The upper grades of Ocracoke School are in this temporary modular unit while the new school is being built, expected to be finished in 2023. Photo: C. Leinbach

RALEIGH – Ocracoke School has been awarded a $500 grant as a winner of the 2021 North Carolina First in FAFSA Challenge.

The school earned first place in the extra small high school category with 100% Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion among its high school seniors.

The FAFSA Challenge is part of myFutureNC’s efforts to close the state’s educational attainment gap. The nonprofit is leading the state’s educational attainment goal of ensuring 2 million North Carolina adults hold a college degree or high-quality certification by 2030.

Federal financial aid gained through completion of the FAFSA creates a pathway to college for many of Ocracoke’s students.

“We’re such a small community, but the FAFSA opens up financial aid opportunities from all over the country,” said Mary McKnight, Ocracoke High School’s counselor. “It’s helped so many of our students afford the education they deserve.”

To encourage students and families to complete the application, the school created a college-going culture that created opportunities for on-going discussions on FAFSA completion and ‘College Nights’ that reinforced the importance of the FAFSA and the benefits of attending college.

“FAFSA completion is a leading predictor of whether or not a student will attend college and graduate,” said Cecilia Holden, myFutureNC’s president and CEO. “The 2020-2021 school year was difficult for students and teachers, but schools across the state stepped up to the challenge by not only encouraging students and families to complete the application but also assisting them with what can sometimes be a difficult process.”

The $500 grant will support Ocracoke High School’s future FAFSA completion efforts and assist the school with the development of its college-going culture.

Nearly 500 North Carolina schools participated in the 2021 FAFSA Challenge. Participating high schools competed among similar schools by senior class size and location, in two categories: overall FAFSA completions and FAFSA completion growth.

View a complete list of 2021 FAFSA Challenge winners. In the coming days, myFutureNC will launch the 2022 FAFSA Challenge.