Schools honored for getting kids ready

From left, Michigan City Area Schools college and career readiness coordinator Aaron Garrett, Michigan CIty High School early college counselor Rhonda LaMarr, and MCAS Associate Superintendent Wendel McCollum accept an award for FAFSA completion rate from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and INvestEd at the Statehouse on Wednesday.

INDIANAPOLIS —Getting high school graduates into college is a major goal of education officials at the local and state levels, and Michigan City, Marquette and several other area high schools were honored this week for helping put students in position to make it happen.

Two years ago, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education set a goal of all Indiana high schools having at least 70 percent of students file the FAFSA on or before the annual April 15 deadline, according to Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers.

On Wednesday, the commission, along with the Indiana Department of Education and INvestED, honored 334 high schools for meeting or exceeding that goal during its third annual celebration event at the Indiana Statehouse. Last year, 130 schools were honored for hitting the target.

MCHS was among the schools recognized for having more than 70 percent completion of the FAFSA, along with Marquette Catholic High School, South Central Junior-Senior High School, Westville High School, LaCrosse High School, Chesterton High School and John Glenn High School.

Completion is a key first step in applying for college and other post-graduation training programs, and enables students to qualify for scholarships and grants, according to Michigan City Area Schools Supt. Barbara Eason-Watkins.

“We are grateful for this recognition of our high school, which is the result of the hard work of College and Career Readiness Coordinator Aaron Garrett and the entire high school Guidance team,” she said. “They ensured that a record number of students in the Class of 2019 completed this key step in the process of applying for college and technical training programs.”  

A Marquette spokesman said the school was honored, but it was the students who made the award possible.

"First and foremost, this recognition is a testament to the hard work and resilience of our students," Bradley Collignon said.

"It's also a reflection on the emphasis that we place on college preparedness from the first day our students arrive on campus. Our teachers and academic advising department work tirelessly to ensure our students have every advantage possible when they leave Marquette."

Also honored were 203 high schools that met another goal set by the commission: having 70 percent of graduating seniors complete the Scholar Success Program, a requirement for 21st Century Scholars prior to graduation.

Only 191 high schools accomplished the 70 percent completion goal in both measurements – on-time FAFSA filing and the Scholar Success Program. That list included Michigan City, Marquette, Westville, LaCrosse and Chesterton high schools.

“On-time completion of both the FAFSA and Scholar Success Program is critical for Scholars to take advantage of the program,” Lubbers said. “The schools we are celebrating this year are setting an example by ensuring more Hoosier students are prepared for the future.”

The 2019 data from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education shows that MCHS had an 86% completion rate for FAFSA completion and 76% of seniors who were in the 21st Century Scholar program completed the SSP requirements, MCAS spokesman Betsy Kohn said.

Hoosier students and families can turn to several financial aid and grant program options in Indiana, including 21st Century Scholars, the Adult Student Grant, the Workforce Ready Grant, and financial aid for military and public safety officers, teachers and more, according to Lubbers.

Along with the high schools, 12 community partners were recognized for contributing to the schools’ success rates, including community foundations, non-profit organizations, individuals, and colleges and universities.


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