Bachelor’s students stay on track with United Way’s Destination Graduation
Thursday, August 24, 2023
Written by: Emily Hollingshead
Photo: Shantel Smith (left) and Kelsi Brick used Destination Graduation to stay on track in their bachelor's degree programs when sudden expenses threatened to derail their education.
Pursuing one of Seminole State College of Florida’s bachelor’s degrees opens opportunities in high-demand fields, but the road to graduation can be a bumpy one. To help students accomplish their goals and cross the graduation stage, the College’s Office of Holistic Student Support aims to intervene early before problems derail a student’s education, offering support with food, transportation, legal issues and more.
Two bachelor’s degree students share how Destination Graduation helped them stay on track when sudden expenses threatened to keep them from progressing. The program is a partnership between the College and Heart of Florida United Way, designed to help students with the support they need to overcome barriers to continuing their education and completing their degrees.
I work a nine-to-five job and Case Manager Jackie gave me an opportunity to put food in the fridge and build up my savings that month so I could focus on picking out my fall semester classes, look into financial aid and talk about other opportunities.Shantel Smith
“There is no better place the Lord could have put me,” said Shantel Smith, a Bachelor of Science in Business and Information Management student. As a first-generation college student, she left Memphis, Tennessee, to seek more opportunities in Orlando and now works full-time as she continues her education. “I always enjoyed school and learning. I don’t have a problem of finding jobs, but I wanted to do more for myself,” Smith said.
A practical and efficient approach to problem solving is an excellent match for Smith’s business path and helped her seek resources when her light bill suddenly increased. “If I don’t do something about it now, it could be trouble in August,” she said, and reached out to Destination Graduation, which was not only able to help her with her electric bill but her rent as well. “I work a nine-to-five job and Case Manager Jackie gave me an opportunity to put food in the fridge and build up my savings that month so I could focus on picking out my fall semester classes, look into financial aid and talk about other opportunities,” Smith said.
Smith advises others who may be in a similar situation to relax, seek help and to utilize the resources at the College. “I go to school for business so I can understand what companies are looking for, that way I can give the information out to my peers and help other people get jobs who are seeking to better their lives,” Smith said. “I’m not going to school to work for anyone. I want to go to school to help other people find jobs or create jobs.”
For as long as she can remember, Kelsi Brick has wanted to work with kids. “Caring for children has always been a part of my life,” she said. From babysitting to working in daycares, Brick’s path has been consistent. She started at Seminole State in 2018, earning her associate degree in 2020. When the College was approved for two new education bachelor’s degrees in 2022, Brick knew she wanted to return. “I was already familiar with the school and its online courses, and I had positive experiences with the professors I had, so I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Brick said.
I’ve been able to spend time at a local school and experience the daily life of a teacher. Including this in the program lets me explore the role I will have when this program is done.Kelsi Brick.
Her favorite part about the Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education K-6 program has been completing her observation hours. “I’ve been able to spend time at a local school and experience the daily life of a teacher,” said Brick, who plans to teach first grade. “Including this in the program lets me explore the role I will have when this program is done.”
Practicing observation hours also brought additional expenses Brick did not foresee, the required background checks and finger printing that public schools require putting a strain on Bricks’ budget. “It has been hard for me to meet these expenses,” Brick said,” but thankfully one of my professors recommended Destination Graduation.” She used the program to help pay her rent bill for the month, opening her finances so she could pay for the items required to complete her observation hours.
Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves nearly 30,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A comprehensive college, Seminole State has awarded more than 100,000 credentials, from bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas, and offers more than 200 degrees, certificates and programs designed for success. For more about the college, visit seminolestate.edu
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Our Mission: Heart of Florida United Way fights for the education, health, and financial stability of every person in Central Florida.
Founded in 1939, Heart of Florida United Way is Central Florida’s largest supporter of local health and human service agencies. In 2016-2017, it managed more than $46 million dollars in total resources, including over $17.7 million raised during the annual campaign that helps fund nearly 60 local health and human service programs.
It also operates the United Way 211 Information and Assistance helpline, the EITC tax credit initiative, Mission United, Destination Graduation, the Volunteer Resource Center and the Ryan White Part B/General Revenue Program.
United Way is focused on prevention and finding long-term solutions for pressing problems. Known as Investing in Results, this philosophy is guiding our work to move the needle in four critical impact areas:
To view how our work is making a difference, check out the Common Good Forecaster tool.