Every day throughout Florida, there are talented students making great strides in their academic journey. They are bright, eager and curious. They’re studying hard and impressing teachers and leaders in the community. Yet for many, college seems unattainable due to family finances and other factors. Our job at the Florida Prepaid College Foundation is to create scholarship programs that turn the impossible into the possible by providing opportunities to talented students who might not otherwise be afforded the chance to apply their talents toward a college degree.
The Florida Prepaid College Foundation was founded in 1990 and is the 501(c)(3) direct support organization for the Florida Prepaid College Board. Our mission is to promote the importance of saving for college, give aspiring students the opportunity to build a better future through higher education and provide unprecedented value to donors by leveraging matching dollars to maximize the impact of scholarship gifts.
Since 1990, The Florida Prepaid College Foundation has purchased more than 42,000 Florida Prepaid College Plan scholarships and has seen more than 23,000 Foundation scholarship recipients go to college.
This is an incredible legacy. Yet we cannot stop working to expand our reach and the lives we impact. That’s why we are expanding the Foundation’s scholarship options to include ones that honor the legacy of community leaders, address talent needs in fields like STEM, and help students become the first in their families to attend college.
The Foundation’s hallmark initiative is the Scholarship Tuition for At-Risk Students (STARS) Program, representing 77 percent of the scholarships purchased by the Foundation. Project STARS helps economically disadvantaged students who are at risk of dropping out of school by providing them with the opportunity for a college education. The Florida Prepaid College Foundation matches STARS scholarship funds through an annual legislative appropriation, allowing donors to get a dollar-for-dollar match of their funds and to provide more educational opportunities to deserving students.
One great example of expanding the Foundation’s reach is the recent receipt of a $2.6 million matching contribution from Take Stock in Children (TSIC) on behalf of the Helios Education Foundation. This contribution will support future STARS scholarship purchases for students located in Osceola and Orange counties. This match will allow the TSIC / Helios partnership to fund $5.2 million in scholarships – doubling the value for Florida students.
The success of all of these endeavors hinges in part on support from community partner organizations, corporations, and education leaders. Our collaboration moving forward will take work and time. But every student we help makes these efforts well worth it.
I encourage you to learn more about the Foundation’s growth and how you can be part of it, at www.floridaprepaidcollegefoundation.com.
Cynthia O’Connell is director of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.