At Yonkers Montessori Academy, teachers and administrators acknowledge how overwhelming the college admissions process can be for families.

The school worked with teachers who were knowledgeable about the college process and set aside time in student schedules so that staff could assist them. Each student was given a timeline for when they needed to complete tasks, including the FAFSA application.

The school also had a financial aid night to educate parents about the process. An area college volunteered to offer additional assistance to students filling out the form the school day. The school also notified students about workshops outside of the school.

Melissa, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, is a first-generation college student who has sought to excel in the natural sciences. When she learned her school did not offer Advanced Placement biology, she worked with administrators to arrange to take the course at another Yonkers high school, spending her lunch period traveling between the two schools.

“As a first-generation college student, the FAFSA allows me to be close to obtaining my dream of a bachelor’s degree, without money being a factor to hold me back from attending,” she said. “We can achieve anything we want by working hard.”

Melissa plans to attend Binghamton University.

“This scholarship will certainly assist me with books and other essentials,” she said. “I am so grateful for the generosity given to me.”

The school won the Challenge for having the highest completion rate among high schools with more than 100 seniors in the Big 4 school districts.

The Challenge was part of The New York FAFSA Completion Project, a statewide campaign launched by Ed Trust–NY to encourage public high schools to increase the proportion of eligible low-income students who complete the FAFSA.

Explore data for each high school in the state, read more about FAFSA completion strategies being used at New York schools, and find additional resources at