With a 63 percent completion rate, Yonkers Montessori Academy is among the top-performers among schools in the Mid-Hudson region where at least 40 percent of students are low-income.

In fact, four of the top five completers among that group of schools are in the Yonkers City School District.

Yonkers Montessori and the other schools benefit from a systemic districtwide approach to helping students complete the FAFSA.

The district works with Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE), a foundation that aims to ensure students are ready for, enroll in, and complete college, to host events such as an annual college fair, where district and YPIE staff assist parents in completing the FAFSA. More than 60 colleges typically attend, also offering families an opportunity to learn more about programs and have their questions answered.

The district also offers additional school-based opportunities where parents have access to computers and staff to assist them in filling out the FAFSA. That includes at college nights, Yonkers My Brother’s Keeper meetings, and even parent teacher conferences.

Yonkers has also tapped into their bilingual counselors and administrators – particularly those who speak Spanish and Arabic – to work with families in their native language, something they find eases parents’ concerns and fears about providing income and personal information.

“It’s about equity and access,” said Dr. Edwin M. Quezada, Superintendent of the Yonkers Public Schools.  “If you truly believe in equity then you must be relentless in your work to that end.  For Yonkers, this begins with our kindergarten families at our annual College is My Future.  This year we celebrated the Class of 2031.  Although many of our parents may not have had the opportunity to attend college we want them to understand that their child can achieve and we offer guidance and resources to achieve that goal.  We are persistent with this message throughout their child’s education.  FAFSA and college applications drive the senior year; therefore, we create the conditions and provide the human capital for our students and families to take one more step to realize the American Dream.”