Polk State College, United Way of Central Florida launch program to assist students on path to graduation

Polk State College and United Way of Central Florida have launched a pilot program to assist students on their path to graduation by connecting them to resources they need to stay in school – from financial and housing assistance, to food and transportation.

Destination: Graduation will target low-income students who show an increased risk of dropping out for non-academic reasons but have demonstrated positive academic progression and promise of graduating.

“We understand that life happens, and we want to assist students when emergencies interfere with their ability to come to class or focus on their studies,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said.

The College serves about 16,000 degree-seeking students each academic year, with an average student age of 24.8 and 75 percent of students enrolled part time.

“This program will allow us to provide extra support for our students – many who juggle responsibilities including full-time jobs and raising families while working hard toward their college degrees,” Falconetti said. “Destination: Graduation will make the path to a degree easier to navigate for those faced with unexpected challenges.”

Polk State students now have the opportunity to meet with a United Way 2-1-1 specialist on the Winter Haven and Lakeland campuses. The specialist will identify eligible students and leverage United Way’s 2-1-1 Information and Referral System, as well as the College’s support staff, to connect those students with campus and community resources.

“Destination: Graduation will help the student who has a flat tire that prevents them from coming to campus; the student who can’t focus on their studies because they’re hungry and don’t have food; or the student who can’t pay their electric bill because they were sick and out of work,” United Way of Central Florida President & CEO Alan H. Turner II said. “Students consider dropping out of college when difficult life events happen. We want to give them the support they need to stay in school, achieve their degrees, and go on to enjoy employment and financial stability.”

Casmore Shaw, Destination: Graduation case manager, is available to assist students at the Winter Haven Campus on Mondays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the My Brother’s Keeper Office in WHC 144B. He is also available at the Lakeland Campus on Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in LTB 1272.

Students may contact Shaw by emailing cshaw@polk.edu or by calling 863.297.1000 and entering extension 3423 for the Winter Haven Campus office, or extension 6384 for the Lakeland Campus office.

“Polk State is proud to partner with United Way of Central Florida to open up a world of resources for our students,” Falconetti said. “I encourage students to take advantage of Destination: Graduation and all of the support systems available at the College to ensure they stay on a successful path to achieving their goals and degrees.”

About Polk State College

Located in Winter Haven, Florida, and established in 1964, Polk State College is a multi-campus institution serving more than 16,000 students with Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science, Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees, as well as a wide range of certificate and workforce training options. The College also operates three charter high schools.

Polk State’s advantages include small class sizes; hands-on learning; dedicated faculty; day and night classes; online options; affordable tuition; excellent financial aid; and a diverse community and vibrant student life, including fine arts opportunities, clubs, and intercollegiate athletics.

About United Way of Central Florida

A philanthropic leader locally and regionally, United Way of Central Florida works to improve lives and strengthen our communities.  They focus in the areas of education, income and health because these are the building blocks for a good quality of life and to bring people and organizations together from all across the community. United Way of Central Florida leads and works collectively on solutions to our most pressing community needs. To learn more visit www.uwcf.org.