FORT MYERS, Fla. (Dec. 2, 2014) – FutureMakers, a regional call to action initiated by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, Inc., Southwest Florida Works, The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions for Learning, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, has released results from its inaugural year.
FutureMakers was born in 2013 with the mission of getting students in eight selected local high schools engaged and excited about college and career training. Regional schools were selected based on the low percentage of seniors filling out the Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) in recent years. Education and community organizations in each county assisted the FutureMakers coalition in providing one-on-one and group mentoring, FAFSA workshops, financial-aid application support and career coaching.
During the 2013-2014 school year, 912 high-school seniors at the FutureMakers’ eight partner schools including Cypress Lake, East Lee, Lehigh, Port Charlotte, Golden Gate, LaBelle and Clewiston high schools and Moore Haven Junior Senior High School successfully completed the FAFSA.
“We launched FutureMakers with optimism and realism, knowing a program of this magnitude requires baby steps before it can take off running,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. “Less than one third of high-school seniors in our five-county area were filling out the FAFSA. Understanding what type of financial aid is available and how much they may qualify for can make the difference between going to college or not for students. Our goal was to help the class of 2014 take its next step toward the educational opportunities that are available to them before graduation.”
Statistics based on data provided by the Florida College Access Network (FCAN) website, as of June 20, 2014, showed that five of the eight schools improved their FAFSA completion rates, and four were above the state’s declining 31.18 percent. East Lee recorded the biggest increase at 11.1 percent, and Cypress Lake had the highest FAFSA completion rate with 44.6 percent of students completing the form. Additionally, 1,681 seniors chose their next step toward entering college, working toward a technical school degree or embarking on a career.
“One day, we will collectively look back and know we’ve solved a big problem together,” said Susan McManus, Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions for Learning. “Mostly our success will be told in the eyes and stories of students who are now on their way to college.”
“There are many challenges affecting FAFSA completion throughout the state, one of them attributable to the state no longer requiring the application to qualify for Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship program,” added Owen.
According to the FCAN, it is estimated that during 2012, Florida’s high-school graduates left behind more $100 million in Pell Grants by virtue of not completing the FAFSA form.
Obtaining a college or technical school degree is important in today’s global economy. By 2020, 60 percent of Florida jobs will require a postsecondary degree or certificate. Currently, only 38 percent of working-age Floridians have earned a two- or four-year degree, according to FCAN’s analysis of national and state education data.
“This is not a sprint. Moving FAFSA numbers even a few percentage points is a major accomplishment, and we are just beginning our journey as a region committed to increasing college attendance and graduation,” Owen said. “It ultimately comes down to one student at a time to achieve their goals and dreams.
Twins Fritz and Fritzlene Maxi thought they’d be standing on the sidelines watching friends gleefully getting ready for their college lives, but thanks to FutureMakers, these two recent high-school graduates will be joining the ranks of the college class of 2018 or attaining postsecondary technical training after securing financial aid and receiving college and career prep from caring mentors.
“We’re the first generation going to college and working toward being successful,” said Fritzlene. “That makes my mom really, really proud.”
Fritzlene is attending Florida SouthWestern State College while her brother Fritz is traveling to Trinity College of Florida in Tampa.
The work of FutureMakers has been recognized by Lumina Foundation, an independent, private foundation committed to increasing the proportion of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025. As the coordinator for regional participation, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and its FutureMakers participants will benefit from Lumina’s collaborative approach that connects us to renowned national thought-leadership organizations and provides technical and planning assistance, data tools and flexible funding as attainment plans are customized. Lumina plans to grow the network with the addition of 35 new partners cities. Ultimately, 75 cities will make up Lumina’s Community Partnership for Attainment network.
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $80 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $60 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, the Foundation granted more than $2.8 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. The Foundation granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $400,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.
For more information, visit the Community Foundation’s website at www.floridacommunity.com or call 239-274-5900.