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Padres Estrellas Helps Hoosier Students Get Financial Aid / Public News Service

A state-run outreach program works to ensure that Latino and Hispanic students in Indiana have equal access to financial aid for post-secondary education.

Padres Estrellas, or “Star Parents,” supports students by helping them complete their Federal Student Aid Free Application Form (FAFSA) and access state financial aid programs. José Medina, school and community manager for the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, said the eight parents in the group are reaching out to community organizations across the state to reach out to new students.

“The Padres Estrellas are really connected to their Latino or Hispanic communities,” he said, “and know, who do we need to work with? parents to come and talk about these programs?'”

Medina said Padres Estrellas also focuses on educating people about two programs: the Next Level Jobs Workforce Ready Grant, which provides free training in in-demand fields, and the 21st Century Scholars Initiative, which provides financial aid to universities. From 2017 to 2019, about 3,300 Hispanic or Latino students and about 15,000 white students graduated from high school with assistance for the university’s 21st Century Scholars program, according to the state.

While Padres Estrellas focuses primarily on outreach for those two programs, Indiana offers at least 10 other state-run financial aid initiatives. In fiscal 2021, Medina said, Indiana distributed nearly $390 million in financial aid.

“If you want to get an education or training after high school, we support you in that,” he said. “You are likely eligible for a state financial aid program to help you get that training or certification, or college education, so that you have the opportunity to land a high-paying, in-demand job right here in the state of Indiana. to get.”

A 2021 College Equity Report found that Hispanic and Latino students are the fastest-growing demographics in schools in Indiana and on the cusp of becoming the second-largest group of students overall.

Support for this report was provided by Lumina Foundation.

(Editor’s Note: Producer Jonah Chester received funding through the 21st Century Scholars Program from 2014 to 2018.)

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A NASA mission that has been in development for 25 years is finally ready for launch, and employees of the Land of Enchantment are eager to join its search for life beyond Earth.

The James Webb Space Telescope required the effort of thousands of scientists, engineers and technicians from 29 states and 14 countries. Tony Hull, an adjunct professor of astronomy and physics at the University of Northern New Mexico, led a team that polished all 18 of the telescope’s primary mirrors and additional optics.

“We’re going to see things we never dreamed of, and we’re going to understand even more about planets in our solar system,” he said. “We’re going to understand more about exoplanets.”

James Webb is considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990, but 100 times more powerful.

The Webb telescope is so large in its full configuration that it had to be folded origami-style inside the rocket in preparation for launch. To work properly, Hull said, it must perform a complex choreography when it reaches its destination 1 million miles from Earth.

“We’ve never deployed a sunshade of this efficiency in this number of tennis court-sized layers in space,” he said. “We’ve never flipped open a mirror in space — so there’s so many things that were done for the first time.”

UNM assistant professor Diana Dragomir will be one of many astronomers around the world studying data provided by the Webb telescope.

“Understanding how the very first galaxies formed,” she said, “and then seeing how these galaxies evolved over time from 14 billion years ago to today.”

Once launched, the telescope will travel for about a month until it reaches its destination. James Webb is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

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Pennsylvania’s shortage of substitute teachers has put a lot of pressure on educators in the state, but a new law signed last week by Governor Tom Wolf aims to expand the pool of eligible replacements.

Under House Bill 412, retired teachers can now fill emergency or short-term vacancies. Public schools may also use some students and recent graduates of an education program as a substitute.

Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the deficit is having a ripple effect on students’ learning ability. Nearly two years after the pandemic, he stressed that it is critical to ensure they stay on track.

“This law is going to help achieve that by reducing the number of overcrowded classrooms,” Askey explains. “The teachers now tell me they don’t have time to go to the toilet during the day. They teach two classes at a time. It’s a very stressful situation out there in our public schools.”

The deputy teacher allowed in the bill is a pilot program for the remainder of this school year and the next. The bill also allows teachers whose certifications have expired to replace 180 days, rather than a 90-day cut-off.

Kerry Mulvihill, a science teacher in the Conestoga Valley School District in Lancaster County, has been a teacher for more than two decades. She said the past two years have been the most difficult, and with teachers absent more often, other staff members are expected to take over their classrooms during preparatory periods, the only time in the day without students.

Mulvihill is grateful to lawmakers for passing the bill, but fears it isn’t enough.

“So I’m kind of hopeful that we can get more retirees with the bill and more trainee teachers,” Mulvihill noted. “But I wish we could do more to really promote the importance of education to our community and the importance of supporting our substitutes and our in-house teachers.”

Mulvihill added that she would also like to see higher pay for teachers in Pennsylvania. The median starting salary for teachers in Pennsylvania during the 2019-2020 school year was $41,000 per year.

Disclosure: Pennsylvania State Education Association contributes to our fund for reporting on fiscal policies and priorities, early childhood education, education, and living wages/working families. If you want to support news in the public interest, click here.

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Nearly 27 million borrowers with federal student loans will begin paying off in February, but some have been able to cancel their debt through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

The program ran into trouble a few years ago and less than 5% of applicants were approved for loan forgiveness despite their payments being tracked for ten years as required.

Yvonne Dowell, a mental health counselor in Baltimore, was initially rejected, but she reapplied after the Biden administration revised the program this fall. She recently learned that in addition to being eligible for loan waiver, she was also reimbursed for the 18 months in payments she made after her initial application.

“When I was rejected, I was devastated,” Dowell said. “So I do know it didn’t work in the past. But at least know that things have changed and they’ve revamped that program. And the program works.”

Dowell wants to spread the word to help others take advantage of the PSLF Limited Waiver, which expands the types of eligible payment plans and loan programs. Student borrowers have until October 31 of next year to apply.

With a starting salary in the public sector in the mid-30s, Dowell struggled to pay off her student loan at more than $200 a month while also taking her kids to college. She argued that groups like the American Federation of Teachers should be applauded for their work to change the program. It eventually ended her debt, which totaled over $70,000.

“This program helps single mothers who pay to go to school,” emphasized Dowell. “And anyone who has an income will cause a struggle and have to take out that student loan to pursue their dreams.”

Senate Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., joined Senate colleagues in asking the Biden administration to waive interest on federal student loans for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency. The pandemic moratorium on federal student loan payments ends on January 31.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on education, health issues, living wages/working families, and social justice. If you want to support news in the public interest, click here.

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