Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and Community Foundation of Sarasota County expand partnership through three-year, $200,000 initiative connecting garden experiences and science-based career paths

Categories: BELONGING AND CULTURE: Strengthening Families, Grants, Nonprofits,

The partnership expands Family Togetherness programming to Selby Gardens’ Historic Spanish Point campus and will establish a curriculum for plant science and environmental sustainability to encourage local students to pursue careers in natural sciences.

SARASOTA, FL – September 17, 2021 – Marie Selby Botanical Gardens (Selby Gardens) together with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County (Community Foundation) are pleased to announce an expansion of their partnership designed to connect youth and families to nature and environmental science.

“As our community looks for opportunities and actionable ways to build a more sustainable future, we are excited to enhance our partnership with Selby Gardens to help bring about this vision,” said Roxie Jerde, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. “The continued and evolving collaboration between our Community Foundation and Selby Gardens ensures that critical investments are made in the next generation of caretakers for the Gardens, our community, and the environment. More than anything, I believe this partnership reminds us that we can all be forward-thinking stewards of the natural world around us.”

The $200,000 in funding provided by the Community Foundation will establish a new Education Lab Series, developed by Selby Gardens and focused on environmental sustainability. Renewable energy science will be core to the curriculum intended to encourage college and career readiness in this growing field. The curriculum will be reviewed by Sarasota County Schools, with feedback from students, teachers and administrators, as well as industry leaders implementing this technology. Donors with the Community Foundation are already taking an interest in the partnership, as well, with three local philanthropists in particular funding solar panels for elementary schools to further enhance STEAM offerings for young learners.

The pilot session will launch in August 2023 coinciding with the opening of Phase One of Selby Gardens’ Master Plan for the Downtown Sarasota campus. Once completed, the Master Plan will allow Selby Gardens to become the first net-positive botanical garden complex in the world, meaning it will generate less energy than it consumes. Leading up to the launch, Selby Gardens will host on-site learning experiences at local schools.

“We are grateful to the Community Foundation of Sarasota County for their generous support of our innovative programs,” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, Selby Gardens’ President & CEO. “Their funding is critical to Selby Gardens’ efforts to become an international model for environmental sustainability and connect all in our community to nature. The opportunity to provide curriculum on these important concepts using the features of our Master Plan is unparalleled. We hope that through these experiences, youth will develop a life-long interest and passion for nature and the environment as well as the skills they need to pursue careers in these areas.”

In recognition of the Community Foundation’s support, 13 solar panels in the 50,000 square foot solar array will be named in honor of each Sarasota County middle and high school. Further, the Community Foundation will have naming recognition for an important feature of the Master Plan—the bike racks. This plan encourages all in our region to utilize alternate forms of transportation to visit the Downtown Sarasota campus including walking and biking.

“We wanted to evolve our partnership in a meaningful way,” said Kirsten Russell, Vice President of Community Impact at the Community Foundation. “Providing a path for youth and students to develop a deeper understanding and connection to sustainability using real life examples in action at Selby Gardens is an invaluable opportunity that will not only positively impact their lives, but our community as well for generations to come.”

The funding provided by the Community Foundation also includes an expansion of the Family Togetherness program. Established in 2017, Family Togetherness provides the opportunity for underserved families to experience events and other activities at Selby Gardens that they might not otherwise have the means to enjoy. The Family Togetherness program will expand to connect more families to Selby Gardens’ two campuses and the wonder of the natural world by including the July 4th Celebration and two dedicated evenings at Lights in Bloom®: An Open-Air Holiday Light Show both at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus; and the Enchanted Garden Festival at Selby Gardens’ Historic Spanish Point campus.


About Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens provides 45 acres of bayfront sanctuaries connecting people with air plants of the world, native nature, and our regional history. Established by forward thinking women of their time, Selby Gardens is composed of the 15-acre Downtown Sarasota campus and the 30-acre Historic Spanish Point campus in the Osprey area of Sarasota County, Florida. The Downtown Campus on Sarasota Bay is the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads and ferns, and other tropical plants. There is a significant focus on botany, horticulture, education, historical preservation, and the environment. The Historic Spanish Point (HSP) Campus is located less than 10 miles south along Little Sarasota Bay. The HSP Campus, one of the largest preserves showcasing native Florida plants that is interpreted for and open to the public, celebrates an archaeological record that encompasses approximately 5,000 years of Florida history. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a Smithsonian Affiliate and is also accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. For more information visit

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 $421 million in more than 1,500 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $48.9 million dollars last year in the areas of education, the arts, health and human services, civic engagement, animal welfare and the environment. Since its founding, the Community Foundation has been able to grant more than $323 million to area nonprofit organizations to our community thanks to the generosity of charitable individuals, families, and businesses. For more information, visit or call (941) 955-3000.