Monthly Archives

February 2017


By | News

Maria Aguilarwas 10 years old when men in a green Mustang pointed a gun at her father on the streets of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

“I almost lost him,” she recalled. “Thankfully they didn’t do anything but take his wallet.”

Ironically, the Aguilars were visiting the city to finalize immigration documents for a move to the United States, and the incident helped Ms. Aguilar understand why her father was determined to bring his family to America.

“He wanted a better life for my mom, my siblings and me,” she said.

College was always part of that better life for Ms. Aguilar, the eldest child.

“Not going to college was never an option,” she said. “My father wants us to do what he and my mom could never do: Live a stable financial life without worries and be successful by using our skills and knowledge.”


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UNMAZE ME: College Myths: Perceived Barriers to Higher Education

By | News

College myths often create perceived barriers to why students do not matriculate to a college or university. What is not being discussed is the face of higher education is changing; in that it is more accessible than ever before to meet the needs of a wide variety of learners. This is important knowledge for both students and educators, because we have to realize the way we discuss college needs to swiftly change as well.

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FAFSA first! challenges high school seniors to share why #IFiledFAFSAfirst through social media contest

By | News

FAFSA first!, a FutureMakers Coalition campaign aimed at informing Southwest Florida high school seniors and their parents about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is launching a social media contest challenging high school students to share why #IFiledFAFSAfirst.

To be eligible to enter the contest, the student must be graduating spring 2017 from a high school in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry or Lee County. To enter the contest, the participant must create a unique post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, tag five friends and FAFSA first!, and use the hashtag #IFiledFAFSAfirst.

All entries must be submitted by Friday, March 17. Five winners, one from each county, will be chosen to receive $500 toward college or career school expenses. Winners will be notified in late March. For more information and contest entry rules visit,

“We want to harness teenagers’ social media savvy to spread news and information about FAFSA as far and wide as possible throughout our region,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which serves as the backbone organization for the FutureMakers Coalition. “As of Feb. 3, Southwest Florida’s FAFSA completion rate is at 27.6 percent, which is a great start. We have further to go to achieve our campaign goal of 40 percent this school year.”

Research shows FAFSA completion rates correlate with the percentage of workforce who hold degrees, certificates and high-quality credentials. The FutureMakers Coalition partners throughout the region are working to educate high school seniors and their parents about FAFSA and why it is important to file.

Each year, the federal government provides more than $150 billion in financial aid (grants, work-study and loans) for college and career school. To apply for this aid, every high school senior who plans to attend college or career school must complete the FAFSA. State governments and many colleges, career schools and private organizations also use FAFSA information to determine additional financial aid awards.

The federal deadline for filing FAFSA is June 30, 2017. Florida’s state deadline is May 15, 2017, for the date by which FAFSA needs to be processed. Colleges and universities also have varying priority and filing deadlines.

New for the 2017-18 application, FAFSA became available Oct. 1, 2016 and allows applicants to use their 2015 income tax returns. Previously, FAFSA was not available until Jan. 1 for filing and it required income tax information for the most recent tax year, even though that often meant students’ and parents’ actual tax returns hadn’t yet been filed with the IRS. By filing FAFSA earlier and using accurate income tax information that is already available, students and parents will benefit by receiving financial aid award offers from schools sooner and can make informed decisions about college or career school affordability.

Visit to learn more about the campaign, and for information and resources about FAFSA.


About the FutureMakers Coalition

Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by 2025. The Coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners. In 2016, Southwest Florida was one of 75 metropolitan areas selected as part of Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide by increasing the number of working age adults with degrees and certifications.

Glades County Democrat: FutureMakers partner reports program success

By | News

Lumina grant supports first-year program in Glades County

The Glades Education Foundation, a FutureMakers partner, recently reported a successful inaugural year of the AVID About Success program in Glades County.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is an international kindergarten through college program whose mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. AVID was implemented in Glades County to target students in the middle of the academic spectrum in grades six through nine, who are at risk for not graduating from high school. AVID teaches skills that are necessary to be successful in school, college and career.

According to Laura M. Perry, executive director of the Glades Education Foundation, the first year of the program ushered in training of Glades County teachers at the AVID Summer Institute in Orlando and Tampa in June 2016. Teachers were trained in research-based AVID methodology, incorporating the WICOR (writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading strategies) method of teaching as well as Socratic tutoring sessions facilitated by AVID tutors. These teachers were matched with students as their mentors to provide encouragement and support, which is particularly important for students who will be the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education.


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UNMAZE ME: Strength in Partnership: UnMaze.Me & FutureMakers

By | News

A partnership was developed between the UnMaze.Me and FutureMakers Coalition to provide quality, current information to our SW Florida families and educators who need it the most. Weekly blog posts will be created on four key areas; 1) Community Educator Interview, 2) College Resource Guide, 3) Generalized College Readiness and 4) SW Florida Happenings and University Showcase.

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Weekly Blog to Focus on Post-Secondary Education

By | News

Amanda Sterk, M.Ed., doctoral candidate, is partnering with the FutureMakers Coalition to dedicate her weekly blog, Unmaze Me (, to the Coalition partners and their networks in hopes of reaching the Southwest Floridians who need it most. The blog aims to bridge the gap between K-12 and post-secondary education, and to provide a resource for both parents and practitioners to promote access to post-secondary education.

Sterk is the counselor for the collegiate high school at Florida Southwestern State College. After working 15 years in education as a teacher, administrator and counselor in all levels elementary through college, she brings her passion for helping families to through content creation, presentation and collaborator relations.

Unmaze Me began as a part of her doctoral work. While working as a full-time high school counselor, she looked for a “one-stop shop” to which she could point parents who had questions about things like college preparedness, the application process and all the other things that can challenge high school students.

“I couldn’t find one,” she said. “So I decided to make create Unmaze Me to be a comprehensive, comprehensible, destination for anyone looking for guidance through high school and beyond.”

Unmaze Me partners with both professionals and participants in the fields of education, bringing a wealth of expertise and a freshness of experience to its community pages so that many voices and perspectives can provide a richer understanding of the challenges facing high school students, parents and professionals today.

Some of the blog topics Sterk plans to focus on for FutureMakers are funding for college, high school and college programs, high school and career/college pathways, career exposure and exposure to available resources. There will be one new post a week.

“This is a great example of a FutureMakers partner lending their expertise to reach the shared goal of transforming the workforce,” said Tessa LeSage, who as director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation oversees the FutureMakers Coalition.

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025.

In 2016, Southwest Florida was one of 75 metropolitan areas selected as part of Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide by increasing the number of working age adults with degrees and certifications.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the backbone organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected].