On election days, Americans across the country are proud to wear on their lapels and T-shirts and jackets the sticker declaring, “I voted!” The sticker confers a certain status, a level of engagement in society, and a belief in a bright future.
Although a month and a day away from the traditional second of November, twenty North Port High School seniors walked into their Student Success Center just as it opened at 7:30 a.m. They filled into the welcoming, round room adorned with college flags and posters. But instead of ballots and ballpoint pens, they grabbed laptops from a cart and found comfortable seats facing an ActivPanel. Today was Bright Futures day.
Jenna Theil, an Education Foundation College Career Advisor, had organized the event, and after greeting the students, she asked them all to log into Naviance, a college- and career-planning program. Jenna walked them through the Bright Futures application process and then moved from student to student, assisting as questions arose.
After students successfully submitted their applications, Jenna gave them a sticker that stated, “Bright Futures Completed!” Like citizens who had just cast their ballot, they affixed the sticker to their shirts.
“It feels too easy,” a student said. “Now I’m worried.”
Another student entered. She hadn’t come to submit her Bright Futures, instead of needing advice on the SAT. Nicole Jordan, a new College Career Coordinator, waved her over and began to consult with the young woman. And though she left without a sticker, the student was equipped with answers and a plan to prepare for the SAT.
Jenna invited the students to have snacks, set out on a table, to celebrate completing this key step in the college application process. With a Bright Futures scholarship, students can attend a Florida public college tuition-free. A successful Bright Futures scholarship can save young adults thousands of dollars, making what would be impossible for some students a reality.
For Jenna, the moment carried a special resonance. Four years earlier, when she opened the Student Success Center at North Port, these students entered as freshmen. Jenna has watched them grow into young adults about to set out on their own unique pathways. She has helped them formulate plans and, as she again did on October 1, made much easier and more accessible the application process.
At 8:20, the bell rang, and the students filed out, all donning stickers that announced their bright future. By day’s end, 60 students would complete their application. All 60 would be that much more ready to realize their dream of education after high school.