Students hoping to attend South Florida universities are earning scholarship money by volunteering in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic — even while staying at home to stop the spread of the disease.
On the website RaiseMe, more than 250 colleges offer “micro-scholarships” — small amounts like $5, $10 or more — for things students are already doing: Getting an A in a course. Earning a high score on an Advanced Placement exam. Volunteering.
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More than 300,000 Floridians have received the “micro-scholarships” since the site launched in 2015, and the schools foot the bill. Seventeen Florida universities participate, including Florida International University in Miami, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Barry University in Miami Shores and Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens.
Now students are able to get money for community service projects related to the coronavirus crisis, like making public-service announcements on TikTok and Instagram about proper handwashing.
“It can be something like writing letters or cards or drawing pictures for the elderly in assisted living facilities, just to brighten their day,” said Jody Glassman, director of admissions at FIU.
FIU offers $4 an hour for community service, up to $400. High school students and community college transfers can rack up as much as $2,500 toward a degree at the university, and their "micro-scholarships" are renewable for up to four years.
“So, really, it’s a $10,000 scholarship,” Glassman said, adding that the money could help pay for costs not covered by other financial aid, like state Bright Futures scholarships.
Annika Aldana, a high school junior who lives in Fort Myers, earned money toward college by sewing masks and donating them to local hospitals in her area. She’s hoping to study marine biology and wildlife conservation at either FIU or FAU.
She said it’s important to her to help out with the cost of her college education.
“My parents work really hard for everything we have,” she said. “College is pretty pricey.”