Introduction to the program
In 2015, Lumina Foundation granted Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) the funds to develop a pilot emergency aid program. This is how Destination Graduation was created. With the support and guidance of our partners at the Florida College Access Network (FCAN) and a strong partnership with our pilot site, Seminole State College of Florida, HFUW was able to design and redesign the program until we found a formula that works for students and delivers positive outcomes for our community.
Destination Graduation’s continuity is made possible thanks to the generous contribution from the SunTrust Foundation and HFUW’s partnership with the Seminole State College Foundation. After three years of positive outcomes, HFUW has developed this toolkit, sponsored by SunTrust Foundation to help other communities replicate this program and its benefits.
Students in the lowest income quartile, are less likely to complete college than their counterparts in the highest income quartile. When students are asked why they dropped out of college, they often respond, “life happened." For low income students, unexpected events such as a car problem or reduction of work hours could lead to a snowball financial crisis that affects their academic performance or forces them to drop out. A one-time intervention and wraparound referrals to community services could make a difference for many of these students, keeping them on track to graduation.
Statement from The SunTrust Foundation
The SunTrust Foundation is committed to providing communities with financial education and counseling, career readiness and entrepreneurship support. We proudly support Destination Graduation and Heart of Florida United Way because of their mission to promote financial stability and education for everyone in Central Florida. As part of our partnership, we have seen the impact Destination Graduation has had, helping thousands of students achieve financial confidence.
We believe the Destination Graduation Toolkit will provide you and your organization with the knowledge and resources to replicate this successful program and produce more financially confident communities.
United Way has been a tremendous help to me! I got in two car accidents in the same week time frame and I wasn't able to go to work. As a result, I fell behind on my bills and found myself in eviction. After doing some research I came across Destination Graduation and reached out to them. They set up an appointment for me with the on-campus case manager at Seminole State, and from the moment I met the team, they went out of their way and beyond to assist me. I went from not knowing how I was going to pay my rent and if I would be able to finish school, to being out of eviction and being able to stay in school in a matter of days. I will forever be thankful to Destination Graduation and the remainder of the United Way team for giving me the opportunity to finish school and to pursue my destiny
As an advisor who sees many students in unique situations, it is a relief to me to have Destination Graduation as a resource to which I can refer my students. Several of my students have recently faced a financial challenge that would have prevented them from continuing their education if it had not been for the assistance that United Way provided. Having a 2-1-1 specialist and case manager on campus has been a real blessing so that students have someone they can visit face to face to work out the challenges to their success. It is a joy to see the students able to continue their educational journeys overcoming challenging obstacles with the help of Destination Graduation.
Career Program Advisor (STEM)
Good Morning Destination Graduation,
Thank you for your help, for your humanity, for caring, for making me feel like I am worthy, that I matter as a person even if I don't have anything. Thank you for taking the time to listen, and value my worth as a human being. I have no words to express my gratitude towards you and Dr. Ferguson. In the middle of such a dark time, you guys valued me and treated me with dignity and respect.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I would like to volunteer or work for United Way, to help others in difficult situations. To make them feel secure, loved and protected and give them my time, and listen to them like they are all that matters in that moment; give them the same thing that you guys gave me: a sense of security.
In 2015, I was diagnosed with a heart condition known as SVT. I had never felt my heart rate reach 269 beats per minute and I was extremely concerned with what was happening. Between doctors’ appointments and full time employment, I was overwhelmed. When I returned to school, I was informed my Financial Aid was suspended and I was not able to enroll unless I paid out of pocket. This was the most stressful event in my life thus far. After a long time and finally winning my appeal, I was left with a balance of over $1,000.00. With no resources to pay the remaining balance, I had decided to give up. It was then at that moment that my advisor recommended me to Destination Graduation. The 2-1-1 specialist and case manager were very pleasant and helpful, and informed me about Destination Graduation’s mission to help students in need. In just a few days the United Way helped to cover the cost of my fees. I am beyond grateful to Destination Graduation and the United Way for giving me a second chance to succeed and continue my education!
Destination Graduation is a life-changing program that provides incredible support for students who need a hand up. Unfortunate incidents left me nearly homeless, close to academic withdrawal, and without many options although my grades were great. Destination Graduation provided me with support until I was able to receive my student financial aid, allowing me to continue my education and keep moving forward. Now I am on track to my first Dean's List award and the future looks brighter than ever!