsa_srq-11-11-16

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

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


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.

You Can Be The One to Students Like Tea


Congratulations to Tea Binder who was recently named a National Merit Scholar semi-finalist, which places her in the top 1% of all students in the country taking the 2015 PSAT.

Tea has participated in our Future Leaders Academy for the past two years and aspires to attend a top national university and eventually become a surgeon.

As a semi-finalist, Tea qualifies to compete for National Merit Scholarships to be awarded next spring. Good luck, Tea, we are all cheering for you!

Recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month


September 15 to October 15 marks National Hispanic Heritage Month. This is a special opportunity to recognize the contributions made by Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and to celebrate our heritage and culture!

Latinos have had a profound and positive influence on our country through a strong commitment to family, faith, hard work and service. We have enhanced and shaped the national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of our community.

This year’s theme is Honoring our Heritage, Building our Future. At UnidosNow we live and breathe this mantra through our multigenerational approach to programs. We are privileged to serve talented, passionate young people – who, indeed, will be our future leaders – and to work with their parents, grandparents and siblings, as well, who bring their cultural wisdom and insight to cultivating these young leaders and to building a stronger community, overall!

UnidosNow is Engaging New Partners for the #GivingChallenge16

We are thrilled to have new partners participating in our Challenge campaign this year! Thanks to our young professional volunteer committee, we are competing in the Millennial Challenge.

Our dynamic Millennial team – Juan Arcila, with USF Sarasota-Manatee, and local attorneys Kelly Rodenas and Carolina Saavedra – are developing creative and techy ways to engage young people and encourage them to be part of this philanthropic opportunity. Here is the video they created to launch UnidosNow’s Millennial Challenge:


Stay tuned for details on the upcoming Millennial Challenge happy hour community event!

UnidosNow is also partnering with The Ringling to compete in the Giving Challenge’s Best Nonprofit Partnership contest. Both institutions value education and prioritize education programming and services as a primary part of their respective missions.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are collaborating to elevate the visibility of the contributions of Latinos and Latino Americans to the arts and culture of the U.S. The Ringling will host two events focused on their exhibit, Collaborating Across Borders, which features Latin American artists, to which UnidosNow will bring our familia – students, parents, mentors and supporters – to celebrate.


Be the One to Inspire a Student: Be Part of the #GivingChallenge16!

Mark your calendars! UnidosNow will be part of the annual Giving Challenge, once again. We are counting on you – our friends and supporters – to help expand and enhance our programs through this 24-hour online giving event, from noon to noon on September 20 and 21.

One of the exciting aspects of the Giving Challenge this year is that all new donors (anyone who did not give to UnidosNow in 2015) will be matched two-to-one, and returning donors will be matched one-to-one, both up to $100.

This means YOU can Be The ONE to help our students DREAM BIG because your donation will have DOUBLE or TRIPLE the impact on our work and mission.

Example of how a donation to UnidosNow will be matched by The Patterson Foundation for a new donor:

GC_TPF_Matching_NewExample of how a donation to UnidosNow will be matched by The Patterson Foundation for a returning donor.



So, we hope that you will visit between noon and noon, September 20 to 21, enter “UnidosNow” in the search box, and donate with your credit or debit card to qualify for a matched donation. (You can also be on the look-out, via our Facebook and Twitter, for the direct link to our donation page at the start of the Challenge.)

Your contribution will enable UnidosNow to reach more students at additional schools with expanded programming opportunities, such as facilitating students’ college visits and tours.

Imagine the possibilities. Be The One to inspire a student.


The 2016 Giving Challenge is presented by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, with giving strengthened by The Patterson Foundation, as well as support from Manatee Community FoundationJohn S. and James L. Knight FoundationWilliam G. and Marie Selby Foundation, and the Herald-Tribune Media Group.

UnidosNow Receives the Expert Communicator Award


UnidosNow has been awarded with the Expert Communicator Award from, a tool the Sarasota-Manatee based nonprofit uses to stay in touch with their students from the Future Leaders Academy, as well as anybody interested in UnidosNow’s news and updates.

After having sent 100 messages, and having tens of subscribers, sent the organization this recognition for their great communication skills.

You can also sign-up for UnidosNow’s text alerts sending @unidosnow to 81010.

Volunteer of the Month, Joe Carfora


Congratulate our volunteer of the month, Joe Carfora! Joe has a passion for mentoring students of all ages and providing them with the guidance needed to be successful in life. Prior to coming to Florida a couple of years ago, Joe helped elementary and middle school students with math and reading needs and provided general advice to them regarding the sports they played and how to set goals. But his real passion was to work with high school students, and we are fortunate at UnidosNow that he found us before another organization could grab him.

Last year Joe volunteered to mentor one of our students and also assisted us by reviewing several student essays before they were submitted with college applications. This summer Joe has agreed to mentor three students and, as usual, is putting his whole heart into it. He has an amazing way of connecting with teenagers and understands how challenging it can be to interact with students at this age. Joe doesn’t use a cookie cutter approach to mentoring. He takes the time to understand each student’s personal story and aspirations, and then seeks to guide them on their unique path to success.

Joe goes the extra mile with his students, whether it’s conducting his own research to familiarize himself with colleges that might offer a student’s major, or meeting with a student’s guidance counselor since the student’s parents were unable to speak English, or taking the time to meet and encourage parents who so badly want their children to get ahead.

We pride ourselves at UnidosNow for seeking out students with grit, students with the perseverance needed to overcome the many obstacles they face in high school, and will continue to face in college and beyond. Joe understands that mentors have to be equally gritty because mentoring is not easy. He also understands that getting into college and eventually graduating takes more than strong academics –it takes life skills that are not normally taught in our schools. And here is where Joe excels, as he has lived a full and successful life, and has so much wisdom to share. Joe arrived in our region to retire after spending over 4o successful years in the plastics industry. But anyone who knows Joe understands that retirement is not part of his make-up. He is still an active board member in his chosen industry, and has played a leadership role in his community, Lakewood Ranch. Also, he is a proud alum of Rutgers University and often represents the school at college fairs.

Joe is a dedicated husband and a proud father and grandfather. We are so grateful to have him as a member of our team, and are equally grateful to his wife Sharon for supporting Joe as he pursues his passion for giving back to the community.

Congratulations, Rising Sophomores & Juniors!

It’s been an honor to meet this very impressive group of talented students at our Future Leaders Academy Rising Sophomores and Juniors. They come from Sarasota High School, Pine View, Sarasota Military Academy – High School, Manatee High School, Bayshore High School, and Palmetto High School. Their interests varied from engineering to science, nursing, medicine, and music. They all shared very impressive testimonials at the closing ceremony about how much the #FutureLeadersAcademy has meant to them and about what’s next. They received their certificates from Hector Tejeda, Jon Thaxton of Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Kelly Kirschner, and Luz Corcuera.

We thank University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee for hosting us, and all our partners for their support: Manatee Community Foundation,Gulf Coast Community Foundation, United Way of South Sarasota County, United Way of Manatee County, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Wells Fargo, Gecko’s Grill & Pub, Bank of America, and IBERIABANK.

We cannot forget our incredible mentors who have inspired and helped our scholars: Carolina Saavedra, Joe Carfora, Evelyn Tejeda, and Diane Ryu. For the last two weeks, Evelyn Tejeda picked the lunches every day for students, and she’ll continue doing it for our next group of Rising Seniors. Mrs. Juana Smith, another of our wonderful volunteers, prepared dinner twice for our Rising Sophomores and Juniors when we had had long day of students sessions and parents workshops.

Now, some of our Rising Sophomores and Juniors are attending the ACT preparation for the next two weeks along with our Rising Seniors group.

We are so proud of all of you. We cannot wait to see what you do next.

#DREAMBig #SueñaALoGrande #ReachHigh #LlegaAlto

Financial Aid Workshop

On Thursday, July 22nd, we prepared a great financial aid panel to guide our students through it.

Another way to guide our students to succeed is through providing information about financial aid available, as well as private scholarships. Joan McCaw,Manatee Community Foundation, Katie Flick, USF Financial Aid Manager, and Evan Jones, with the Selby Foundation, provided excellent information and tips to apply for scholarships and how to fill out a FAFSA application.

They provided excellent information about financial aid available, as well as private scholarships. The audience was very engaged and asked a lot of questions, getting ready for their college journey.