KEYS Program Unlocks Door to Opportunities

by Ashlee Scott

If there is one thing college students can relate to, it is the struggle to afford the cost of higher education. Luckily for RACC students — this program holds the key.

Students have many obligations to fulfill outside of RACC before they even begin to juggle classwork in challenging classes like calculus or A&P! For some RACC students, this balance is struck more easily with the assistance of the KEYS program (Keystone Education Yields Success), an extensive support system that helps students overcome financial barriers in order to reach academic goals. It is run by the state, but RACC has advisors on hand who act as liaisons between the organization and the student.

“If a student is use to being the support system for everyone else, we are here to be the support system for them,” said Rebecca Monserrate, the KEYS program assistant.

Many students will appreciate having a helping hand.

Angelica MonserrateIn 2005, RACC adopted the KEYS program as a way to aid non-traditional students in navigating their respective college careers. The program is only open to students who are in the career training programs or the GED program, Monserrate explained . Students who receive either Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are also eligible to join. Eligibility is typically determined by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (DPW), which considers how much time the student has to complete his or her education.

After the KEYS application process and students are accepted, they are then able to enjoy the assistance offered by the program. Benefits include career counseling, academic support, tutoring, discussions through the County Assistance Office (CAO), connection to community service agencies, and financial aid. Also, if approved by the CAO, students can receive financial help for child care, school fees, car purchases and repairs, motor vehicle operator fees, union or professional fees, adult dependent care costs, and transportation fees.

The student has access to these benefits for twelve months. However, a six-month extension may be awarded if the student maintains a 2.5 GPA or better. Success in the program often translates to success in life. Monserrate stated that all KEYS students need to do is maintain a habit of handing in their attendance sheets.

“The students are given incentives — like the pantry that holds items such as household products, that they can’t get on food stamps. It is their reward if they hand in the attendance sheets to me,” said Monserrate.

All in all, students are rewarded for their effort and commitment.

Monserrate stressed that students who are need of help and want to continue their education should reach out to her or Rebecca Paul (student facilitator) at 610-372-4721, or simply pay a visit to Berks Hall, Room 218.