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Destination: Graduation helps students stay the course

Destination: Graduation is designed to provide students with the support they need to overcome barriers to continuing their education and completing their degrees. 

For the past two years, Heart of Florida United Way and Seminole State College of Florida have teamed up on an innovative program to help at-risk students access resources they need to stay in school.

Destination: Graduation aims to increase the graduation rates of low-income students and student-veterans by providing comprehensive, on-campus supports. Both student groups show an increased risk of stopping or dropping out for nonacademic reasons.

“What some students go through to get to college is heroic,” said Jeff Hayward, president and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way. “It would be tragic for one incident – like a car breaking down or unstable housing – to limit someone from achieving their dream and inhibiting earning potential. At United Way, we fight for the education of everyone in Central Florida so they can achieve their full potential. We’re proud to bring a program like Destination: Graduation to Seminole State College because they share in this vision.”

Leveraging United Way’s 2-1-1 Information & Assistance Helpline, Destination: Graduation connects students to over 2,000 campus and community resources and emergency grants. The program embeds a 2-1-1 specialist and case manager at multiple Seminole State campus locations, so students are able to meet with someone on campus and receive immediate access to services and support.

“We are proud to partner with the Heart of Florida United Way's Destination: Graduation program.  It is having great success in helping our students overcome challenges by connecting them with community resources and providing emergency funding to help at-risk students continue their education and attain a degree," said Dr. E. Ann McGee, president of Seminole State College and Heart of Florida United Way board chair. 

Consistent with national averages, low-income students and student-veterans at Seminole State have graduation rates about 2-4 percent below the overall average. With the help of Destination: Graduation, students are re-enrolling at a higher rate than ever before. From Fall 2015-16, 83 percent of students who received financial assistance went on to re-enroll or graduate, versus 68 percent of their low-income peers.

Destination: Graduation is administered through the Central Florida College Access Network, a partnership between United Way and community organizations that aims to reduce barriers to postsecondary education.

About Heart of Florida United Way: Founded in 1939, Heart of Florida United Way is Central Florida’s largest supporter of local health and human service agencies. In 2014-2015, it managed more than $26 million dollars in total resources, including over $18 million raised during the annual campaign that helps fund nearly 60 local health and human service programs. It also operates the United Way 2-1-1 Information and Assistance helpline, the EITC tax credit initiative, Mission United, Destination Graduation, the Volunteer Resource Center, the Gifts-in-Kind Center, the Ryan White Part B/General Revenue Program and Emergency & Homelessness Services. 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: Education, Income, Health and Basic Needs. Their Mission: United Way improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community to advance the common good. Visit www.HFUW.org for more information, or call 407.835.0900.

About Seminole State College of Florida: 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 nearly 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, like us on Facebook at facebook.com/seminolestate and follow us on Twitter: @seminolestate.

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