Alumna Heads Organization Advocating Equity in Education, Publishes FAFSA Guide
Students, families, and guardians with questions about the newly relaunched Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can turn to a resource developed by a nonprofit organization headed by alumna Darcel Sanders ’09.
Darcel, a double major in political science and psychology, is CEO of GO Public Schools, a Northern California based organization that promotes and advocates for equitable public education for underserved students throughout California. GO Public Schools has just released its annual guide, "A Parent’s Guide to Financial Aid" in both English and Spanish. This year's edition outlines the updates to both the FAFSA and the California Dream Act Application (CADAA) for the 2024-25 award year. The guide also provides resources so that students and families can better understand all the current and upcoming changes to the financial aid process.
In the guide’s foreword, Darcel recalls her and her family’s own challenges navigating the college application process, particularly the world of financial aid.
“I know so many others share my experience and it is clear that access to financial aid is critical to help more students and their families offset the cost of college,” she notes. “Each year, millions of dollars in aid are left unallocated to students who are eligible.”
As a student at Dominican, Darcel excelled in academics and immersed herself in student life and leadership roles. She was a member of the Honors Program, a Panetta Intern, a resident advisor, an ASDU officer, a member of the volleyball and basketball teams, and a LeaderShape participant.
“Having access to so many opportunities on and off campus allowed me to build relationships that have sustained me as an educator, advocate, and non-profit leader," she says. "The network and chosen family that I built at Dominican has been invaluable to my journey.”
Darcel's academic advisor at Dominican recalls Darcel's strong work ethic, intellect, and empathy.
"Darcel was an exceptional student-athlete and leader, who was always oriented toward public service," says Dr. Gigi Gokcek, professor of political science and dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education. "It is not surprising to me that she is the CEO of an important organization like Go Public Schools. Given all that she achieved as an undergraduate, I was certain that she would do great things following her graduation from Dominican."
After graduation, Darcel joined Teach For America (TFA) and also coached volleyball at Mills College, serving as interim head coach for the 2011 season, where she was recognized as the NCAA Association of Division III Independents Coach of the Year.
Darcel was selected to participate in the Capital Fellows Program, which led to a position as a Legislative Aide and eventually Legislative Director for Senator Carol Lui. Much of Darcel’s work in the Senate focused on K-12 education policy, as well as health and human services. She also served on the Board of the Capital Fellows Alumni Association.
In 2016 when Senator Liu termed out, Darcel was recruited by Teach For America to serve as the Chief of Staff for the California Capital Valley region and lead TFA’s government affairs work across California. In 2018, Darcel received Dominican’s Outstanding Recent Graduate Award.
Darcel joined GO Public Schools in 2019 as chief operating officer and was charged with among other things increasing GO’s state-level influence and preparing for organizational growth. She was named CEO in 2021. The growth and impact of GO's college access and financial aid is a result of the organization's 2022 strategic plan.
“What started as a regional project to support families pre-pandemic has grown into a state-wide collaboration that includes bilingual written resources, as well as learning spaces and local advocacy,” Darcel says. “We hope that families will join us for our webinar series, which begins on February 6th and connect with GO on social media (LinkedIn, Facebook) to bring other resources to their communities.” Families can RSVP for GO’s financial aid webinar series here: bit.ly/GOwebinars.
The FAFSA Simplification Act, as well as AB 1540, which simplifies how CADAA applicants access financial aid, take effect this aid award cycle. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the simplified and streamlined 2024-2025 FAFSA will help 610,000 new students from low-income backgrounds receive Federal Pell Grants. The new FAFSA form will also help 1.5 million more students receive the maximum Pell Grant – bringing the total number of students eligible for the maximum Pell Grant amount to more than 5.2 million. California is expected to see a 59,005 increase in the number of Pell recipients and a 177,362 increase in the number of maximum Pell recipients.
In a typical year, FAFSA applications are available in October for the following academic year and students receive aid letters before the end of the calendar year. But to accommodate the application’s overhaul, the release of the 2024-25 FAFSA was delayed until Dec. 31.
Now that FAFSA and CADAA submissions are open for the 2024/25 academic year, Dominican is offering Zoom financial aid appointments throughout the week and on weekends. Dominican University of California's Federal School Code is 001196. Contact Finaid@Dominican.edu or visit Dominican's Financial Aid landing page for more information.