Maya Williamson was struggling, even homeless briefly, and wasn’t sure she would ever realize her dream of going to college. Then, she connected with a Louisville program that helped her get financial aid and stay on track with her studies. Now, Maya is pursuing a business degree at Jefferson Community & Technical College, planning to be the first in her family to graduate college.
Maya says the support she got from the KentuckianaWorks College Access Center (KCAC) made the difference.
“I don’t think I would have made it to college without all their help,” she said.
The KCAC provides a variety of free services that help people go to college, including help in applying for financial aid, and in finding and enrolling in the school that’s right for them. This past year, the center assisted more than 3,000 people — more than two-thirds of them were lower-income, and 83 percent were the first in their family to attend college.
Mayor Greg Fischer joined the KCAC adult program’s staff, clients and partners in marking its 40th year of operation by dedicating new and improved space in the ArtSpace Building at 323 W. Broadway, next to the Brown Theater.
“Helping people realize their dream of higher education is not only critical for each student and their family, it’s critical to building a stronger workforce and economy,” the Mayor said. “It’s also key to building safer neighborhoods because greater education leads to better jobs and careers that can break the cycle of poverty, hopelessness and violence.”
A critical time for people wanting to attend college begins October 1, when the application for federal student financial aid, known as FAFSA, can be filed.
“Getting financial aid is a key component to make your dreams of college a reality,” said Lashala Goodwin, executive director of KCAC. “Our counselors can guide you through the process and maximize your chances of getting funding and other support.”
Goodwin said many schools require a completed FAFSA form to be eligible for any type of student aid, including grants, work-study, student loans and scholarships. And it’s especially important to act quickly in Kentucky, which is one of only a few states that awards financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. People who wait to file the FAFSA could lose out on state support for their education.
KCAC, which is funded by federal TRIO grants, operates two programs, including one that focuses on helping adults 19 and older like Williamson go to college.
A second program works directly with high school students, grades 9-12, helping them keep on track with their studies and develop a plan for college. Program counselors are based in five JCPS schools: Fairdale, Iroquois, Liberty, Valley and Western, and worked one-on-one with more than 800 students during the last school year.
Those seeking assistance through KCAC can contact the center at (502) 584-0475 or go to kentuckianaworks.org/KCAC. There is no charge for any of the services.
The program’s new space on Broadway also houses KentuckianaWorks’ Degrees Work program, which helps boost college attainment by contracting directly with employers such as Humana, Universal Woods and Louisville Metro Government to help their employees return to college.
Both the KCAC and Degrees Work are important contributors to the work being done by 55,000 Degrees, the city’s education movement.