Video: Initiative Aids in Pursuit of American Dream

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USA Funds FAFSA Completion Initiative

See a graduate of Validus Preparatory Academy, located in the Bronx in New York, tell how Get Schooled put him on the path toward college success. A national nonprofit organization promoting college access and success, Get Schooled partnered with USA Funds to encourage students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Nineteen-year-old Musa Manneh has big dreams: a college diploma, a good-paying job in computer technology, a wife and children, and a house to call his own.


“My parents came to the United States from West Africa in the late ’80s. Growing up, they always stressed to my brother, sisters and me that a good education was everything because it led to a better future,” Manneh says.


A USA Funds-supported organization called Get Schooled is helping Manneh toward that future. Created in 2010, Get Schooled is a national nonprofit that leverages the influence of celebrities and the power of social media to spread the message of college access and success.


“We call it the sizzle and substance,” says Marie Groark, executive director of Get Schooled.


According to Groark, the “sizzle” refers to pop culture from partners such as Viacom, which owns entities including MTV, BET and Paramount Pictures. The “substance” includes interactive tools that provide students with key information about education.


The goal, Groark says, is to connect with students on their turf and provide a call to action.


“The program by no means is the last step in a student’s education journey, but it is a first step in helping many students get on a path that they otherwise may not have taken,” Groark says.


Get Schooled creates college readiness challenges and competitions to motivate schools to improve their educational outcomes. The challenges focus on goals such as completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and improving graduation and college-going rates.


The FAFSA is the application that determines a student’s eligibility for federal student aid programs, as well as for many state and college-specific student aid programs.


Students also can visit the Get Schooled website,, to participate in educational games and access information on topics such as taking the SAT, planning for college, completing the FAFSA, and finding scholarships.


In 2013, as part of a USA Funds initiative to promote FAFSA completion, USA Funds joined forces with Get Schooled and the National College Advising Corps to support a challenge. More than 325 high schools in 14 states participated in that Future Forward challenge, with nearly 40,000 FAFSAs completed as a result of the effort.


For Manneh, the inspiration from Get Schooled couldn’t have come at a more critical time. He learned about Get Schooled as a senior at Validus Preparatory Academy, located in the Bronx in New York. Get Schooled’s competitions and tools and resources on planning and paying for college played a key role in Manneh’s higher education journey.


“Before Get Schooled, I was unprepared for college,” says Manneh. “I didn’t know what I really needed to do, how to fill out the FAFSA, what kind of majors I should be looking into, or about scholarships. Get Schooled changed all that for me.”


Manneh says he became a self-appointed cheerleader for Get Schooled, encouraging other students at his school to participate in a challenge promoting FAFSA completion. As the high school whose students took part in the most quizzes and university visits in a one-week span, Validus Prep earned a private screening of the film “Admission,” a meeting with the film’s director, and a meeting with teen actor Nat Wolff.


The experience gave Manneh the insight he needed to get his own college dreams in order. Today he is a freshman at New York City College of Technology and beginning the first leg of his journey to realize his future goals.


“When I think about the future, I envision the typical American dream,” Manneh says. “A college degree is the beginning of that dream for me.”



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