This past year, Promise Corps served as the lead on the School District of Philadelphia’s FAFSA Completion challenge for each of our four schools. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and opens in October. Students need to enter both their information and their guardian’s information. This provides them with what financial aid they qualify for. The sooner a student does it, the more funds are available, and the better informed they can be when it’s time to make choices about their postsecondary steps.
The FAFSA challenge was born out of the need to increase FAFSA completion rates in schools across the district. Due to our full-time presence in schools, and the fact that we support every single senior in our schools, this is something Promise Corps can really support our schools with!
Our Site Supervisors attended meetings at the school district throughout the year with The Office of College and Career Readiness and Office of Strategic Partnerships. We had conversations with coaches from other schools to share best practices and discuss how to implement them in our respective schools. At the heart of these conversations, we all talked about not just how we were supporting students in completing the FAFSA, but how we were helping students understand why they were doing it as well.
It was our CCAs who really led the charge. They educated students on what completing FAFSA really means. That this can help you not only with going to college, but technical school too. They planned evening events to bring parents in, calling them beforehand to make sure they knew what documents to bring. They pushed into senior classes for full days throughout the year to check in with students, who were all at different points in the process. They held office hours in the Promise Corps room. They held one on one sessions with parents and students at all different times.
After a lot of work on the CCAs’ part, it was time for all Philadelphia schools to celebrate the successes of seniors at the 2018 College Signing Day held at Temple University. It was a star-studded event with appearances by the 2018 Super Bowl Eagles, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Zendaya, and of course, Former First Lady Michelle Obama. Students, staff, and CCAs were all excited for a chance to get to see the former First Lady! Michelle Obama imparted some words of wisdom on the huge crowd, urging students to believe in themselves and ask for help when they need it.
At the close of the event, the schools who showed the most growth in FAFSA completion were honored with scholarships from the Wilt Chamberlain Memorial Fund. The Overbrook team came in third, showing growth of nearly 16% in FAFSA completion from last year!
This is an endeavor we are proud to be a part of, and can’t wait to continue supporting this school year!
– Kerry DiNardo, Senior Site Supervisor