Creativity in the Time of Covid-Nov. 22, 2020

VPA Launches FAFSA Campaign

Lem Andrews, right, with student Ellen Bausback, who nominated him for the Barnes & Noble “My Favorite Teacher” contest. Mr. Andrews was named “Teacher of the Year” out of 4,700 entries nationwide in 2018. His legacy is enormous, and he can help YOU.

Senior year is an exciting time as students apply for college and prepare themselves for the next great chapter in life. One vital step in that preparation is the submission of the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application unlocks doors to major financial assistance, both from the federal government and from individual institutions.

To that end, the VPA has created a campaign that 100% of our graduating seniors will have their FAFSA applications submitted by Dec. 15. And we need your help!

BHS College Adviser Lem Andrews, who’s connected hundreds of students to millions of dollars overall in aid, stresses the importance of the FAFSA for all graduating seniors, and dispels the myths that prevail around this aid package:

MYTH #1: My family earns too much money annually to qualify for federal financial aid, so there’s no point in submitting the FAFSA.

FACT: While some families are indeed not eligible for aid through the government, FAFSA submission does much more than connect students to federal grants. Most public universities nationwide rely on FAFSA information to award institutional aid as well, which is money that individual colleges give to families. There are few families who can’t use some kind of assistance when making the investment for college, and the FAFSA is the key to more funding sources than just government aid.

MYTH #2: Information from the FAFSA will be shared with ICE and could endanger my family.

FACT: Some families who have members here illegally have understandable concerns about law enforcement using the information to find undocumented immigrants. This is not the case; the information imparted through FAFSA cannot be used to hurt families, and there isn’t enough coordination between ICE and the IRS to do so even if that were an objective.

MYTH #3: My parents do not have social security numbers, so we can’t complete the application.

FACT: For persons without social security numbers, entering 9 zeros will allow for completion of the application.

MYTH #4: I don’t intend to pursue college, so there’s no need for me to submit a FAFSA.

Fact: Some students may elect to bypass college and enter the workforce or armed services directly, but that’s not a reason to not apply. We don’t know what tomorrow may bring, and college, even a few classes at a time, may become a part of your post-secondary plan. Remember that, for many career goals, college may be a vital step, or at least a path to higher income. Graduating with options is always a better route than closing off opportunities.

THE PROBLEM: The FAFSA reporting agency does communicate the number of students annually who apply, but they do not report the identities of applicants. This makes it impossible for Booker High School to know who may need extra support for the FAFSA application.

THE SOLUTION: When families submit the FAFSA, they will receive two emails: the first email is an acknowledgment of submission; the second reports the successful processing of the application. Please forward these emails to Ms. Abrahamson at We will share this information with the College and Career Room staff so we can provide appropriate assistance where needed.

Families, remember that our College and Career Room team is here to help students successfully transition to post-secondary life, and students should make the most of this invaluable Booker High School resource. No need to wait until senior year: the best college planning begins freshman year, and students should visit the college room periodically during lunch or after school to help them be in control of their destinies.

Art Student’s Work Selected to Embracing Our Differences 2021

The 2021 Embracing our Differences art exhibit has been selected, and among the roughly 50 works on display will be senior Ella Mirman’s artwork. The winning selections were chosen from 15,912 entries received from 128 countries around the world and exemplify the theme “enriching lives through diversity and inclusion.”

The selected artwork has not yet been published by EOD, but you can check her work out when all winning selections will be displayed in Sarasota, Florida’s Bayfront Park January 20 through April 1, 2021.

“Into the Storm” Screening and Panel Discussion a Success

The panel discussion included John Timpe, “Into the Storm” producer, Lori Burton of the Film & Animation Dept., Paul and Petra Ratner, who run the festival, BHS Principal Dr. Rachel Shelley, filmmaker Lindsey Jennings, and members of the community.

On Nov. 19, the acclaimed documentary “Into the Storm,” produced by the graduating Film & Animation class of 2019, was screened as a part of the Visions of the Black Experience Festival. A panel discussion followed the screening that allowed community members to ask questions to the filmmakers and those whose history was featured in the documentary. Interesting pieces of Newtown and Booker High School history is offered through the panel discussion that can help illuminate the story of civil rights, justice, and race relations as relates to the integration of BHS in the 1960s.

“Into the Storm” tells the story of the 1967 BHS Tornadoes basketball team that was invited to play in the State Championships, won the top award, and returned home to a school that had been shut down. It recounts the path to justice that followed.

The panel discussion was recorded and is available here.

The award-winning feature-length documentary is available on-demand here. Today is the last day to get your virtual ticket!

The Sarasota Film Festival, New College, the Barancik Foundation and the Community Foundation made this festival and screening possible.

You can view the film and panel discussion for free. If you feel compelled to give to our Film & Animation Department as a token of gratitude for this vital documentary and to help fund future projects of this merit, you can do so here. Please note “Film” in the comments to ensure proper earmarking of funds.

Selby Gardens Offers Volunteer Opportunities

VPA Theatre alum and Gates Millennium Scholar Treyvon Thomas’s love for botany blossomed as a volunteer at Selby Gardens.

The renowned Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is seeking volunteers who are interested in art and horticulture to become a part of the team responsible for the annual Lights in Bloom event, one of Sarasota’s most treasured holiday traditions.

Beyond the event itself, the Gardens would love to work with Booker High School students looking to fulfill the volunteer requirements of Bright Futures.

Volunteers work with the gardens and museums, learn about sustainable horticulture, become exposed to the operations of an organization with the mission of conservation, research, and horticultural display. Interested? Contact Selby Gardens Volunteer Coordinator Vera Neumann-Wood at

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