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San Diego Students Pushed To Apply For College Aid

— More than a dozen San Diego High School students assembled in the school's library Friday morning to try out the sometimes-confusing Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Two seniors from San Diego High's School of International Studies, Maria Olea (left), 17, and Brigid Moran, 18, check out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in the San Diego High library. The girls will have to fill the form out with their parents in order to qualify for federal and state aid for college.

The online form stands between these graduating high school seniors and state and federal money available to help pay their way through college.

San Diego state Sen. Marty Block, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, Congressman Scott Peters and San Diego Unified Trustee Richard Barrera were on hand to tell the students not only to fill out their own applications, but to encourage their friends to do the same.

Many hands went up when Barrera asked how many students in the room would be the first in their family to attend college. Among them was Alan Mendez, who said he'd be the first of his five siblings. Without filling out the FAFSA, he said, there's no way his single mother could afford to pay his tuition.

Almost every student raised a hand when he asked another question.

“How many of you have heard from a friend or a student here on campus, ‘Y’know, I’d really like to go to college, but there’s no way my family can afford it.’ You ever heard that?" he asked.

Gonzalez told students that she was the first of her siblings to leave home to go to school. And that she made it through a private undergraduate program and through law school without taking on student loans because of the assistance she received in state and federal aid.

The assembled politicians said too many college-eligible students don’t realize there is state and federal money available to make their dreams possible. They were at San Diego High with Cal-SOAP, an arm of the California Student Aid Commission charged with increasing the number of disadvantaged Californians who go to college. Cal-SOAP is holding a dozen financial aid workshops at high schools around the county before the deadline to apply for federal aid on March 2.

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