NEW YORK – The Education Trust–New York today recognized 12 public high schools across New York State for their work helping students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a critical step toward enabling students to access the financial aid that can be a key factor in whether students who are from low-income backgrounds have the opportunity to attend college.
Winning high schools — where at least half of students are from low-income backgrounds — each receive $750 to award a scholarship to a graduating high school senior who is planning to attend college in the fall and is either from a low-income background or a first-generation college student. The New York FAFSA Completion Challenge recognizes high schools for high FAFSA completion rates and for improvements in FAFSA completion rates since last year in multiple categories based on region of the state and school size.
These 12 schools exemplify a commitment to helping students access critical financial aid and support them in completing their applications, even while facing the challenges of the ongoing pandemic. Statewide, the FAFSA completion rate as of June 10 was up one percentage point from the same time last year, yet the rate is still five percentage points lower than at the end of June 2019, before the pandemic forced school closures. The gap in the June 2022 completion rate compared to before the pandemic also persists, particularly among schools serving the largest shares of students from low-income backgrounds (60% completion rate) compared to schools serving the smallest shares of students from low-income backgrounds (68% completion rate).
“A higher education degree or credential is crucial to putting New Yorkers on the path to earning a family-sustaining wage and being able to contribute to the economy,” said Dia Bryant, executive director of The Education Trust–New York. “As New York continues its recovery from the ongoing pandemic, it is crucial that we support New Yorkers on this pathway. We applaud the efforts and success of this year’s FAFSA Challenge winners and hope their efforts will inspire other high schools and educators to take similar steps to help their own students realize the promise of a higher education.”
“Congratulations to this year’s winning high schools and thank you for your commitment to help put students on their path to a higher education,” said Dr. Guillermo Linares, president of New York State Higher Education Services Corporation.“Educators are shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders and connecting them to the vital resources they need to pursue their educational goals plays a critical role in ensuring that students are prepared for success after graduation.”
The winning schools are:
In New York City
- Top performers (for schools with at least 100 seniors): Central Park East High School
- Improvement (for schools with at least 100 seniors): New Visions Charter High School for the Humanities
- Top performers (for schools with less than 100 seniors): Bronx High School of Business
- Improvement (for schools with less than 100 seniors): Harlem Children’s Zone Promise
In the Big 4 School Districts (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers)
- Top performers (for schools with at least 100 seniors): True North Rochester Prep Charter
- Improvement (for schools with at least 100 seniors): Lafayette International School
- Top performers (for schools with less than 100 seniors): Leonardo Da Vinci High School
- Improvement (for schools with less than 100 seniors): Eugenio Maria De Hostos Charter School
In All Other School Districts
- Top performers (for schools with at least 100 seniors): Academy Charter School
- Improvement (for schools with at least 100 seniors): Uniondale High School
- Top performers (for schools with less than 100 seniors): True North Prep Troy Charter School
- Improvement (for schools with less than 100 seniors): La Fargeville Central School
About the winners
In New York City
- The college team at Central Park East High School utilizes senior seminar classes; remote office hours before, during, and after school; small application affinity groups; and individual meetings to support seniors through the college admissions and financial aid process. A team of 12 youth leaders also contributed to the school’s success with FAFSA completion. These selected leaders were trained in the application process through the school’s College Bound Initiative and were available to help their peers through the process. The college team also used social media to inform students and parents about college admissions-related tasks throughout the year. Esther, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, leads by example. Throughout her four years at Central Park East High School, she immersed herself in service through the National Honors Society. Esther is a first-generation college student who plans to study nursing at Binghamton University. Through her experiences with programs such as MedDocs, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the Let’s Move Initiative, she developed a passion for helping others through service. Esther hopes to one day use her voice to motivate others to improve their health.
- At the beginning of the school year, the cohort administration team at New Visions Charter School for the Humanities partnered with teaching staff to conduct classroom push-ins for college and financial aid applications. A school counselor and postsecondary director went into English content classes for all 12th grade students and helped them apply for CUNY, SUNY, and FAFSA. Students with individual concerns were encouraged to meet with a counselor one-on-one. The school also conducted a FAFSA Night for parents who needed additional information and assistance. Princesa, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, was accepted to a private university in Queens and is looking forward to enjoying the full college campus experience. Princesa has been relentless in ensuring her spot and looks forward to studying marketing.
- The Bronx High School of Business receives support from New Settlement’s College Access Center. The school’s counselor also supports graduating students with their college and career process with the help of two youth leaders. As a team, they were able to target students by constantly reaching out via email, text, and social media to make sure students were aware of their college timeline and responsibilities. The school held individual and group conferences to ensure students remained on track. The school’s efforts started at the beginning of the school year with collecting the proper documentation, which allowed for the smooth completion of FAFSA and TAP. The school has also hosted workshops to educate students and families and support them throughout the process. Kwadwo, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, is valedictorian for the Class of 2022. He is from Ghana and emigrated to the United States at the age of 11. Kwadwo has shown a strong commitment to his academics by persistently showing up for himself. During his freshman year, Kwadwo was accepted into SEO Scholars, which will support him on his journey to and through college. Kwadwo is graduating early from the Bronx High School of Business and is headed to Lehman College to study computer science.
- Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy Schools have a set of college coordinators who help students and their families through the entire college and financial aid application process. The school meets with families individually once college acceptances and financial packages are awarded to help them decide what college or university is the best fit financially and academically for each student. The school has had these meetings via the phone and zoom to maintain safety measures during the pandemic. The school also requires students to apply for a minimum of six scholarships in order to help them access college financial aid. Siri, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, is a first-generation college student. Siri is active in athletics. He is a kind student and has a big personality. He is attending SUNY Plattsburgh in the fall to study nursing.
In the Big 4 School Districts (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Yonkers)
- True North Rochester Prep School tailored FAFSA support for students by offering three in-person FAFSA sessions and one-on-one zoom sessions for families. The school also has included FAFSA completion in its college readiness course, which meets three times per week. Throughout the pandemic, the school has focused on building counseling relationships over two years so students and families work with the same college counselor for junior and senior years, allowing a longer runway and additional support in completing the FAFSA. The team tracked FAFSA completion throughout the year. Lyshon, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, is a top scholar who is attending the University at Buffalo. He plans to study biological sciences and he looks forward to working to complete high leverage research that will change lives. Lyshon designed and executed the school’s first ever large-scale Hispanic Heritage celebration. During his time at Rochester Prep, Lyshon was a member of Mock Trial and Drama Club. He also worked in the community at Kodak Theater and The Community Place of Rochester and is an Urban League Black Scholar and a member of the National Society of High School Scholars.
- One of Lafayette International School’s goals this year was to improve its postsecondary transition process, including by improving its FAFSA completion rate. As a school that focuses on English language learners who have arrived in this country within the last six years and are at the lowest three levels of English proficiency, nearly all of Lafayette’s students are below the poverty level and are first-generation college goers. The school’s leadership and counseling team spent time creating a strategy at the beginning of the school year for how it could support students in completing the FAFSA. They utilized a college application process through the district’s College & Career Resource as well as a college counselor provided through the Buffalo State College Liberty Partnership Program. Nguyet, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, will attend the University at Buffalo to study nursing. Nguyet arrived to Buffalo without knowing any English, and in just a few short years established herself as an extremely hard worker who also has a passion for helping others. A native of Vietnam, Nguyet has balanced her academic work along with helping her family both here in Buffalo and in Asia with her unparalleled work ethic and dedication to detail and self-improvement. Her desire to enter the medical field was inspired by her experiences helping family and community members.
- At Leonardo Da Vinci High School, the guidance department utilized every form of help available to complete as many applications as possible. The school worked closely with Say Yes Buffalo, which sent weekly completion reports. The school also had workers from the FAFSA Completion Project available weekly in person and virtually to assist students. The school staff sent consistent reminders, made announcements on the school loudspeaker, posted sign up links on school pages, and even spent time outside of school making trips to City Hall to track down necessary documentation and ensure students’ FAFSA and TAP information was correct and up to date. Nyumi, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship will be starting at Buffalo State College in the fall and plans to study business. After the tragedy of losing both her mother and older sister, who had assumed legal guardianship, she had to go above and beyond to submit supplemental documentation proving her financial need. Despite these unthinkable hardships, Nyumi has remained a wonderful student, optimistic about her future. She is deserving of this scholarship and so much more.
- This year at Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter School (EMHCS) began as a struggle as students returned to school in person. When it came to FASFA and college applications, the school had to use all of the resources available. At the start of the school year, staff met one-on-one with students and parents to help them understand things such as the importance of their tax returns. The school also reached out to the Rochester College Access network for support. The network team came into the building once every two weeks and helped students complete applications. Yeriel, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship is smart, dedicated, and ambitious. He understands the meaning of hard work. He is also constantly helping others around him He has been accepted to St. John Fisher College to study biology.
In All Other School Districts
- The Academy Charter High School began supporting the Class of 2022 and families with FAFSA completion in May 2021. The college counselor met with students and families individually to review the family’s eligibility for aid, discuss estimated financial aid, and eligibility for opportunity programs. In October 2021, college counselors began meeting with families in small groups and provided guidance on how to access and complete the FAFSA. Small group and individual family meetings continued into January 2022 to help ensure students were completing the FAFSA to access the aid they are entitled to. College counselors also hosted financial aid review workshops and individual meetings so that students could be supported in analyzing their aid packages. Each scholar had a tailored checklist to help counselors supporting them. Louai, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, will graduate as the Valedictorian of the Class of 2022. He will attend New York University and study computer engineering. Louai was an incredibly active member of the school community and was integral to building a positive student culture. He participated in National Honor Society, Peer Tutoring, and Spanish Honor Society. Additionally, Louai has a love for technology.
- At Uniondale High School, FAFSA support began in early October with afterschool support days where school counselors assisted students, parents, and guardians with their FAFSA. The counseling department partnered with financial aid representatives to host five “FAFSA Saturdays” where families received support and guidance with FAFSA completion. In December, Uniondale hosted an application marathon, where over 80 students and their families attended and were supported by counselors, administrators, and college professionals. In January there were multiple FAFSA events during the school day, including some in partnership with the Higher Education Services Corporation. Steven, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, is graduating from Uniondale High School in the top 1% of the senior class of over 530 students. He will be attending Cornell University and studying engineering. While at Uniondale, Steven set swim records as a member of the boy’s swim team and served as team captain his senior year. One of Steven’s legacies was organizing a weeklong orientation for 8th-grade students to assist students with transitioning to high school.
- At True North Troy Prep Charter School, financial literacy is a significant hurdle when beginning the college application process for students and families. In addition to traditional lessons on the FAFSA, each student had weekly one-on-one meetings with the director of college completion to ensure their FAFSA was completed correctly and all updates were made throughout their application process. Staff met with families during Zoom meetings to review the materials needed for their child’s application, and how to access and alter information as needed. Takia, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, will study nursing at Russel Sage College. Takia received the highest presidential scholarship awarded to students from Russel Sage. Takia is an outstanding student who will no doubt take advantage of all that college has to offer.
- La Fargeville Central School holds multiple financial aid meetings to help students complete the FAFSA. This includes a presentation from SUNY Jefferson to help parents and students understand the FAFSA process. The school also holds multiple workshops to help complete the FAFSA with guidance. These workshops include a document that spells out step-by-step instructions for students on how to complete the FAFSA. The counselor is able to meet with each student individually to help with the FAFSA process. Because of this one-on-one service, students are able to get many of their questions about the FAFSA answered promptly. Abigail, who will receive the FAFSA Challenge scholarship, started thinking about her future career when she entered high school. Her love for animals led her to the Bohlen Technical Center where she learned what the veterinarian practices program had to offer and the different careers that would allow her to work with animals. She plans to ultimately earn a degree in wildlife biology or animal science.
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 students who complete the FAFSA and help identify and elevate best practices to support students in completing 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 NYFAFSAChallenge.org. Complete Challenge rules can be found here.