United Way Suncoast and CareerEdge have partnered to create Career Quest – a career exploration and college savings program for low-income rising high school juniors in Sarasota County. The pilot program has the following components:
• Matched College Savings Account opened for each participating student through a partnership with United Way Suncoast and SunTrust Bank. Students saving a minimum of $25 per month for the two years of their Junior and Senior years in high school will have up to $500 of their savings matched 4-to-1 through both a private match, as well as through the federal government Assets for Independence program, for a possible $2000 in additional college savings. Therefore, each graduating senior has the opportunity to have a minimum of $2500 available for their post-secondary education if they save the $25 per month for the two years. Matched savings are paid directly to the higher education institution, whether a 2- or 4-year degree or a technical college certification program
• Paid internship opportunity at partner organizations in high demand sectors such as: Healthcare, Manufacturing, Construction, IT, Financial Service, or Transportation. Employers are reimbursed up to $1,000 per intern hires. Students are paid minimum wage or higher and work approximately 20 hours per week for 6- 8 weeks over the summer. Exact schedules are determined by each organization.
• Financial Literacy for students is required with the savings program and is provided by United Way Suncoast and mentor organizations such as Unidos Now, Girls Inc., Take Stock in Children, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brother Big Sisters, Y-Achievers, etc. Topics include banking, budgeting, money management, credit analysis, college savings, and filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.