Nan Austin

February 26, 2014

On Campus: Downey High teens show insight, empathy for those less fortunate

Downey High teens display heart for homeless, insight into social ills. Also, those applying for financial aid for next year face a March 2 deadline.

On Campus

The latest on local schools and education

Meeting with Downey High teens this week about a schoolwide project on homelessness, it struck me how much this upcoming generation has learned from those who came before – not all of it good.

Sophomore Kayla Crawford said she hopes to work in family law, helping kids similar to many she knows, navigating between parents and multiple blended families. “They get sent off to the wrong people,” she said simply.

Nodding knowingly across from her, junior Lanessa Caraccilo said she bounced between houses for much of her life. Lanessa is job hunting to save for college or a cosmetology course, whichever she can afford.

All the students agreed that a higher minimum wage would be a good thing, helping more people afford not just college, but to eat and sleep in safety.

Jaedon Webb, a senior who plans a career in sports medicine, said he knows his generation will have to work harder and longer, for less, than his parents’ did. He’s going to try to make it better for the next group, he said. “I hope my kids can have a better life and maybe retire when they’re 60.”

Now 18, with job and junior college only months away, Jaedon told the others, “Don’t grow up too fast. Enjoy it while you can.”

March 2 is nearly here, the deadline to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, aka FAFSA, and Cal Grant grade verification form. Those even considering seeking college financial aid, or scholarship holders who need to renew for next year, need to get those in.

While the FAFSA asks for tax information, procrastinators can apply anyway. Just mark “will file” taxes. After sending in tax forms, return to the website and update it to “filed.” An option will pop up to link to the IRS site and get the numbers from there, a hassle-saver recommended by high school counselors.

In a report released Tuesday, Education Trust West says 62 percent of high school seniors filed FAFSA forms in 2013, up from 54 percent in 2012. Cal Grant applications, which use the FAFSA plus the GPA form, rose from 50 percent in 2012 to 56 percent last year. “Still, far too many students continue to forgo college because they are unaware of the aid available to them,” notes the report.

The EdTrust report also lists the top high schools for students filling out application forms, which include Weston Ranch High in the Manteca Unified district, with 82 percent of its seniors aiming for aid, and Delhi High in Delhi Unified, with 79 percent applying.

Cal Grant applications are easier when high schools can verify student grades online. A bill introduced last week by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would require all public high schools to electronically submit verifications of student GPAs to the California Student Aid Commission.

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