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Students advocate in DC for a better FAFSA and Pell Grants

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  • North Carolina students went to DC to talk FAFSA, Pell Grants, and other policies that help them get to and through college. @NCANetwork @EquitableFin @roadtohire @gen1clt @CarolinaYouthCo #nced
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A group of high school and college students from Charlotte traveled to Washington, D.C., for the annual National College Attainment Network (NCAN) Hill Day.

“We’re meeting on both sides of the aisle,” said Jarian Kerekes, head of social impact and community engagement at Equitable Foundation, “talking about the issues most pressing to helping students get to and through college.”

Students talked with members of Congress to advocate for the importance of the Pell Grant, simplifying the FAFSA, and other higher education policies aimed at expanding access to higher education nationwide, according to a press release.

The students included Camryn Bailey and Samir Flamer with the Carolina Youth Coalition, Faty Mbaye and Daisey Rios-Alvarez with GenOne, and Allyssa Vassell with Road to Hire.

These three local nonprofit organizations focus on college access and success for under-resourced students, and they are each a member of the Crescent Coalition, a Charlotte-based collaborative of organizations working together to serve under-resourced students along their journey from middle school through college graduation and successful careers.

“I had an amazing experience not only being able to talk to Congress members one-on-one about my experiences as it relates to higher education and my community,” said Samir Flamer who attends Howard University. “But also hearing alternative perspectives from those representing other college access organizations from around the United States who help advocate for these resources that are so important to us.” 

Organized by NCAN, Hill Day provides an opportunity for students to have their voices heard on issues that impact their future.

The Pell Grant, a federal subsidy for students who demonstrate financial need, has long been a cornerstone of financial aid programs, enabling millions of students like these to pursue higher education.

“I’m a first generation student as well as a low-income student so the Pell Grant really did help me and gave me more freedom to really decide what I wanted to do with my college application process,” said Flamer.

Alongside leaders from the organizations, students were able to share their experiences with the rollout of the new FAFSA and to vocalize their support for ensuring the Pell Grant remains accessible and effective for future generations.

During the visit to Capitol Hill, the group met with the congressional offices of Sen. Tedd Budd, R-NC, Rep. Alma Adams, D-NC, Rep. Valerie Foushee, D-NC, Rep. Wiley Nickel, D-NC, and Rep. Martha Gallagher, R-NC.

Equitable Foundation supported the students’ participation in Hill Day. Equitable Foundation is the charitable giving arm of Equitable, a leading financial services provider.

NCAN Hill Day is part of a broader effort to advocate for policies that support college access and success, according to the press release, which says, “by bringing together students, educators, policymakers, and advocates, NCAN aims to drive positive change and create a more equitable higher education landscape.”

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.