Community Foundation of Sarasota County Awards $55,000 Supporting Education, Science and Long-Term Career Development with the Cross College Alliance

Categories: EMPOWERMENT AND SUCCESS: Career Development & Advancement, Nonprofits,

SARASOTA, FL – A $55,000 grant to the Cross College Alliance was awarded by an anonymous donor with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County to establish a paid internship program for regional college students pursuing science and environmental studies. The donor purposefully chose to work with the Alliance to efficiently work with multiple higher-education institutions to enrich the learning experience of students and to expand career development resources.

“Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we are able to help transform the lives of students and families both today, and well into a future that is just being imagined,” said Roxie Jerde, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “This type of internship program that connects local students with scientific professionals in our region has the ability to significantly change the workforce opportunities for future scientists.”


Cross College Alliance: Environmental Discovery Awards Program

The “Environmental Discovery Awards Program” (EDAP) funds paid, field experience internships for students pursuing degrees related to environmental studies at New College of Florida, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Ringling College of Art + Design, and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.

Participating students are paired with one of 15 local organizations and institutions that match with their passions, interests, and professional goals. From studying the biodiversity of Sarasota Bay with USF Sarasota-Manatee to raising awareness about the impact of single use plastics with the City of Sarasota, students partnered with their sponsoring organizations are leveraging their STEM opportunities to leave a lasting impact on not only their communities, but also their long-term career development. Through a committee formed by the Alliance, students attending each of the four institutions are matched with internships that will take place over four to 12 weeks this summer. All internship opportunities are integrally connected to the sciences, particularly environmental studies, and amount to around 20 to 40 hours per week.

“Thanks to this gift made through the Community Foundation, we are able to help grow our future workforce of scientists by giving promising students a real-world opportunity to work in their chosen field and be rewarded for their work,” said Linda de Mello, Manager of the Alliance. “These are critical learning experiences that our students will take with them to form the foundation of their professional lives. To think that a simple act of generosity could empower so many to pursue their interests for the improvement of our community is unbelievably powerful.”

This year’s “Environmental Discovery Awards Program” internships were awarded to 12 students, with two from the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, six from State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, one from Ringling College of Art + Design, and three from New College of Florida.

A faculty team representing each of the schools vetted the internship opportunities that were submitted by environmental organizations and research facilities to ensure the internship experience enriches a student’s career development. Proposals for this inaugural year of the EDAP were solicited through the Southwest Florida Environmental Council.

The diversity of the program’s sponsoring institutions radiates through the uniqueness of their respective internships: designing a public art campaign to raise awareness of the impacts of single use plastics with the Sustainability Office of the City of Sarasota; mapping sea grass in Sarasota Bay with the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and New College of Florida; coordinating a program for middle and high school students interested in pursuing a science career; and designing an environmental walking tour and tree survey with Historic Spanish Point and the Gulf Coast Heritage Association.

As a capstone to the internship, students will share their learning experiences with community members at a reception hosted at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County in October.

In 2014, the Cross College Alliance was established through the leadership and vision of the Presidents of the regional high-education institutions in the Sarasota-Manatee area to build connections and amplify opportunities for students and communities alike. Through initiatives such as cross registration, faculty collaboration and sourcing regional professional internships, the Cross College Alliance focuses on sharing resources for the improvement of higher education and student life.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County was an early supporter of the Alliance, providing funding for the first three years of its operations, as well as ongoing support for two additional years.

All internship opportunities offered through the Environmental Discovery Award program are fully funded by the Community Foundation and its generous donors, allowing sponsoring organizations to commit more of their own resources to furthering their mission and community impact.


About the Community Foundation of Sarasota County: The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. With assets of over $398 million in more than 1,400 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $34 million dollars last year in the areas of education, the arts, health and human services, civic engagement, animal welfare and the environment. For more information, visit or call (941) 955-3000.