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Career Exploration, College Attainment, College Exploration, FAFSA

One of our donors at Manatee Community Foundation regularly reminds me that if more people aren’t actively engaged in helping every student attain educational success, we should be concerned about the future of our county and everyone in it.

I’m in agreement.

Neither of us can imagine what Manatee County will look like for families, visitors, small businesses, and people we want to attract if our own citizens do not have the education necessary for the jobs that our community needs.  Both of us know that heads of households struggle—and their children struggle—when they are not financially secure because post-secondary education always seemed too hard to attain. We can turn this around and need to do it.

By 2025, 60% of the jobs in Florida will require post-secondary attainment.  Currently, 47% of the adults in Manatee County are there. We have to do better.

That’s why Manatee Community Foundation is all in, working with a network of collaborative partners to do what we can to make sure students of all ages understand the opportunities available for access to education.   

REACH Manatee is our new local College Access Network. It’s part of a growing state and national movement, and iIt will require the input, activism and encouragement of each of us to work. Here are three things you can do:

  1. Encourage the students in your life to get the help they need completing the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a bear. It’s complicated, yes, but not impossible. REACH Manatee agencies such as UnidosNow and Manatee County Schools have free workshops to help you. Whatever the situation students or their parents are in, they are not alone.

  2. Remind students of every age that the trades are excellent careers, and jobs are waiting to be filled right now. One of the best technical schools in the state, Manatee Technical College, is here. Students are coming out with immediate job offers and good wages. Scholarships are available for adult learners as well as graduating high school students.

  3. Participate in our collaborative discussions. REACH Manatee members meet every other month. We need students, parents, advocates, educators, nonprofit professionals, business leaders, and the faith based community at the table. We have a seat for you.

Susie Bowie is the executive director of Manatee Community Foundation. Visit them online at ManateeCF.org.

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Testimonies

“Throughout life, you will develop new dreams and aspire to do great things but without the foundation of a quality post-secondary education, whether it be traditional college or technical education, the mountain to success will be harder to climb.”

I was destined for college. Growing up in a family where no one graduated college and only one of my parents had completed their high school education, I knew I wanted to be different. As soon as I graduated high school, I enrolled in a college about an hour away and decided to commute. After three months, I was offered a decent paying job and immediately quit school. During this period, I got married, had kids, and started to feel like my dream of accomplishing college was never going to happen. Even though life was getting in the way, I still had hopes of accomplishing this goal of completing college.

You’re seventeen years old, not sure what you want to do. You’re considering not going to school because you feel like you need a year to figure things out. Try something new, learn something new, discover your passions because it could lead you don’t a path to success. At seventeen, I was going to be the next Chief Marketing Officer for Chick-Fil-A. At 20, I was going to be a District Manager for Verizon Wireless. At 23, I was going to grow my own marketing empire. Throughout life, you will develop new dreams and aspire to do great things but without the foundation of a quality post-secondary education, whether it be traditional college or technical education, the mountain to success will be harder to climb.

Now I’m 31, and my pursuit of knowledge hasn’t stopped. In fact, I just began my doctorate in leadership studies, and now I have a bachelor’s in management, and a master’s in business. My path will not be the same as yours but discovering the first steps of your pathway begins with exploring your passions, skills, and opportunities. Even if you fall a little short, there are so many people rooting for you to succeed so good luck and have fun. The ride is worth it.

Chris Laney, Director of Education & Community Investment for CareerSource Suncoast

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