(from left) Leigh Beumel, guidance counselor; Kim Davis, guidance counselor; Teresa White, guidance counselor; Jerry Donna; Teresa Crawford, Hardee County School Board member and director of the SFSC Hardee Campus; Dr. Michele Polk, Hardee Senior High School principal; and Bob Shayman, superintendent of the Hardee County School District

Jerry Donna, SFSC director of financial aid, was recognized recently by the Hardee County School Board for assisting high school guidance counselors increase the number of high school seniors who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Donna attended FAFSA Night at Hardee Senior High School and helped answer students’ and parents’ questions about information required on the FAFSA form.

In April 2018, the Florida College Access Network (FCAN) announced the winners of the 2018 Florida FAFSA Challenge. According to FCAN, the challenge is a statewide campaign to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the FAFSA. Of the small school districts in Florida, Hardee County was deemed “Most Improved,” meaning that the Hardee County School District improved its FAFSA completion rate the most compared to the previous year.

“We have made a concerted effort in the last couple of years to encourage our senior students to complete the FAFSA form, which is money that becomes available for their education after high school,” said Dr. Michele Polk, Hardee Senior High School principal. “And these ladies from our guidance department have really been the ones to champion the effort. But they haven’t done it alone. We’ve had some help particularly from an individual at South Florida State College—Mr. Jerry Donna.”

“We have a dream of having more kids go to college, and so we called you, Jerry,” said Kim Davis, Hardee Senior High School guidance counselor. “You didn’t know us, and we didn’t know you, but you graciously came over [to Hardee Senior High School] and made our program great.

“Our kids and our parents love you. You answered all the complicated questions that we can’t answer. You made it such an easy process. Our students walk out of the media center getting $4,000 and $5,000 in Pell Grant money. We just want to thank you, Jerry, for everything you do for our kids.”