“You can’t go to college.” These words from an admired high school teacher singed Jesse Soto’s confidence. At the time he was undocumented, didn’t have the best grades, and the cost of college seemed too great to overcome. But Jesse had a dream.

For many students, the perceived inability to pay for college is the largest barrier to enrolling and completing postsecondary education. Yet last year about 6,000 low-income high school seniors in Dallas County didn’t file a FAFSA, meaning they had no access to state or federal aid to help them go to college.

“When you’re asking a junior or senior to start thinking about college, you’re not asking them to fill out an application… you’re asking them to overcome their fears,” shared Jesse during the recent Community Achievement Scorecard Release. Mentors and counselors pushed Jesse through the fear standing between him and his dreams. This year, he graduated from UT Dallas with a degree in Electrical Engineering and began a career as a Telecommunications Engineer at Nokia Networks in Irving.

With input from Jesse and other students, the partners of Commit! mobilized to help nearly 700 additional Dallas County seniors overcome their fears and complete financial aid applications by the 2015 state priority deadline compared to 2014.

Together, our partners were able to:

  • Assist over 300 families at five community-wide financial aid workshops;
  • Organize more than 100 organizations donating nearly 600 volunteer hours to assist students in filling out their FAFSA/TASFA forms;
  • Build local capacity by bringing in uAspire, a national leader in financial aid advising, to train 90+ counselors, advisors, and afterschool providers;
  • Share information and resources through YouCanAffordCollege.org, a website for counselors and families that received over 6,000 visitors over three months;
  • Send personalized text messages that offered support to nearly 1,000 seniors and broke down college enrollment tasks into smaller steps;
  • Create grassroots advocacy by supporting 100 high school juniors and seniors to serve as peer-to-peer campus ambassadors for college affordability; and
  • Develop broad college affordability awareness through news coverage on Fox, Univision, KERA, Texas NPR and neighborhood papers like the Dallas Examiner and the Advocate.

We are proud to play a part in all the work done by our Postsecondary Attainment partners and are looking forward to 2015-16!