2012 Chiawana High grad nominated to federal commission on student financial aid

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldAugust 11, 2013 

A 2012 Chiawana High School graduate has been nominated for a federal commission on student financial aid.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is expected to decide in the coming months whether to appoint Jared Costanzo, 19, to the 11-member Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance.

It's not known how many other nominations Duncan has received for the committee.

The advisory committee advises federal lawmakers and officials on access to and the amount of financial aid available to low- and middle-income students. The Speaker of the House and the President pro tem of the Senate appoint members along with the secretary to four-year terms.

Costanzo has worked in student advocacy since high school and said he was excited about the nomination and already has some goals in mind if he's selected.

"I personally have to take out student loans like thousands of other students and interest rates on these loans are astronomical," he said in an email.

Costanzo founded the Student Voice Project, a student advocacy group, while at Chiawana High. The group challenged the Kennewick School Board a few years ago when it banned non-curricular student groups, a move some claimed was to stop a gay-straight alliance group from forming. The board later reversed its decision.

Costanzo has since moved to Washington, D.C., where he is studying political science, law and education policy at American University.

His organization moved with him and added 20 chapters around the country. He now is the group's CEO, with current high school students taking seat on the board of directors.

Elizabeth Ross, an official with the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, nominated Costanzo for the committee. She worked with him at the National Association of State Boards of Education on the Common Core State Standards, the new language arts and math standards being implemented across most of the country.

She cited in her nomination letter Costanzo's work in education policy, the Student Voice Project and his own experience as a student.

"His ability to communicate complex issues to a wide breadth of audiences, including the general public and legislative officials, would be a significant contribution to the committee," her letter read.

Costanzo said student financial aid was one of the issues he worked on with the Washington State Board of Education while he was in high school.

If appointed, he would push to lower interest rates on student loans and the burden of growing tuition rates.

Costanzo said he will have plenty to do even if he isn't selected. The Student Voice Project has been invited to conferences in D.C. and New York City, and he's also working on helping other students start their own advocacy groups.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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