Over 80 students and parents attended to learn and ask questions at the first FAFSA workshop co-hosted by the City of Smyrna, Campbell High School, and Osborne High School! The event was entirely conducted in Spanish.
These three partners came together to create the event for Hispanic families in the Smyrna area. It took place the evening of Tuesday November 14 at the Smyrna Community Center.
About 10 people were also able to apply for their FSA ID – the first step of the FAFSA process – after the workshop. They used computer stations on the Cobb Works bus that the City asked to be present for attendees to use. Only seniors and their parents are eligible to apply, and many more families went home with information to help plan their children’s educational future.
We want to thank the teachers at Campbell that led the training as well as the staff at the Community Center that helped ensure the event was set up and that the new AV system in the Magnolia room worked smoothly. Many thanks to James Montgomery with Cobb Works for staying late to let students and parents submit their FSA ID applications and for the Smyrna Library for providing attendees with access to their computers as well.
Gas South sponsored the purchase of yard signs to help advertise the event and Chik-Fil-A on South Cobb Drive provided some light refreshments as well.
This is the first event of its kind in Smyrna and its success means it will not be the last! We hope to have more in the future in both Spanish and English.
We have been building our relationship with Campbell High School to identify ways that we can support the school itself and ultimately the students.
In discussions with teachers, we inquired about one of the initiative recommendations from the Vision Plan which encourages the city to conduct FAFSA educational sessions to help inform parents about the fairly complicated federal financial aid application process.
During our conversation, CHS explained that they provide one such event in the Fall but have a particularly strong need to do more to provide that same information to their Hispanic (meaning Spanish-speaking) families. The process is already confusing and becomes even more so for parents that may not be particularly used to dealing with forms and applications in English. The process requires information from students and parents so it is important that parents understand the process as well as their students.
From that conversation, we decided to collaborate and host an educational workshop about the FAFSA process entirely in Spanish. Our goal was that attendees who are seniors and therefore eligible to apply will leave having completed the first part of the application which involves applying for a FSA ID. That is the first step before the application process can even begin and both parent and student need an ID.
While teachers have concerns about providing direct assistance during the main application process because it could potentially negatively affect the amount of aid a student receives, there is no issue regarding the application for the FSA ID itself. They provided great help to parents and students and we learned a lot about how to make the event even more successful in the future.
The City of Smyrna offered to host the event in our Community Center. CHS teachers conducted the training entirely in Spanish with the exact same information they provide to other families. There was an informational session about the differences in the process for those families affected by DACA.
The Smyrna Public Library made its adult computer facilities available to attendees to complete their FSA ID applications and receive help on the spot if needed. We were also able to recruit the CobbWorks bus to come so that attendees could utilize the mobile computer stations on the bus that are normally used for job applications.
Student volunteers from CHS provided access to childcare so that any parents who have younger children that they cannot leave at home could attend without worry.
We also reached out to Osborne High School who agreed to co-sponsor the event. They have not had the capacity to provide this type of informational session for any of their students so combining forces allows the entire community to benefit. They are also interested in having additional events for their English-speaking families as well. That is also part of our plans with CHS, and this is merely our first attempt at carrying out such an event.
The City designed a flyer in Spanish and Gas South offered to sponsor the cost of yard signs that we placed at both schools and at the local St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, which also agreed to promote the event with their parishioners. Chick-Fil-A on South Cobb Drive offered to provide complimentary refreshments and snacks at the event.
Here’s the flyer we made for the event: Spanish FAFSA Event Flyer
The event took place on Tuesday, November 14th from 6-8pm at the Smyrna Community Center.