Scholars Program

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Financial Aid Season!

FLOC is committed to ensuring that every student obtains a postsecondary credential, which requires the financial means necessary to obtain it.  The high cost of college and vocational school can present a barrier to our students and their families.  But financial aid opens doors for students pursuing a postsecondary degree.  To that end, FLOC staff and volunteers are gearing up for financial aid season.

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The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opened on New Year’s Day.  It is critical in accessing scholarships, grants, and work-study opportunities for college-going students.  We know that our students benefit greatly from financial aid and have been working tirelessly to ensure they complete the FAFSA, accurately and on time.  Our 12th grade coaches will be equipped to provide one-on-one support to all of our high school seniors.  Our Scholars who are currently pursuing postsecondary degrees will receive a step-by-step how-to guide on completing the FAFSA, with additional support provided by staff and volunteers.  And while the FAFSA can be completed well into 2016, Scholars are encouraged to “Apply online by Valentine” to ensure they are among the first in line to receive the maximum amount of aid.

Scholars are also diligently working on their DCTAG (Tuition Assistance Grant), DC-CAP (DC College Access Program), institutional aid, and a whole host of scholarship applications.  Scholars will even have the opportunity to participate in social media campaigns and enter raffle competitions.

Students at VTECH

As acceptance letters and financial aid awards begin to roll in, FLOC staff will have critical conversations with students and their families to ensure clear understanding of what can be a maze of postsecondary jargon.  Our students and families are committed to their educational success and with the guidance provided by FLOC, they are well on their way to successful postsecondary careers.

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The countdown has begun and we are ready to make this a fruitful financial aid season!

(Lindsey Barclay is the Scholars Program Manager)

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News, Scholars Program

College Night 2015

On Wednesday December 16th, FLOC hosted its annual College Night, sponsored by PrepMatters, at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery. Over 50 parents, students, and alumni met to talk and learn about the college experience. The evening began with a college fair where staff, volunteers, and alumni represented their universities by answering questions posed by curious students. Students were also able to collect brochures and swag provided by colleges and universities all over the country. The fair was also a great place for parents to see just how many college options their students have to choose from.

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After the college fair, parents and students were split up into separate workshops designed to teach them about their role in the college process. The students got to listen to a panel of some our postsecondary students, alumni, an admissions representative, and staff. The students heard stories about how the admissions process works, how to pick a major, transferring to a new college or university, and finding financial aid.

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The students were also able to ask the panel questions. One student, Bethlehem asked “Which major do you pick when you have two things you really want to do?” Desiree on the panel answered that you can do both things. For example, if you’re interested in law and music, you can do music law. It’s more about picking a career nowadays and fitting your major to that. Students also had questions for our panel about college life; Joel, an 11th grader asked “what about the parties?” The panel answered that you’ll find what you’re looking for but you pay lots of money to go to college. It’s about making the right choice and balancing your school work with social life. Thanks to our panel, all of our students learned something new.

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In the next room their parents were also receiving new information from a panel of FLOC alumni, volunteers, and staff. The parent workshop was set up to help parents and family members learn how they can help and support their student through the application process, the financial aid process, and college life. In order to help parents understand how important their support is, Scholars program manager Lindsey Barclay explained the application process and the type of questions the applications ask students to answer. Postsecondary Success Coordinator Veronica Marin also explained that all students have a different process based their personalities and what they want in a college. All of this advice was well received by our parents, some of whom are currently going through this process with their high school seniors. So thanks to our panel, parents are more prepared to support their students on the college journey.

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In order to wrap up the night with a big red bow, we raffled off great gifts including gift cards and a DVD. This year’s College Night was a great evening filled with fun and new information. Thank you to all of our postsecondary students who gave up an evening of their winter break to share with our students, all of our volunteers who came out and shared their experiences, and all of our FLOC staff who represented well for their colleges and universities.

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(Joh’nita Johnson is a FLOC Fellow with the Scholars Program. She works primarily with 12th graders and Postsecondary Scholars.)

Development, Neighborhood Tutoring Program, Scholars Program

Looking back, looking forward: end of the year at FLOC

The holiday season is a time of reflection at FLOC. It gives us an opportunity to pause and give thanks to those who’ve helped our organization and the students we serve. We count ourselves extraordinarily lucky to be supported by such a vibrant and passionate community. The remarkable achievements of our students are a reflection not only of the tireless work our students put forth, but it’s also a testament to the generosity of our donors and volunteers.

Nationwide, 81% of students now graduate from high school. Inarguably that’s an important milestone and an indicator that things are moving in the right direction, but it also shows the work that remains. We are failing one-fifth of the young people in this country. The numbers are even worse in Washington, DC. In our city, a city that has more college degrees per capita than anywhere else in the country, only 64% of students will achieve a high school degree. Even fewer will earn a postsecondary degree. A failing of this magnitude is hard to fathom, and it’s even more difficult to create and fight for the lasting, systemic change necessary to rectify it. However, in the push for sustainable and lasting change, we cannot lose sight of the thousands of students in classrooms today who are living the reality of these statistics.

9th grade Scholars group

At FLOC, we believe that the only thing separating students who struggle and students who succeed is opportunity. Over the past 50 years, we have served over 10,000 children, talented young people who thrive when exposed to quality out-of-school-time programming. Thanks to continued and new support, another class (the ninth straight!) of FLOC high school seniors achieved a 100% graduation rate. We’re proud of their hard work and grateful that our donors have allowed us to continue supporting these tremendous young people. Across all our programs, this support and partnership have led to remarkable results.

  • Our Neighborhood Tutoring Program served a total of 380 students and recruited more than 349 volunteer tutors.
  • Those 380 students made more than a year of improvement after just three and half months of steady tutoring.
  • Thanks to a new program model for SAT prep, students improved their composite scores on the SAT by more than 100 points.

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This growth is fantastic, but preparing students for postsecondary success requires a lot more than just raising test scores. Today’s student are leaving high school and entering a highly competitive, quickly moving world. They require new skills and new experiences to help them navigate it. Jason, one of our recent high school graduates, is a great example of the ways that FLOC is working to fully prepare students for postsecondary success.

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Ever since he started coming to FLOC, Jason has been a presence. Sometimes this was a positive thing, like when he would encourage his classmates across our high ropes course. Other times, it was a challenge, like when he would take over a workshop with his jokes. In his school life, he struggled to find his place, to share his talents and to achieve success.

As a freshman in high school, Jason had to deal with the death of his older brother. The loss was devastating, certainly distracting and not surprisingly a major factor in his lack of motivation in the classroom. FLOC has been a part of the village that supports him and his family. Jason was motivated by basketball and the special caring relationships he’d formed with his peers and the staff at FLOC. We fought to help him recognize that he still had a path to success, that he had the capability to achieve great things if he challenged himself and remained focused. It didn’t happen overnight, but he began to heal and to grow. Jason’s senior year of high school was his strongest academically, and he graduated on time. He applied and was accepted to a community college, where he intends to get his associates degree before moving on to a 4-year institution to study psychology. We asked Jason what he believes will be his key to success. He shared that he finally realizes the power he has to be great, to make his brother proud and to help others; Jason plans to become a therapist for children who have suffered from traumatic loss. We believe in him and will support him throughout his journey.

Students at VTECH

This year, another group of twelfth graders is preparing for the next steps in their academic journey. Throughout the city, there are thousands more who have the potential to excel, but lack access to the programming that will allow them to do so. Again, the only thing that separates a student in a failing school from one in a top-tier school is opportunity. FLOC represents that opportunity for more than 600 students in the city. We need your support to reach even more students in 2016. Today, during this season of giving, we ask you to make a special gift so that more children can get the tools necessary for academic success. With your gift, FLOC’s dedicated staff and volunteers will be able to better serve even more children. With your support, even more people will hear our message that a high-quality education is the birthright of every child, that viable pathways to postsecondary success should be the bar by which any community of educators is judged.

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Thank you for your support of FLOC and the work we do, and from our family to yours, happy holidays!

Development

Corporate Partner Spotlight: Acumen Solutions

There are several businesses and partners that FLOC has been lucky enough to partner with for several years. One that particularly sticks out is Acumen Solutions.

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FLOC was introduced to Acumen Solutions in 2009 when Adam Horvath, a Senior Director, joined our Board of Directors. For five years, FLOC participated in and was a beneficiary of Acumen’s Race for a Cause, raising a total of over $55,000 for FLOC’s Neighborhood Tutoring and Scholars Programs. At this year’s Recognition Event and Empower Awards, Acumen Solutions received the Empower Partner award for going above and beyond to support the work we are doing for low-income students in DC. The award was given in recognition of the pro bono support Acumen has provided FLOC while helping our program managers build a Salesforce database to track student data. This upgrade to a central database has increased our ability to track, analyze and report on individual students’ progress as they participate in FLOC programs.

This week, Acumen Solutions has generously donated 23 laptop computers for our Scholars Program. These laptops will help us replace some of our outdated ones, as well as support our students and staff in a variety of ways.

  • 6th – 10th graders will use the laptops to complete academic assignments during Homework Help as many students do not have computers and/or internet access at home.
  • 11th graders will research postsecondary institutions and career opportunities on the new laptops.
  • Laptops will support our 12th graders in the college application process including college research, resume and personal statement composition, application completion, and financial aid searches.
  • Our local postsecondary students will be able to use laptops to complete assignments, research colleges (if they are transferring) and search for scholarships.
  • New laptops will be helpful to staff when presenting volunteer trainings and workshops.

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We extend a huge thank you to Acumen Solutions for their work in the community and for supporting FLOC and our students.

(Kate Brown is the Development Associate at FLOC.) 

Scholars Program, Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Jessica, a Postsecondary Coach

JessicaKaushalJessica Kaushal currently serves as a postsecondary coach in the Scholars program where she is matched with a twelfth grade scholar to provide support on his journey towards a postsecondary education. Jessica joined FLOC last year, after a big move and change in industry encouraged her to give back to the community in a more direct way.

Jessica is no stranger to FLOC, though; this past summer she served as a math tutor to an energetic fifth grader in the Neighborhood Tutoring Program. While she loved NTP, Jessica decided to return as a postsecondary coach because she’s excited about providing the support she lacked to a high-school senior. “[Applying to college] is a complicated process,” said Jessica. “Going from a large public high school to a small private university, where it seemed like everyone already knew how to write a long paper, was a huge jump.”

This year, Jessica works with a student named Nicholas, who is interested in pursuing a liberal arts education, just as she did. Nicholas emigrated from Taiwan at a very young age, but after growing up in the city, he’s excited at the prospect of going to school elsewhere. He hopes to pick up some “non-euro-centric” history in college, and perhaps pursue his interest in behavior economics.

When asked why she originally chose to volunteer with FLOC, Jessica said that she appreciates the long-term relationship FLOC has with many of its students. Volunteering at FLOC has also given Jessica a more holistic perspective about the time and resources it takes to educate a child, which has influenced her mindset within the world of public policy.

We’re thrilled to have Jessica back for another exciting year at FLOC!

(Samantha Bailey is the Bilingual Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator at FLOC.)

Scholars Program

Scholars Spring Semester Recap

The Scholars Program had an eventful spring filled with exciting workshops and field trips. The sixth grade Scholars participated in workshops about leadership and identity.  Students enthusiastically identified qualities of a good leader and provided examples of leaders in their families and communities. 6th grade Scholars also created an identity box which included a personal timeline, lists of their favorite things along with a poem about their feelings, desires, and goals.

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The 7th grade students learned how healthy eating and physical exercise impact their performance in school and overall wellbeing. To alleviate personal and academic anxieties, students created stress balls. 7th grade Scholars also researched career fields in education and hospitality where they eventually created their own education nonprofit and toured Omni Hotel.

8th grade Scholars participated in Mock Admission activities where they had the 2015-03-23 19.25.16opportunity to design their own colleges. Students reviewed sample applications and decided who to accept waitlist or deny. 8th grade students also explored what it means to have a healthy verse an unhealthy relationship in all aspects of their life: dating, family, friends, and school.

The 9th grade workshops included discussions about positive self-expression with the help of metaphors; navigating life events and “what if” scenarios; building a timeline of their life experiences; and themes concerning police brutality, how to formulate arguments in a debate, and how to navigate various personal preferences that can help narrow students’ postsecondary choices.

10th grade Scholars spent time researching and developing a 10 Year Plan. Students started the project by talking about what it means to be a self-advocate, the importance of knowing your behavioral style, and creating logos and tag lines that represent who we are. Students wrote about graduating high school, what experiences they would like to have in college and what career they would like to aspire to. Additionally, they built a fictional budget based on the salary of their ideal job and learned how to make a paycheck stretch. 2015-03-18 18.38.58

The 11th grade Scholars focused on their college search.  Each student created a list of ten postsecondary institutions they are interested in applying to during their senior year. They familiarized themselves with the application process, and learned how to determine whether an institution would be a good fit for their career goals, academic skills, and personal interests. Scholars also developed an understanding of the purpose of a personal statement and identified the experiences, activities, and accomplishments that make for compelling and one-of-a-kind essays.

12th grade workshops are designed to introduce seniors to key themes that they will encounter in their postsecondary careers and help them transition successfully from high school. One of our Postsecondary Scholars, India Ellsworth, came to present some information to the seniors about her postsecondary experiences at Penn State-Altoona. She shared valuable insight concerning college life, choosing a major, and time management. The following week, students continued their conversation about the differences between time management in high school and their postsecondary institution and discussed how they defined success personally, professionally, educationally, and socially.

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As the school year comes to an end, we are busy planning for our summer workshops, OEC camps, and SYEP students. Here’s to a great year and an ever better summer!

(Kimberly Davis is the College Access Coordinator with FLOC’s Scholars Program.)

Scholars Program, Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Gerald

Gerald Mason 2Gerald Mason currently serves as a Postsecondary Coach in the Scholars program. In this role, he is matched with a 12th grade Scholar to provide individual support on his journey to post-secondary education. Gerald first heard about FLOC through his girlfriend, who thought it would be appropriate that he consider FLOC, given his interest in mentoring and education. He’s always had a desire to serve his community but he recognized that having a passion for giving was not sufficient. He knew it was time for his actions to better mirror his values.

Gerald has been a volunteer since the summer of 2014. He started as a Tutor in the Neighborhood Tutoring Program. This school year, Gerald is working with a student named Aldair, who he is helping to complete scholarship applications. Aldar is the epitome of a modern day gentlemen. He’s smart, compassionate, and family-centered. Gerald finds Aldair’s love for science and truth discovery refreshing and is impressed by his indomitable will.

2015-03-18 19.01.00Gerald’s best experience thus far at FLOC occurred on 3/10/15. That was the day he found out Aldair got into his number one school, Catholic University. Aldair will the first person in his family to go to college. Gerald and Aldair worked hard on improving his SAT score to boost the strength of his candidacy. He made everyone proud by increasing his score by 70 points. His acceptance into Catholic justifies his hard work and further legitimizes FLOC’s efforts.

Besides Aldair’s acceptance into Catholic, every day helping him to secure his future is a legitimate contender for Gerald’s “favorite moment” at FLOC. Gerald and Aldair were both applying to schools this school year which made their bond tighter. They had to be accountable to each other. His acceptance into several schools and Gerald’s acceptance into Cornell University for graduate school makes their journey together this year much more memorable!

A fun fact about Gerald is that his mother was a Director at FLOC in the 1980s, which he discovered after he started volunteering.

(Vanessa Hanible is the Recrruitment and Outreach Associate at FLOC.)