Synergy Wins Statewide FAFSA Challenge
Posted on 09/29/2021
FAFSA Challenge Bulletin Board


Synergy Alternative High School Wins Statewide FAFSA Completion Challenge


Synergy Alternative High School has received statewide recognition for its outstanding performance in the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Challenge during the 2020-2021 school year. In this challenge, Governor Ned Lamont and the Connecticut State Department of Education invited schools to pursue new and innovative strategies around increasing FAFSA completion to improve college access and promote college affordability.

The goal was a 5% increase from the 2019-2020 school year. Synergy increased the number of students who completed the FAFSA by nearly 44%, showing the most growth out of all challenge participants.

"Post-secondary education became a reality for Synergy students last year and, for many, their complete tuition was covered thanks to financial support via the FAFSA,” said Ed Figueroa, School Counselor at Synergy.

For this achievement, Synergy received the Governor’s Award of $5,000 and was among the schools celebrated at an event on Friday, September 24 hosted by Governor Lamont and Connecticut Education Commissioner Charlene Russell-Tucker.

Governor Lamont said. “During a particularly complicated school year, these schools – and all FAFSA Challenge participants – stepped up to the plate, recognizing the importance of helping all students access and achieve their college and career goals.”

Synergy used incentives like gift cards and t-shirts to get students excited about completing the FAFSA. Other popular incentives included FAFSA Fridays, where staff wore college and/or FAFSA shirts and cooked healthy foods thanks to their partnership with Fuel up to Play 60. School leaders also worked with Manchester Community College on additional ways to expand their partnership to benefit Synergy students.

“I’m incredibly proud of this achievement made possible by the hard work of Principal Craig Outhouse, School Counselor Ed Figueroa and our Synergy families,” said East Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Nathan Quesnel. “We know filling out the FAFSA can be a huge barrier for students keeping them from getting the financial aid they need and deserve. Our goal in East Hartford Public Schools is to work toward eliminating those barriers so students can reach their full potential.”

The FAFSA challenge was launched in response to the pandemic’s negative impact on completion rates, particularly for historically marginalized subgroups. FAFSA completion is one of the best predictors of whether seniors will enroll in college as 84% of completers are more likely to immediately enroll in postsecondary education.

"While we are proud of our work during 2020-21, last year was just the beginning of Synergy's plan to ensure all eligible students take advantage of the thousands of dollars available to them,” said Synergy Principal Craig Outhouse, Ed.D.

Families interested in learning more about the FAFSA should contact their school guidance counselor.