Grant aims to boost FAFSA completion rates

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — The City of Lima has been selected as one of seven Ohio cities to receive up to $30,000 from the Ohio Mayor’s Alliance to be used to boost the state’s educational attainment rates.

Awarded through the group’s Mayors Education Advocacy Grant program, the City of Lima — in coordination with Lima schools and the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce — will utilize the funds to increase FAFSA completion rates, bring more students into local businesses and recognize seniors looking to enter the workforce immediately after graduation.

As one of three initiatives, Lima schools Superintendent Jill Ackerman said the schools will host a series of three FAFSA completion nights furnished with dinner to bring in students and their families to undertake completion of the imposing document used to apply for student financial aid.

“We’re working on a full marketing campaign with our communication coordinator to educate our families about FAFSA and get them excited about coming to these meetings. We have learned that if we feed them, they come,” Ackerman said.

Chamber President Jed Metzger said he has seen similar FAFSA completion nights in the past with other schools in the region, and that the document may be “intimidating” for those families that have not filled out the FAFSA in the past.

“Breaking down barriers, helping them with the FAFSA really makes a world of difference,” Metzger said.

The grant dollars, which require a match from the City of Lima, will also be used to add a signing event for high school seniors heading straight into the workforce after graduation to complement the school’s standing military and academic signing events. Ackerman said the event should celebrate the student’s decisions and potentially inspire younger students when paired with an community marketing campaign.

Additionally, Lima schools and the chamber will work in concert to bring more students into local businesses and industries to see what may be available for them locally after graduation, which could lead to potential internship opportunities, Ackerman said.

“As a former FAFSA student, a student that came up out of poverty,” Lima Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith said. “I see the value of education and what it can do to not just change one generation but several generations.”

Other cities receiving grant dollars include Akron, Columbus, Dayton, Lancaster, Toledo and Youngstown. Funds for the Mayors Education Advocacy Grant program were provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the AT&T Foundation.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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