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News, Updates, and Future Developments of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Community Foundation of Sarasota County's John Annis Named Among Top National Leaders as an Aspen Institute Ascend Fellow
By / March 9, 2015

The Aspen Institute announced today that John Annis, Senior Vice President of Community Investment at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, has been selected to join the 2015 class of Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows. The Ascend Fellowship invests in diverse leaders from a range of sectors who have breakthrough ideas to build economic security, educational success, and health and well-being for low-income families in the US. Each of these leaders will fuel their work with a two-generation approach that invests in children and their parents together.

“Poverty and inequality are the central economic, political, and moral issues of our time,” said Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute. “The Ascend Fellowship is part of the Aspen Institute’s commitment to advancing opportunity and equality in the America.”

These leaders are on the front lines of new solutions to bridge inequality for children and their parents. Annis’ achievements developed from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s commitment to a two-generation approach that invests in children and their parents together. Much of Annis’ work has been in developing a local two-generation strategy in Sarasota County and forging partnerships with the Sarasota County School District, along with nonprofit partners, to establish programs that provide ongoing educational opportunities, economic support, and social capital for low-income families.

“It is an honor that John will become part of such an esteemed network of national leaders who are driving change through two-generation strategies in order to create a legacy of educational success and economic security for families in their communities,” says Roxie Jerde, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “John has been instrumental in providing vital direction for our two-gen work in Sarasota, creating chances for both vulnerable parents and their children to move them out of poverty together. We are privileged to have his guidance, vision, and talent on our team.”

On accepting the Fellowship, Annis says, “To have been nominated was humbling enough; I’m incredibly honored to have been chosen among so many great leaders across the country. I’ve been inspired by Ascend’s vision of an America in which a legacy of economic security and educational success passes from one generation to the next. I couldn’t be prouder of the impactful work made possible by the Community Foundation and our partners. To quote Jonas Salk, ‘The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.’ Because of our donors, board, partners, and talented staff, I’m excited about what we can and will accomplish in the future.”

For a bio of Annis and all the 21 extraordinary leaders, please visit

These leaders reflect the diversity and talent of America, across gender, race and ethnicity, geography, and sector:

·         13 women; 8 men

·         52% people of color

·         Represent 18 states

·         Serve 348,000 community college and four-year institution students

·         Are in public service in 4 states, stewarding $4.2 billion in public resources

·         Provide direct services to more than 78,000 families

·         Steward $521 million in philanthropic resources

The 2015 Ascend Fellows join the vanguard of a national network to advance opportunity for low-income families across the country. This year’s class includes state human services and early education system leaders, forward thinking post-secondary and workforce leaders, breakthrough researchers in health and early care and education, philanthropic leaders, and innovative practitioners across multiple sectors.

“The Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows are diverse, entrepreneurial leaders implementing bold ideas to change the trajectory of low-income families’ lives throughout the US,” said Anne Mosle, vice president and executive director, Ascend at the Aspen Institute. “Too many families are struggling, and it is time for a new generation of leaders who have the vision, innovation and drive to develop a portfolio of solutions focused on building an intergenerational cycle of opportunity.

The Ascend Fellowship is a values-based leadership program that builds on the best of the Aspen Institute leadership tradition. Ascend Fellows learn from outstanding faculty; participate in signature Institute convenings and platforms; tap powerful networks of social justice and other leaders; and carry out action plans that advance their innovations and solutions on behalf of children and families.

2015 Aspen Institute Ascend Fellows:

John Annis, Senior Vice President of Community Investment at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County (Sarasota, FL)

Dr. Laurie Miller Brotman, Bezos Family Foundation Professor of Early Childhood Development and Professor of Population Health and Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine (New York, NY)

Melvin W. Carter III, Director of the Office of Early Learning at the Minnesota Department of Education (Minneapolis, MN)

Betsy Delgado, Vice President of Mission Advancement at the Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana (Indianapolis, IN)

Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost for the Maricopa County Community College District (Phoenix, AZ)

Dr. Raquel Hatter, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services (Nashville, TN)

John Hudson III, President of the Alabama Power Foundation (Birmingham, AL)

Dr. Myra Jones-Taylor, Commissioner of the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood (Hartford, CT)

Kevin Jordan, Senior Vice-President for National Programs at the Local Initiatives Support Coalition (Washington, DC)

Kirsten Lodal, Co-Founder and CEO of LIFT (Washington, DC)

Ann Kalass, CEO of Starfish Family Services (Inkster, MI)

Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics of University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (Madison, WI)

Dr. Aisha Nyandoro, founding Executive Director of Springboard To Opportunities (Jackson, MS)

Dr. Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, President of Queens College of the City University of New York (New York, NY)

Dr. William Serrata, President of the El Paso County Community College District (El Paso, TX)

Dr. Darius Tandon, Associate Professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine (Evanston, IL)

Dr. Sarah Enos Watamura, director of the Child Health and Development Lab and associate professor at the University of Denver (Denver, CO)

Dr. Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury, President and CEO of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (Little Rock, AR)

Roxane White, President and CEO of Nurse-Family Partnership (Denver, CO)

Ann Silverberg Williamson, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Human Services (Salt Lake City, UT)

Dr. Katharine W. Winograd, President of Central New Mexico Community College (Albuquerque, NM)

Ascend at the Aspen Institute is the national hub for breakthrough ideas and collaborations that move vulnerable children and their parents toward educational success and economic security. We take a two-generation approach to our work - focusing on children and their parents together. We bring a gender and a racial equity lens to our analysis. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

Ascend at The Aspen Institute is grateful to the following institutions and individuals for their ongoing philanthropic support and partnership: Ann B. Friedman, Bezos Family Foundation, Chambers Family Fund, Charlotte Perret Family Trust, The Ford Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The Rocksprings Foundation, Scott and Patrice King Brickman Family Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 

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