November 3, 2016

Pictured (left to right): Jonathon Millian, Luis Duran and Luis Duran’s mom.

If you happen to ask “Mr. Mill$” why he looks like a million bucks, his students at Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy in Hialeah will tell you.

It’s FAFSA season, and if you complete the form, you can get money for college.

“Mr. Mill$” is the nickname students have given Jonathon Milian, the academy’s College Assistance Program (CAP) Advisor. Milian sports the “money suit” as a quick and easy way to make sure his students are aware that the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opened on October 1st this year, three months earlier than prior years.

The “money suit” has been a success and has sparked dozens of conversations with students and parents about the financial aid process, including dispelling some common myths.

“I have families tell me they won’t qualify. I tell them everyone has a different level of need. What you don’t consider need another family will consider need,” said Milian.

About 77 percent of students at Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy are considered low-income and qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. If they complete the FAFSA, these students are likely eligible for several sources of institutional, state and federal aid, including the Pell Grant, which provides up to $5,920 each year towards attending college or career school that doesn’t have to be paid back.

The public magnet school attracts some of the brightest students in the district, but a significant portion of these students will be the first in their families to go to college and fear they or their parents won’t be able to afford it, Milian told Florida CAN.

In previous years, Milian provided incentives such as offering preferred parking and free movie tickets to students who complete the all-important form. He has also had success assisting parents with the form, many of whom don’t feel comfortable sharing their personal and financial information.

Luis Duran, a senior at Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy, was one of the first students Milian helped complete the FAFSA this school year. Milian spoke with Luis’ mother to assuage her concerns and show that affording college is possible.

“My mom’s English isn’t great. He explained everything to her in Spanish and guided us through everything,” said Luis. “Knowing this aid is out there and that it’s possible to go to college without an incredible amount of debt allows me to realize my parents’ dream. This something they were never able to accomplish themselves.”

“Mr. Mill$” and his money suit have even caught the attention of students as young as the sixth grade. They often approach Milian and ask about it, which gives him the opportunity to talk to kids at an early age about the money that is available for college, and to make sure they know that they can get help with planning for college.

Milian’s goal is to get every single one of his high school seniors to complete the FAFSA, which he appears well on his way to doing. Through just the first three weeks of October, most of the 12th graders at Jose Marti MAST 6-12 Academy completed the form.

To see more of “Mr. Mill$” and his money suit in action, visit his Twitter page to see pictures of him and his students navigate the college-going process.

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