By Paul Kurtz

CAMDEN, N.J. (CBS) — Hundreds of college-bound students from seven Camden, NJ high schools came together today at Wilson High School for an informational financial aid rally.

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This high-energy event was a warmup to the all-important step of filling out those free applications for federal student aid known as “FAFSA” — a financial lifeline to college for these largely impoverished students.

Mayor Dana Redd (at lectern in photo) told the teens that she went through the same process herself many years ago — and it paid off.

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“For my family, I represent the first generation to graduate a four-year academic institution of higher learning,” she said, adding, “And that’s what we expect you to do!”

College counselor Yvette Pruitt says the rally concept was introduced last year as part of districtwide effort to boost Camden’s post-secondary education numbers.

“We now have dedicated counselors specifically for the college access to each of the schools,” she told KYW Newsradio today, “so we are increasing our numbers of students that are going into college, especially with our partners coming in.  We’re exposing our students to more universities through field trips and exposures in and out of school.”

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