RATHDRUM — Seniors applying for their portion of the $75 million Idaho Launch funds say applying is not difficult with the help of parents and school counselors.
The class of 2024 is the first cohort to use Launch, which aims to keep students in Idaho selecting in-demand careers that benefit the state. The postsecondary grant provides up to $8,000 of financial aid. Students can put their money toward four-year college or community college, career-technical education or job training.
The money is awarded to students one time. Students can receive up to one-half of the initial grant award in the first year of a program. However, for programs that are less than 12 months in length, students can use the full awarded amount in one year.
After speaking with six students attending Kootenai Technical Education Campus that serves Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Lakeland school districts, two issues stood out: the state’s outreach efforts need to include more accurate information, and the $8,000 grant helped some seniors choose an in-demand career.
“I started my application and we need to do my FAFSA before I can finish it, so it’s taking time to do it,” said Kamryn Wixom, 17, a Coeur d’Alene High School senior. She’s interested in crash and collision auto body work. “I’ve been surrounded by cars my whole life and plan to continue,” she said.
Under the frequently asked questions, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is not a program requirement. But the grant only covers 80% — up to $8,000 — of a program’s tuition and fees. Remaining costs like room and board can be paid by other financial aid and scholarships. Most financial aid and scholarships require FAFSA completion.
Jack Guy, 18, a Lake City High School senior, said, “I’ve looked through the application and applied. My mom was the one that mainly filled it out for me, but she did say it was a little difficult.” Guy plans to obtain a commercial driver’s license and join his family driving semis.
“I’m hoping to use the money towards Sage Truck Driving School. This way I’m being trained by well-trained drivers with years of experience. If it can’t be used toward Sage, I’ll apply for Idaho State University or a trade school at North Idaho College,” Guy said.
Launch’s website “Next Steps Idaho” includes resource links for money and financial aid, education and training, an application portal, in-demand jobs, planning for a career and an information center tab. The frequently asked questions section points users to the Idaho Launch resources page. And for questions not answered by the website, email [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected].
Preslie McLaughlin, 17, a Coeur d’Alene senior, plans to be the second person in her immediate family to attend college and hopes to work in the medical field. She’s counting on her parents to help with the application, because the stress of how to pay for college is “definitely on.”
“I’m interested in healthcare because I love the feeling of being able to take care of people. And being the first nurse in my family is something I really want to do,” McLaughlin said. “If I got the money, I would go do my prerequisites at a community college to cover that cost so I can stay in Idaho for the first two years.”
High school counselors and administrators are trying to spread the word by various means but it’s still early in the process. The state started accepting applications on Oct. 3. Initial applications are due by Nov. 30 and the final deadline is April 15. Award letters are expected at the end of December, March and May.
Students appreciate the help schools and counselors provide. Lake City notified parents through email and there are “application days” planned at most schools where seniors can apply for Launch and other scholarships. At K-Tech, an application day is scheduled in November. Sandpoint High School is partnering with the English department this week to provide seniors with time to apply for Launch and the Opportunity Scholarship.
“At first I never really listened to the Idaho Launch guidance because I never thought about going to college, but I came across an opportunity that it could help with, so I reached out to Ms. (Kristin) Parker and she helped a lot,” said Trevor Rodda, 17, of Coeur d’Alene.
Rodda is planning a career in the construction industry. “I have always had interest in building things, whether it was with Legos or raw materials I would find outside. I plan to spend the money through North Idaho College in their construction management class that they are starting next fall,” Rodda said.
Lake City senior Ben Crespo, 17, plans to ask his parents for help with the application. He’s looking to specialize in automotive engines or manufacturing. “I’ve always been interested in cars and only in the past four to five years have I been interested in how they work. With the grant money, I’d instantly put it toward the college of my choice,” although he’s not sure which automotive technology school he will attend.
Paying for college is a concern for Madalyn Barron, 18. The Lake City senior is in her second year of a certified nursing assistant program at K-Tech. She lives with a single parent and worries about the cost of attending college.
Barron aspires to be a plastic surgeon. “I want to help people feel good about what they see in the mirror and to help burn victims heal.” She plans to use the money at the University of Idaho or Boise State University and try to stay out of debt for as long as she can.
With the help of her counselor, Barron gained confidence in the process of applying for scholarships. “I needed a little help but overall I could do it myself,” she said, about applying for Launch.