UCF is joining forces with another major employer to offer access to a high-quality education to more students across the region. Goodwill Industries of Central Florida announced a new, pre-paid tuition program that will cover the cost of college or vocational school for its employees.

Luis Diaz, a junior at UCF studying forensic psychology, is among the first to participate in the program. A first-generation student, he’s worked with Goodwill for the last year and half, initially joining as a sales associate in the retail store and now working as a warehouse forklift operator.

“I immediately thought, ‘This is an amazing opportunity,’ ” says Diaz. “I also thought about all my coworkers and how big of an opportunity it is for them to start schooling. For me, it ensures my educational career and keeps my motivation going.”

All full and part-time Goodwill employees with at least 90 days of continuous employment are eligible to participate in the program, which covers 100% of their tuition, books and other fees in advance.

For Diaz, who has worked full-time to pay his way through school and utilized student loans for his first three years, the added benefit will significantly offset his costs.

“This means I won’t have to worry as much for the future debt that I will have,” says Diaz. “I think it will allow me to integrate easier to my career.

“We’re very pleased to partner with Goodwill, a major employer in Central Florida who impacts so many lives through the outstanding work they do in our community,” says Theodorea Regina Berry, vice provost of Student Learning and Academic Success and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies. “Together, we will help more students pursue and earn college degrees that transform lives and lift up families for generations.”

“We want our employees to be trained to be successful at their jobs — and we want their jobs to help them accomplish the goals they desire in life,” says Ed Durkee, president and CEO at Goodwill Industries of Central Florida. “We believe that the cost of education should not stand in the way of those aspirations, so we intend to provide employees with the financial pathway to achieve a degree or skilled trade.”

Goodwill employees interested in the program will be paired with a Prosperity Planner, who specializes in financial and career goal strategies and will provide one-on-one coaching. To be eligible, employees must enroll at a Florida state college or public university, accredited technical college or trade school, and must maintaining a passing grade of “C” or its equivalent.

The company currently employs more than 1,200 individuals across Orange, Osceola, Lake, Brevard, Seminole and Volusia counties, and has jobs in retail, warehouse, transportation, human resources, and information technology.

Goodwill joins an extensive and growing list of companies choosing UCF as partners for their educational assistance programs. In March, UCF joined forces with Amazon’s Career Choice Program. Earlier this year, multiple Fortune 1000 companies, including Target, Chipotle and Taco Bell added UCF to the list of schools their employees’ can attend to have their tuition covered in selected programs.