By Linda Chion
There are new rules for the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship program which concern an expanded eligibility requirement that allows for paid work to substitute for volunteer hours.
In giving his seal of approval to House Bill 461, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 27 touted the merits for allowing 100 hours of paid work experience to serve as a substitute for the 100 hours of community service required for the Florida Academic Scholars award, the 75 hours required for the Florida Merit Scholars award and the 30 hours required for both the Gold Seal Vocational Scholars and Gold Seal CAPE Scholarship awards.
“Florida students should not lose the opportunity to receive a Bright Futures Scholarship because they have to work to help their families make ends meets,” DeSantis said. “After-school jobs teach our students valuable life lessons, much like community service hours do.”
According to the legislation, volunteer or paid work can include, but is not limited to, a business or governmental internship, work for a nonprofit community service organization or activities on behalf of a candidate for public office.
As students, parents, guardians, businesses, counselors and nonprofits weigh the changes, guidance counselors are gearing up to discuss the new measures, which take effect with the 2022-23 school year.
Introduced by Senator Travis Hutson (R-7), House Bill 461 authorizes, but does not require, a student to “identify a social or civic issue or a professional area that interests him or her and develop a plan for his or her personal involvement in addressing the issues or learning about the area.” As originally proposed, the bill would have required a student to do so.
The bill does require a student, “through papers or other presentations,” to evaluate and reflect upon his or her volunteer service or paid work experience. Hours either way must be documented in writing and signed by the student, his or her parent or legal guardian and a representative of the organization through which the student earned his or her hours.
Funded by the Florida Lottery, the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program was established in 1997. For more on program eligibility and requirements, visit the Florida Department of Education at www.fldoe.org. Read the text of House Bill 461 at www.myfloridahouse.gov.
For the Bright Futures Student Handbook, visit www.floridastudentfinancialaidsg.org/sapbfmain/sapbfmain. For more information on student financial assistance, visit www.floridastudentfinancialaidsg.org/saphome/saphome.