A little guidance can make a difference for students navigating the complexities of planning and paying for college. When the partners providing that guidance work closely together, it can make all the difference.

One of Earn to Learn’s principal community partnerships in the Central Region is with College Depot, a City of Phoenix program offered through the Phoenix Public Library.

College Depot is a free, full-service college-access center that offers workshops and one-on-one scheduled appointments regarding admissions, financial aid, and scholarships. It is open to anyone interested in starting the postsecondary education process. It is located at Burton Barr Central Library, the flagship of the Phoenix library system, which sees more than 1 million visitors each year. (Note: College Depot is temporarily operating out of the Emmett McLoughlin Community Training & Education Center while the Burton Barr Central Library undergoes renovation. It is expected to reopen in June 2018.)

College Depot helps students who want to complete their high school diploma or GED, advises students about financial aid and scholarships to apply for, helps students connect with resources and plan for college, and offers assistance with college application processes and forms.

Assistant Director Elenia Sotelo has been with College Depot since it opened in June 2009 and sees the life-changing effects of partners working together in creative ways to provide critical support to those who aspire to further their educations.

“There are so many elements to consider when pursuing higher education,” she says. “The more support a student has, the more guidance they receive, the more their opportunities are strengthened.”

Earn to Learn staff make presentations as part of College Depot’s summer programming for young people. This curriculum, which extends to students in middle school, stresses to younger students the importance of the high school years and keeping a good grade point average. For high school students, the curriculum is geared more toward planning for college and understanding financial-aid options.

“Paying for college is always a hot topic because parents and students always want to learn more,” Sotelo says. “Being able to offer Earn to Learn as an option has elevated the choices available to students.”

As part of the partnership, College Depot staff help walk students through the Earn to Learn application process. In addition, they provide space for Earn to Learn to conduct in-person personal finance trainings, which is a prerequisite to enrolling in the program. “This has been successful in eliminating a barrier for some families who might be struggling with the online version,” Sotelo says.

Earn to Learn Success Coach Team Lead Monica Crespo says being able to interact in-person with parents and students at these workshops alone has enabled Earn to Learn to enroll dozens of students.

“College Depot’s staff is always friendly and willing to support the Earn to Learn mission and vision,” says Crespo. “We love them!”

In fact, some Earn to Learn students have become staff at College Depot. Bianca Ramirez, a freshman at ASU and an Earn to Learn saver, is currently working at College Depot through AmeriCorps.

Among the many financial-aid options available, Sotelo says Earn to Learn offers distinct advantages to College Depot’s clients that other scholarships do not.

“The wonderful part about Earn to Learn is that students can use these funds not just for tuition and books but for additional opportunities such as studying abroad, purchasing technology they need for their studies, or taking summer classes,” she says. “This enables them to get a more well-rounded college experience and dive into other activities” that help them develop the larger set of skills they need to be successful in careers and in life.

In addition, the Earn to Learn scholarship offers a needed support to nontraditional adult students transferring from community college to university.

“Being able to obtain a transfer scholarship is life-changing for these students,” Sotelo says.

She says this partnership is special because the entire Earn to Learn team is invested in making sure College Depot staff fully understand the program so they can all keep opening doors for students.

Earn to Learn truly brings partnership to the next level,” she says. “Ultimately, this helps more students achieve their goals.”

Posted on December 4, 2017