Amber Keene started her pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts in Education Sciences at the University of Florida in August of 2019. Through support from FREE's Bridge to Bachelors (B2B) program, she will begin teaching 4th grade this Fall in her hometown of Putnam County.
"As a full time employee, wife, and mother, flexible scheduling was key in choosing a program that worked well for me and my family," said Keene. "University of Florida’s BAES program allowed me to attend all of my classes 100% online and to choose how many classes I wanted to enroll in each semester. Unfortunately, I did not qualify for student aid," said Keene. "I would have been able to pay my school costs using student loans, but that was not ideal. I am so thankful for the Bridge to Bachelors program! At the end of each semester, half of my tuition and book costs were reimbursed! With half of my fees being paid by B2B, I was able to pay the other half out of pocket. I am thrilled to say, because of B2B, I completed my Bachelor's degree program debt free!"
The B2B program provides support to practicing paraprofessionals in obtaining their teaching degree. Partnering institutions include the University of Florida and St. Leo University. Grant funds provide partial reimbursement for tuition and books. Clay Electric Foundation has supported the program from its inception via Operation Round Up.
When asked if she would like to send a message to sponsors of B2B, Keene had plenty to say. "I would like to extend heartfelt appreciation to Clay Electric Foundation and other sponsors for supporting small and rural school districts like the one I live and work in. Your generosity provided me with an opportunity to return to college nearly ten years after graduating high school. Thank you for believing in me, and others like me, who aspire to give back to the communities that raised us."