In an attempt to engage more with the seniors on my caseload this semester, I started volunteering at North’s Future Center, a college/career resource center run by the Denver Scholarship Foundation. The center provides a college advisor who guides students through the college application and financial aid process. The Denver Scholarship Foundation has 16 future centers in Denver Public Schools!
Spending time there has been a great way to learn more about who my students are and where they are hoping to go after graduating from high school. I’ve had the opportunity to help students fill out college and scholarship applications, edit essays, make phone calls to parents, create posters, and just hang out with students during their free time.
One of the highlights has been the opportunity to assist at both North High and KIPP High with their FAFSA nights. The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid that every senior must complete in order to receive federal aid from a postsecondary institution. On FAFSA nights, seniors and their parents are invited to come to the school and volunteers will assist families in completing their FAFSAs.
At my first FAFSA night, I was able to help one of the students on my caseload and his parents complete theirs. We spent about an hour going through the application; his parents didn’t speak English, so I translated for them and explained what some of the terminology meant and how it would affect them. Through this experience, I was able to learn more about his family, background, and hopes for the future.
Having gone through this process alone my senior year of high school and working for a college admissions office for two years, I know that the FAFSA is scary for a lot of people, regardless of one’s educational background. This opportunity has allowed me to combine my personal and professional experiences with my love for higher education while getting to know my students on a deeper level.
-Karla Arevalo De Leon