A Quick Guide To Financial Aid

Financial aid. Do those two words give anyone else anxiety? When I was a senior in high school, they did for me! The thought of having financial aid is great! But the idea to put the work into getting financial aid can be daunting. Let me see if I can ease some of your fears! 

Let’s start with a definition. What is financial aid? Many will think it’s just grants or loans from the government, or FAFSA. But it can be more than that! It can also be grants and loans from private entities, as well as scholarships from your school or other organizations. Any additional money you receive to help pay for school is financial aid. 

So how can YOU obtain financial aid to help pay for your schooling? 

Search for and apply for scholarships

Apply for FAFSA. If you have questions or need help filling out their application, ask a parent, guidance counselor, teacher, or other trusted adult for help. FAFSA includes grants (money you don’t have to repay) and loans (money you have to repay). Even if you don’t plan on taking out loans, you should still at least apply to see if you can qualify for grants. Applying is free. 

If you are employed, talk to your HR to see if they have any programs that help pay for school while you work. 

Search for scholarships- again! 

Apply for our Design A Better Future scholarship. 

Look into your specific university, trade school, or community college to see if they have any grants or scholarships you can apply for. 

Applying and searching for financial aid can be a lot of time, work, and effort. However, if you are willing to put that time and effort into it, you may be surprised what reward you get out of it! 

What other questions do you have about financial aid that we can answer for you? 

Past Scholarship Winner: Liz Hansen

Welcome to Feature Friday! Where we showcase a new person each week in an interview. For past Feature Friday interviews, go here.

Today’s Feature Friday is highlighting Liz Hansen. Liz is a past scholarship winner, she received our Honors Graduation scholarship in 2019 and is now attending Marquette University. Here is an update on where Liz is now! 

Liz is double majoring in criminology and Spanish on a pre-law track. She joined the rock climbing club, which she is on the board for now. She also joined a sorority Alpha Chi Omega whose philanthropy is dedicated to supporting domestic violence and abuse victims as well as education on healthy relationships. 

When I asked Liz why she chose the sorority she did she said, “What drove me to join my sorority was really and truly how amazing and supportive the women are in it. Regarding our philanthropy, it’s something I’m truly passionate about; I feel that my calling is to help others. Domestic violence and abuse are a lot more prevalent than people realize because it doesn’t need to be just physical. There’s a huge gap in education on the subject and teaching others, especially college students, about what a healthy relationship looks like is so important. The women we help at the shelter are in need of support and resources, and our donations of time and money are so impactful on them.”

Liz’s project that won her the scholarship was a compost program for her high school that accompanied a community garden where she was Garden Chair for Pay it Forward. All of this was on a volunteer basis. She worked hard to create a project that would remain self-sufficient even after she left. While others maintained the garden and compost with a dedicated crew working on it and learning the ins and outs of compost, it did very well. 

Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the compost had to take a short halt. They are hoping to have it back up and running as soon as the school opens for in-person education. 

Liz writes: “My project truly has influenced how I look at my and my community’s lifestyles. I really value having other people around concerned about making environmentally friendly choices a habit. One thing I love about Marquette is that they have biodegradable silverware and take out ware, as well as a campus-wide compost program!”

We are so proud of Liz and the positive impact she has on her community. To learn more about our scholarship program for graduating high school seniors, check it out here!

Announcing The 2020 Top Scholarship Winner!

This is part of a series of interviews with our scholarship recipients for our 2020 Build A Better Future scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. We hope you will find their stories as inspiring as we do! For information on our 2020 program, click here”. 

The top recipient for our scholarship this year is Caitlin Gill from Plano, Texas where she graduated from Plano West Senior High School.  At the beginning of her Freshman year of high school, Caitlin became ill and was diagnosed with two chronic conditions. She experienced delays in her speech, reading and writing, and overall daily living activities. Caitlin was drawn to the special needs community at her school after she was made fun of for reading slow and not completing her work as quickly as other students, both results of her chronic health conditions. She started to notice that the kids in the special needs community were often overlooked and gained compassion for them. She became committed to improving the lives of those with special needs and giving them the resources to lead happy, independent, and fulfilling lives. 

Students all across the world faced a different challenge during the spring of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic swept through our communities, ultimately sending everyone home. Many kids who weren’t able to attend school suffered during this and was something Caitlin took note of. The friends she made in the special needs community especially, rely on the day to day interaction with their peers. Her desire to continue to help them drove her to start F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E.(which stands for Friendship. Lifestyle. Exercise. Special. People. Acceptance. Compassion. Experience.). 

F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E. is a virtual program where Caitlin leads daily exercises with her special needs friends over a zoom call. The main goal of this program is to provide friendship and inclusion, while also promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. When immersing herself in the special needs community, she was able to identify the different needs of each student. Some peers needed more encouragement, while others desired opportunities to feel needed. Despite these differing challenges, she realized that what they all need is at least one peer to look past their disabilities and embrace them with love and friendship. Through F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E. she is able to be that peer for them. She advocates for their needs and encourages them to work towards their aspirations and recognize their own potential. Caitlin’s biggest hope for the program is that each of her peers walks away with a friend. Someone they can depend on to be kind and accepting. Caitlin has noticed a positive change within many of her peers. At school, she noticed they were tired, overwhelmed, and didn’t interact with each other. Within the first two weeks of the zoom workouts, they were expressing themselves more and had achieved overall happiness within themselves and with life. 

Caitlin will be attending Texas Woman’s University in the fall of 2020. With staying local to her community, she will be able to continue growing the F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E. program while attending school. She would eventually like to hold in-person activities once it is safe to do so. While this is a program she started at her home, she has close relationships with teachers at Plano West and hopes to be able to implement F.L.EX.S.P.A.C.E. in a school setting. 

You can see her website at https://www.specialwordsforspecialpeople.com/

My Own Design A Better Future Project

Recently I’ve been put on the board for our Design A Better Future scholarship. The whole scholarship has nothing to do with grades, GPA, or academics at all. It’s based on a student serving in their community some way, seeing a path they can take to make it a better place. 

Mary wrote about how she unknowingly conducted her own Design A Better Future (DBF) project in her community so it got me thinking, is there something I am already doing, or can do to participate in this as well? After some time, I realized I have been working on my own project in my hometown. 

From the framework of our scholarship: 

Look, Listen, and Learn: 

This summer my kids have been enrolled in Infant Swim Resource (ISR) swim lessons at Utah Swim Acadamey in Provo. It’s life saving swim lessons that first teach kids to save their life if unexpectedly found in water alone, then teach the strokes and work to get out of the pool unassisted. After posting about it on my social media, I had multiple friends in my hometown of Idaho Falls ask how and where they can access these lessons for their kids. Unfortunately after some research, there wasn’t any options. 

So, I set out to change that. 

Ask Tons Of Questions:

  • Why aren’t they available in the area? 
  • What steps do I need to take to make them accessible? 
  • Where is most of the need? 
  • What would it cost to build a pool? Rent a pool? 
  • How much does a heating element in a pool cost and does it extend our window for teaching swim lessons? By How much? 
  • Who are my allies in this? 
  • How do I learn how to teach these lessons? 
  • Who can I hire to help me teach so that we can access more kids? 
  • How can we maximize the number of kids we teach while still starting small and reasonable? 
  • How do we spread the word? 
  • And so many more….. 

Understand The Process Or Problem: 

The problem is the lack of swim lessons in general the area, with the complete absence of ISR lessons. Why? I believe it’s linked with the lack of pools in the area, given the cooler climate. 

The process is taking research upon research. Reading articles and ordering some new books to read. How To Teach Your Baby To Swim by Douglas Doman and Teaching Your Baby To Swim by Françoise Barbira Freedman. More ways I am learning is by observing my children’s current swim lessons and seeing how something like this is run. 

Navigate Ideas:

During this phase I realized that living four hours away from the location I want to make this happen would be difficult for it to work out to run lessons from far away. I called in more resources and had my sister, who lives in the area, join in with me on this. 

This is my daughter at 2 years old, five lessons in. Can you hear my gasp because I was so excited?!

Create A Prototype: 

We brought swim lessons to the area! Our swim instructor committed to teaching for two weeks in the Idaho Falls/ Ammon area. We worked really hard to market, find useable pools, and organize schedules. And after two weeks we had about 35 kids floating and swimming! 

Highlight and Fix: 

From our initial launch, we are working on navigating a smoother way to schedule parents, have access to our own pool, and an easier way to get the word out about these lessons. We asked parents for feedback or what they would like to see happen. 

One common comment was a solid platform for communication with parents. We were answering questions and posting information about the swimming lessons by sometimes posting on my Instagram, sometimes posting on the swim instructors and various texts/ calls from both our phone numbers. Because of this, we are working at creating social media platforms just for this purpose and a website we can refer everyone to. 

Launch To An Audience: 

Because swim lessons will be happening outdoors and summer is coming to a close, we are nativating each of these steps over the next few months so that we can launch next spring to the Idaho Falls area! We are excited to bring such an important and life-saving service to an area that is lacking. I can’t wait to see where this project will go! 

Our instructor and my daughter after a successful two weeks teaching ISR lessons in Idaho Falls

The Aftermath of Awarding $55,000 in Scholarship Funds

The past couple of weeks since announcing our scholarship awardees have been a incredible whirlwind. Most of it has been a joy as we have enjoyed the enthusiastic responses from students and their families. Some has been unfortunate as we had do deal with some plagiarism, which is always taken very seriously at HonorsGradU.

We especially love it when it works out to surprise our recipients with the news.

Xelah Baca, creator of BHS Recycle, received the news from her mentor during an awards ceremony:

And I was able to fly down to surprise Anthony Neil Tan with the news that he was selected as our top recipient during his senior awards night for his creation of the Maker Hub Club:

Check out the newly updated Past Winners page to view all 5 students’ prototypes, reflection videos, and colleges. We look forward to sharing more about the background of these 5 outstanding students this summer, and to seeing Anthony’s project grow with another fully funded iteration. Thank you again for your efforts to design a better future!

For you incoming seniors, be sure to stay tuned for the details at the end of the summer on our 2020 scholarship program!

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Announcing Our 2019 Design A Better Future Scholarship Awardees!

This is our seventh year of running a scholarship sponsored by Honors Graduation. Over the past two years, we have offered a program in which students develop a community-improvement project based on the model of design thinking.

We were inspired by the ambitious, generous, and innovative projects from this year’s applicants. The vision of these high school students gives us so much hope for the future. Our scholarship committee is pleased to announce this year’s 5 recipients:

Anthony Neil Tan, top recipient to receive an additional $5,000 toward another iteration of his project: Maker Hub Club

Xelah Baca: BHS Recycle

Elizabeth Hansen: Composting For A Cause

Sruthi Kundur: Stay Healthy, Be Confident Hygiene For Women

Cobi Reed: Envisioning a Better Future

Congratulations to our awardees! Watch for additional updates, including on our Past Winners page.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Our Scholarship Finalists Have Been Emailed!

For those students who applied for our this year’s Design a Better Future scholarship program, we are pleased to announce that we have selected 10 finalists.

These outstanding students have been emailed some follow-up questions about future potential iterations of their project, as well as how they might continue local impact post graduation. Please check your email inboxes ASAP to respond to our questions so that we can make our decision on our final 5 awardees. We plan to make that announcement next week on Monday, May 20th!

Thank you to everyone for your participation. We are extremely impressed at the efforts and passion we have seen in this year’s group.

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto