The members of the Weld County Bright Futures Board of Directors began meeting in August of this year and within just a few busy months, they have transformed the Bright Futures program into a strong and sustainable program focused on meeting the needs of the Weld County workforce. The first step on the board’s docket was evaluation. One of the strengths the program had was the number of students who knew about the program and were applying. Within three semesters, over 2,600 students have been Bright Futures recipients and it has already lead to students completing certifications and beginning new jobs here in Weld County. The biggest objective that the board is focusing on is sustainability. Weld County, among many other areas in Colorado, is growing rapidly and it was important to find a way that this program can grow with the community. Changes to create this sustainability included:
• Adjusting the annual amount a student can receive each year up to $2,000.
• The Bright Futures application now requires the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) to be completed annually as well.
• Changing the guideline that the stipend must be used within ten years from the graduation or GED date to requiring it to be begun within two years and completed within six years.
• Moving the stipend from “first dollar in” to “last dollar in.” This means that the Bright Futures stipend will be applied in conjunction with all other scholarships or stipends instead of initially.
• Requiring an annual 16 hours of community service in Weld County from each student in the program.
These changes will take effect with the upcoming graduation class and will apply to all Bright Future participants beginning August 2018. In addition to these changes, Interim Director Amy Tallent has also proposed a schedule of ensuring the funding comes from a strong donation base over the course of five years. Another item the board reviewed is the geographic region in which the stipend may be used. The program initially didn’t include any geographic restrictions if it was applied to a Title IV institution. To enable and develop the associated Bright Futures mentoring program that will seek to create an environment of success for participants, the board unanimously voted to limit the region the stipend may be used to include only schools/institutions within Colorado and its bordering states that Bright Futures has or will have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with. This process will allow employers and institutions the ability to participate and partner on developing opportunities that will strengthen the Weld County workforce. Changes will take effect in August of 2019 to give time to students that are currently in programs outside of this area the opportunity to finish certifications or degrees and prepare for the change.
“Education and training is an important key to financial well-being and self-sufficiency,” stated Upstate Director Rich Werner. “By giving the opportunity to educate and train individuals we will also be creating and maintaining a desirable workforce that can align with the needed skill set of employers across the region.”
For more information on how you can participate in the Bright Futures program, please visit www.brightfuturesco.com.