LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW)--Applying to college and finding financial aid is a daunting task formay high schoolers and their families. But an area nonprofit isworking to change that.
It's called La Crosse Promiseand it's a two phase program, with the ultimate goal of transformingthe city's economy and neighborhoods through education, by preparingstudents for college and providing scholarships.
Phase one of the programstarted a year and half ago with the creation of Future Centers inhigh schools serving City of La Crosse students. AnnaWelch. a senior at Logan High School, says attending UW-Madison isher dream and to help her achieve that goal she went to the FutureCenter.
"Pretty much everyday sincethe beginning of the year, I come in and sit down at a computer andI'm either working on an essay or just getting all my stufforganized," Anna said.
The Future Centers at Logan,Central, Luther and Aquinas high schools are privately funded, by thenon-profit organization, La Crosse Promise.
"La Crosse Promise is reallyabout linking economic development with education," said JerilynDinsmoor, the executive director of La Crosse Promise. "The ideathat if we have a strong education focused community, it will also begood for business and industry and for the city as a whole."
The Future Centers are thefirst phase of La Crosse Promise. The idea is to get students to makepost-secondary plans, whether it's college, tech school or some kindof apprenticeship.
Andrew Lam is a future Centeradviser. He helps Anna and other students with applications, findingthe right school, visiting campuses or navigating financial aidoptions and scholarships.
"I enjoy getting to know thestudents, help them figure out what they'd like to do," Lam said."For me it's not just about getting them there but making sure theysucceed once they get there."
Anna says Mr. Lam helped heredit her essays and meet deadlines and all that work paid off.
"Iwas just like shaking and I finally got the email open and it saidcongratulations. And that was the first moment I knew and it wasgreat," Anna said. "And like one of the first things I did wascome in and say Mr. Lam I got in!"
But funding the centers for tenyears will require about $2.5 million. Right now, there is enoughmoney to sustain them for about three years. The hope is program'ssuccess will garner more financial support. In the first year alone,Dinsmoor says the centers helped 1600 students.
"We collected that baselinedata the fist year and now in the second year we're seeing the numberof student contacts has doubled and the percentage of students usingthe future center has greatly increased. So we're seeing a lot ofsuccess and people taking advantage of the services," Dinsmoorsaid.
La Crosse Superintendent RandyNelson says he sees the difference in the students who's hands heshakes on graduation day.
"Theyhave a plan," Nelson said. "They have an approach. They know whatdirection they're going and they know that they're prepared to getfrom point A to point B. That in and of itself is a huge stepforward."
Andcrossing the stage this year, will be Anna, a soon-to-be Badger whoplans to major in Women's studies.
"Ido feel prepared," Anna said. "I'm nervous, but I feel prepared."