Lewis University in Romeoville is offering a community conversation with students of color on Tuesday

‘It is meant to increase the number of students who complete the FAFSA’

Kristi J. Kelly, vice president for diversity at Lewis University in Romeoville, said Lewis University is part of a group of local organizations that meet regularly with the Will County Center for Economic Development.

Kelly said a recent discussion revolved around the fact that the number of minority families in the Will County area that have completed their Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms was especially low since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Possible reasons could be families aren’t sure they qualify or students might be uncertain about attending college at this time, Kelly said.

So Lewis is offering a virtual event from 7 to 8 p.m. Tuesday: “Community Conversation for High School Students of Color.” The conversation will revolve around a single question: “What is your plan and how can we help?”

The event will help to demystify the process of applying for FAFSA.

“It is meant to increase the number of students who complete the FAFSA,” Kelly said.

Kelly said even she doesn’t understands “all the nuances” of FAFSA, even though she works in higher education. So the conversation will include an explanation of what FAFSA is and how students can apply for it.

“We’re going to have an expert who will be on the call,” Kelly said.

Co-sponsors for the event include the Center for Economic Development , Exxon Mobile, Joliet Township High School, Lewis University, National Hookup of Black Women, Silver Cross Hospital and the Spanish Community Center, according to a news release from Lewis University.

Two students will also discuss their experiences with FAFSA, Kelly said.

Although the focus is on high school junior and senior students of color, the event is not limited to them, Kelly said. Students, as well as parents, of any race may also attended, Kelly said.

“It’s open to any junior or senior who want to learn more about how they can fund their post-high school experience,” Kelly said. “It’s about how can we assist you with achieving your goals outside of high school.”

“Community Conversation for High School Students of Color” is also an opportunity to listen to the students’ needs so the community can figure out ways to meet those needs. This may lead to other conversations down the road, Kelly added.

To register, visit lewisu.edu/whats-your-plan.

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.