By Angel Camacho –
It’s FAFSA time for students all over Paterson. FAFSA is the acronym for ‘Free application for Federal Student Aid’. Every year PCCC promotes FAFSA at the college and high schools in the city of Paterson which they like to dub the FAFSA Drive. The FAFSA Drive is a way to get students to start their FAFSA’s early so they won’t be behind the long lines at their respective college or have to fill out last minute paperwork that is a huge hassle. Myself and Shakere Banks head to different high schools to help seniors prepare for college early by getting their FAFSA’s done before they graduate and head off to adult life in college. When asking Banks what is he hoping to accomplish with all of this he jokingly said, “I just don’t want to deal with these pain in the butts bothering during registration time.” When asking Banks why does he keep choosing me every semester to accompany him on the drive he said, “because you know how this works better than anyone and you’re my guy and you keep everyone in check when doing the FAFSA’s.” Banks, 41, has not only been a staff assistant at PCCC for years, but he has also been the FAFSA coordinator making sure that the students get their applications done in time for the upcoming semester. On a warm October 30th day, myself and Banks traveled to John F. Kennedy Educational Complex High School for the annual FAFSA Drive. As we walk into the library anxiously, we are determined to help the JFK seniors to make sure they get a fine education with no pressure or upsets. When asking Banks why he look nervous he said, “this isn’t my first time, but these kids still make me so darn nervous—you never know what this generation is about these days.” The FAFSA Drive for JFK and its four academies that derive of SET, STEM, ACT, and BTMF academy lasted approximately 150 minutes with STEM seniors being the longest set of seniors to do the FAFSA. After most of the STEM seniors were finishing up with their applications, I sat still waiting to pick on a random senior to interview about the FAFSA. Student Steffanie Tabares has been at JFK since her freshman year. Tabares, 18 was asked about her experience at JFK and she said, “it’s really not bad as people say like they talk so much about JFK but it’s a really good school.” When asked about how does she feel about the FAFSA Tabares said, “I just want the money and with this FAFSA stuff I can get my tuition paid for at my college.” Tabares was asked how the experience was filling out the application and she replied, “it’s annoying and a lot of work—can the government give me money already?” Every year at different high schools the FAFSA Drive ends up being quite the success according to Banks. Although the FAFSA Drive takes place at different high schools once a year, the FAFSA Drive takes place at PCCC every single day. Students at PCCC are emailed once the new FAFSA is available so they can fill out the FAFSA early instead of waiting until it’s too late. Work Study student Karima Miah is one of the assistants that helps with the FAFSA’s. Miah, 24, has been knowledgeable about doing the FASFA since being hired by the Financial Aid department in 2017. When asked how she keeps her cool when there is a bunch of students doing the FAFSA Miah said, “It’s annoying at times because some students don’t read the questions...” One of Miah’s coworkers Edgar Rodriguez is also knowledgeable about the FAFSA. Rodriguez, 22, has been working in the FAFSA office since June 2019. Rodriguez started working during the time where the FAFSA room started getting filled with students, so he had to learn pretty fast. Rodriguez was asked how he feels about working in the FAFSA room; he said, “I don’t mind it I love my job here I’m truly blessed to be here and I love helping people even if they give me problems.” The FAFSA Drive is still happening through the month of November and December ending on December 20th and the Financial Aid office continues to reach out to PCCC students to fill out the FAFSA and they continue to volunteer their help at the high schools in Paterson. Come fill your FAFSA’s out while there is still time at Passaic County Community College.