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PRESS RELEASE

December 22, 2005

Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

Ninth Grade Student Wins High School Planner Contest
Online course planner helps high school students reach long-term goals

TALLAHASSEE — Education Commissioner John L. Winn today announced Sarah Siroky, a ninth grade student at J.W. Mitchell High School in New Port Richey, as the winner of the Department of Education's FACTS.org High School Planner Contest. Senator Mike Fasano presented Siroky the prize of an IBM ThinkPad® T42 Express laptop and ThinkPad® Backpack during an assembly at her high school. Speakers at the event included: Connie Graunke, Executive Director of FACTS.org, Superintendent Heather Fiorentino of Pasco County Schools, and Principal Ric Mellin of J.W. Mitchell High School.

"We organized the contest to introduce high school students to this new planning tool," said Commissioner Winn. "Students can review their grades, check their Bright Futures eligibility and plan their future. This invaluable tool helps students chart their course to success."

The ePersonal Education Planner (ePEP) is the newest tool launched by FACTS.org, Florida's statewide online student advising system. To enter the drawing, students were required to register at the FACTS.org site and create their own ePEP, an interactive course planner for all four years of high school. Since its launch on October 20, more than 19,000 Florida high school students have created an ePEP account.

"Students today are using technology to help them succeed," said Senator Fasano. "Online resources like FACTS.org give high school students an opportunity to map out their road to college and beyond."

The ePEP service empowers students to be proactive in planning courses for each year of high school, based on the student's goals after graduation, such as admission to a four-year college, going to two-year degree program at a community college, attending a vocational or technical center, registering for military service or entering the workforce. Guidance counselors view students' online planners and provide recommendations based on their plans.

"I found out about ePEP from a letter that Commissioner Winn sent to my parents to let us know about it," said Siroky. "It was easy to use, and I like having my plan online, so I can see my grades and update it as I go through school. I'm very excited to win the laptop," said Siroky.

High school students, college students, parents and guidance counselors use the services free of charge. FACTS.org provides access and articulation services to help high school and college students make informed choices about their education.

"The planner challenges and empowers students to take their futures into their own hands and to succeed both academically and in the workforce," said Superintendent Fiorentino.

Graunke explained that the program makes the decision-making less intimidating. "High school students frequently are uncertain about which career they want to pursue," said Graunke. "FACTS.org has many tools so students can explore careers and educational options, as well as assess their interests and aptitude for various occupations."

The laptop and backpack were donated by the IBM Florida K-20 Sales Team. Microsoft Student Office Suite software was donated by the Florida Education Foundation. For additional student advising tools or more information, visit www.FACTS.org.