HANDY youth Renato Lherisson, an American citizen born in Miami, FL and attended school here. He moved to Haiti as a child and returned to Florida after the catastrophic earthquake. Despite his residency status, Renato doesn’t qualify for instate tuition to a state college in Florida. Florida law prohibits resident students from attaining instate tuition if their parents cannot prove residency. Because Renato’s surviving parent is not an American citizen, he is faced with paying high tuition costs, more than three times the amount as instate fees; that he simply can’t afford.
On Thursday, January 26, Renato and state lawmakers addressed a press conference at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, in support of HB 441 (Rogers/Fullwood) and SB 1018 (Garcia), which would extend instate tuition to American citizens, regardless of the citizenship of their parents. Renato earned a 3.5 GPA, received high SAT scores, and has the desire to continue his education to become a productive member of society. “I was born in Florida, I went to high school in Florida and I want to work in Florida,” said Renato.
Many lawmakers spoke with a strong voice. “It is unfair, it isn’t right and this legislature should take action,” Rep. Hazelle Rogers voiced in Tallahassee on behalf of Renato. Rep Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes, Rep Reggie Fullwood, D-Jacksonville, Rep. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando and Sen. René García, R-Hialeah are a few of the lawmakers who are fighting for the rights of these students.
The Children’s Services Council of Broward County has also been working diligently to help with providing these deserving youth the financial means to attend Florida colleges and to have the same opportunity to benefit from instate education and tuition rates. Evan Goldman, Manager of Public Affairs & Organizational Development at Children’s Services Council of Broward County applauded the statewide collaborative that rallied around this issue “Together with lawmakers, advocacy groups and children’s services providers, we will impact change for Renato and similarly situated students.”
At the local level, this matter has been made a top priority and progress is happening. Kirk Brown, Vice President of Programs and Business Development at HANDY, Inc. happily states “Good news! HANDY, working in concert with the Broward College Foundation, is in the process of purchasing a Florida Prepaid Scholarship for Renato Lherisson. Regardless of what happens during the legislative session or in the courts, at least we know that his education will be taken care of sooner, rather than later.” Renato, having been told that if he wants to attend college he will have to pay the out of state tuition rate and was therefore previously planning on taking the year off of school because he couldn’t afford it, will now be able to attend college and continue on his road to success.