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Partner Spotlight

Partner Spotlight: FUEL Education

One of MEFA’s valued partnerships is with an organization called FUEL Education. FUEL was founded in 2009 by social entrepreneur and economist Bob Hildreth, who has long had a passion for higher education. FUEL believes that higher education is attainable for all regardless of income and that family engagement is crucial to students’ educational achievement.

FUEL’s model is rooted in family engagement. They work through partner organizations in Boston, Chelsea, and Lynn and, unlike most college access programs that center on the student or the school, FUEL focuses on helping the entire family prepare to enter higher education. Their groundbreaking curriculum, incentivized savings, and connection to community agencies require families to put skin in the game.  Their engagement in their children's college quest ultimately propels more underserved youth toward higher education and a firmer place in the American social and economic mainstream. FUEL has been very successful at having families save for a college education. Currently, they are serving close to 500 families and approximately 110 FUEL students will graduate from high school in 2014. FUEL is in the second year of a study to evaluate the results of its program. First year findings suggest that FUEL’s model has a positive influence on student outcomes.

As part of the work we do together, FUEL reached out to MEFA three years ago when they were exploring the best ways to help their families save for college. From that first meeting, the collaboration began. We continue to share and learn from each other and embark on new projects as they arise. Michelle Murphy, FUEL’s Director of Programs, relies on MEFA’s training and expertise on issues of college savings and financial aid. She checks in with us as she is developing curriculum for FUEL's families and incorporates MEFA’s resources within them. In a recent conversation with Michelle she said, “There are so many resources available to metro Boston families but it can get overwhelming trying to navigate through all of the information. Our goal is to give parents a strong knowledge base in manageable chunks of new information so they can incorporate it with other local and online sources to craft a college access and financing plan that works for them. is a great place for them to start their search. There is information about saving for college, planning by grade level, video links, an e-book,  frequently asked questions and links to seminars in their communities.”

MEFA has also benefited greatly from this partnership. Understanding FUEL’s model has given us ideas about how we share information with families. FUEL has found ways to deliver complex information in straightforward and simplified ways to make it easier for families who have less experience with financial institutions to understand. I have witnessed first-hand how the trust between FUEL and its families is very important in being successful at changing behaviors. This partnership has strengthened our resolve to work with additional partners across the Commonwealth to best deliver MEFA's programs and services. Additionally, Michelle Murphy has become one of MEFA’s part-time presenters, joining a group that delivers over 500 presentations on college planning and financing at high schools across Massachusetts each year. Michelle is also bilingual so she presents MEFA’s seminars in Spanish, allowing us to reach a broader audience of families.

All in all, our work with FUEL is everything one could hope for in a partnership: shared mission, open communication and learning, and creativity in improving all of our work to benefit families. Thank you FUEL! We look forward to another great year together! For more information about FUEL’s programs visit FUEL founder Bob Hildreth can be found on Twitter @Bob_Hildreth, and his blog on higher education can be found here.

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