This year, Cash for College Birmingham introduced a student leadership component to the FAFSA completion efforts. Thanks to a grant award from State Farm Youth Advisory Board, Cash for College Birmingham now utilizes ten student ambassadors within each of the seven Birmingham City (BCS) partner schools.
The program is open to both high school seniors and juniors, utilizing peer-to-peer communication to raise college awareness and access among students. Applicants must be nominated by a school official and submit an application to be reviewed by the Program Coordinator.
Being a Cash for College Ambassador is a full school year commitment. Students are required to attend monthly meetings and have the opportunity to represent their school at community events. Ambassadors are trained to increase awareness and encourage their peers to fill out their FAFSA. The team of ambassadors whose school improves the most are awarded $100 stipends.
The ambassadors are chosen because they display a passion for helping their peers become college ready. When asked why she became a Cash for College Ambassador Kelsey Johnson, a senior at Ramsay High School replied, “I want to make sure my classmates receive assistance filing their FAFSA correctly to ensure they have access to all the funds they need.” The ambassadors want the best for their classmates so they do what they can to help.
During the first training session, students were tasked with finding ways to increase FAFSA completion in their schools. Their ideas included requesting incentives such as raffles and extra credit points, hanging up posters with workshop dates, passing out flyers, and having a celebration for students who complete their FAFSA. The ambassadors set goals and work alongside the Cash for College program staff to implement their ideas in a timely fashion.
The primary way ambassadors advocate for FAFSA completion is through social media. Each ambassador pledges to make at least two FAFSA related posts per week. The students work to debunk myths by sharing FAFSA related facts, let their peers know when workshops will take place, and promote the program’s monthly social media challenges.
The Birmingham City School system is currently at 37% FAFSA completion and working to reach 55% by the end of June The Cash for College Ambassadors continue to play a vital role in FAFSA completion by promoting and advocating in their schools.