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Rigoberto Ponce, of Educational Talent Search, assists Imperial Valley College student Josue Arreguin at the Cash for College workshop at IVC Saturday. SANDY SIERRA PHOTO

IMPERIAL — With financial documents in tow, potential and current college students swarmed Imperial Valley College to receive assistance during the Cash For College workshop Saturday morning.

The purpose of the workshop is to provide free, one-on-one professional financial aid assistance to families completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, Cal Grant GPA Verification Form, Middle-Class Scholarship and California Dream Act application.

"We have five computer labs available as well as one for those who choose to bring their own laptops. Our main purpose is to provide computers and one-on-one support, especially to first-generation, low-income students," said Martha Singh, San Diego and Imperial County Cal-SOAP assistant director.

The event gathered staff from the Imperial County Office for Higher Education as well as from IVC's Financial Aid Support Services, IVC's Talent Search and Early Academic Outreach Program.

"It's a countywide event that is open to all high school and college students. Another thing that's going on is that when they fill out an application, they are automatically entered for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship," said Denise Cabanilla, ICOE director.

Cabanilla added that this is an important event for students to accurately and promptly turn in all the paperwork necessary to become eligible for financial assistance.

"Oftentimes, students will start filling out the forms but they don't realize that they don't complete it until they start school and don't have that aid," she said. "Today's an opportunity for that. You also see students and parents working together and that's great to see."

Calexico High School senior Daniella Patino was accompanied by a family member. Her older sister, Rosalinda, helped guide her through the process. They spoke about Obama's State of the Union address where he proposed the idea of free community college, which has caused much debate about whether it is too lofty of a goal.

Both agreed that the intention brought much-needed attention to the cost of higher education.

"It's sad to see people who want to study but can't because they can't afford it," Rosalinda said.

Daniella added, "I think what the president said was excellent. There aren't a lot of people that have the opportunity to spend money on their education."

17-year-old Forrest Ramos believes that unburdening students financially can only spell out good things.

"I think it would be nice not to worry about paying back loans and instead focus your energy on figuring out what you want to do," he said.

Calexico High School student Ian Ortiz finds Obama's speech motivational for college students.

"I think it's a great idea because it'll motivate youth to pursue their dreams and move forward," the 17-year-old said.

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