MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Students at Coral Reef High School in Southwest Miami-Dade received a presidential visit Friday.
President Barack Obama, along with the First Lady Michelle Obama, arrived aboard Air Force Bone right on time at 1:40 p.m. at Homestead Air Reserve Base.
The President paid the magnet high school a visit Friday afternoon to kick off a new effort to help students take the first step toward getting a college education.
“It’s a historic event,” said student Sumaiya Khandaker.
Mr. Obama, in a speech to the school’s seniors in school gymnasium, announced a new initiative to help students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA form.
Click here to check out pictures of their visit.
States can use the information to help schools and school districts work with those students.
The application is required for students to receive federal student aid, like Pell Grants, or federal student loans. States, colleges and universities also award student financial aid based on the form. Yet more than 1 million high school seniors annually do not file a FAFSA, the Education Department says.
As part of an effort to broaden access to education, Obama announced that, starting in the fall, the Education Department will begin working with states to identify students who have not completed the form. States can then use that information to help schools and school districts work with these students on filling out the form.
He joked around with students and told them they should make it a competition with rival schools.
“Anybody will be able to go online and fill out the number of students who have filled out the form in each high school so we can track it. So if you want to have a friendly competition with Palmetto High or Miami Killian to see who can get a higher completion rate on your FAFSA, you can do that.”
The students in the audience booed at the mention of the rival high schools.
The White House notes that Obama’s proposal for the budget year that starts in the fall asks Congress for more than $750 million for various education programs. His request includes $300 million for a new competition to encourage states and school districts close achievement and opportunity gaps, and $200 million to help teachers introduce digital technologies in their classrooms and lessons.
Obama also wants $100 million for a fund to support strategies that help make college more affordable.
Coral Reef students were advised to arrive on campus early Friday due to additional security measures. Students were also told not bring backpacks, large purses or any bags.
“There’s a lot of hype going on, we’re really looking forward to it,” said student Sara Sarmiento.
The school’s senior class was invited to see the President’s speech in the gymnasium. The rest of the student body watched a live stream in their classrooms.
“Not exactly fair that we don’t get to see the president but then again were like yards from him,” said student Michelle Valoz.
Some students who get past secret service are looking for more than just a handshake.
“I’ll shake his hand. I’ll try to give him one of my cards.. just in case I need a contact or I need somebody to talk to to help me get ahead,” said student William Gilmore.
Protesters hoped to turn the President’s attention towards the violence in Venezuela.
“You see the students there how they’re being killed and it’s their right to protest. It can’t be that in a democracy people go out to protest for their rights and they’re being killed by the government. That’s what’s going on in Venezuela,” said Susan Ortega, a protester.
Other people who are standing outside the school are hoping to catch the president’s ear about immigration and putting a stop to deportation.
Students are being dismissed later than usual due to the Presidential appearance.
After the event, Obama planned to spend the weekend in the Florida Keys, though that could change depending on developments in Ukraine.
“It is possible the resident may return to the White House on Friday as events unfold in Ukraine,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
The White House has not said where Obama will stay on his weekend escape from Washington’s frigid weather, but local media reports said he, his wife and their two daughters would be staying at the Ocean Reef Club, a private membership club set on 2,500 tropical acres on the northern tip of Key Largo.
For avid golfers like Obama, the property boasts two championship 18-hole golf courses. The club also has a swimming lagoon, tennis courts, a spa and fitness center, a private airport and more than a dozen restaurants among its varied offerings.
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