More Than $2 Million in Scholarships from Community Foundation of Sarasota County Changes Futures of 495 Students

Categories: EMPOWERMENT AND SUCCESS: Scholarship Opportunities, SCHOLARSHIPS: Students 24 Years of Age or Older, SCHOLARSHIPS: Students Under 24 Years of Age, Students,

Students in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties receive support and opportunities to pursue further education.

SARASOTA, FL – Nearly 500 traditional and adult students who call our area home are returning to higher education campuses in-person and online this fall with $2.05 million in support thanks to scholarships from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and its donors. While financial need has always been a primary consideration in the determination of most of the Community Foundation’s scholarships, this year nearly 100 percent of applicants demonstrating financial need were awarded scholarships.

“What is exciting and meaningful for me is knowing that we were able to leverage our resources as a foundation to be there for our community’s students when they needed it the most,” says Lindsey Masterson, Manager of Scholarships and Grants at the Community Foundation. “The students we get to know are inspiring and are seeking out opportunities to better their own lives as well as those of their families and loved ones along their educational journey. A journey like that fills our community with such hope for the future.”

Personal touches from donors and community members enriched this year’s engagement with students. Over a virtual Zoom call, the 2021 recipient of the Bogner Family Scholarship – a $100,000, 4-year opportunity – was invited to celebrate together with donors, committee members, and Community Foundation staff. Similarly, the eight recipients of the Father Connie Dougherty Memorial Scholarship were recognized with plaques during a ceremony at Incarnation Catholic Church, with the applause of past recipients (called “Father Connie kids”) echoing in the crowd.

Other scholarships looked to deepen their commitment to academic empowerment in light of pandemic hardships, such as the Lela D. Jackson Foundation Scholarship – a 4-year, $50,000 scholarship – which recognized seven students this year, providing two additional awards than years prior.

“Behind each scholarship award is a donor’s vision to bring opportunity and invest in aspiring community leaders,” says Masterson. “It is thanks to these generous individuals, families, and organizations that we can thoughtfully respond to our students’ needs, adjust the resources of our scholarship program, and ensure our recipients have the means to finish their degrees and reach the next stage of their professional life.”

Across our various scholarship programs, a dedicated group of more than 150 volunteer community members reviewed applications and select committees conducted Zoom interviews as part of the award determination process. This year, one-third of our committee members successfully completed their first year of service as volunteers with our program.

Traditional Scholarships: Awards for Students Under 24 Years of Age

Many scholarship recipients were awarded through the Community Foundation’s Traditional Scholarship Program, which offers opportunities for more than 70 different types of scholarships through a single application. Some of those opportunities were offered through the Sarasota County Bar Association (SCBA) Booker Law Academy Scholarship, Destinations Florida Scholarship, and Performing Arts Scholarship. Recipients were selected based on need, merit, or a combination of both, and scholarships are designed to fulfill a diverse array of academic goals at colleges or technical schools.

A recipient of the Lela D. Jackson Foundation Scholarship, Thy Le is one of the 398 students who received a Traditional Scholarship. After being notified of her award, Le wrote: “This scholarship means so much to me. The award amount was so overwhelming, I didn’t even know what to say. It was a spectacular moment, allowing me to inform my parents about this, which brought everyone to tears. I appreciate everything this committee and scholarship has done for me and for other students as well.”

Like Le, a vast majority of these students plan to attend institutions of higher learning within the state of Florida, pursuing majors as diverse as architecture, business, environmental sciences, and nursing.

Adult Scholarships: Awards for Students 24 Years of Age or Older

The Community Foundation’s Adult Scholarship Program offers students 24 years of age or older the opportunity to be considered for more than 40 different types of scholarships through a single application, offered twice per year.

Of this year’s 97 recipients, 41 plan on study nursing, continuing a trend recognized in 2020 locally and nationally as the demand for healthcare professionals increases. More than half of the scholarship recipients will continue their education locally. Notably, 80 percent of the applicants identified as female and 30 percent as single mothers.

Community Care Opportunities: Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition BSN and Doctoral Scholarships

The Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition (SNAC) awarded 21 scholarships totaling nearly $79,000 to nursing students, including both students pursuing Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees and nursing faculty at local colleges and universities pursuing doctoral degrees.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Manatee Community Foundation work collaboratively with SNAC to advance the number of nursing program graduates and working nursing professionals — including BSN, Doctorate, and PhD-prepared nurses — in our four-county area.

Scholarship Renewals: Responsiveness to Evolving Student Needs

Several scholarship opportunities at the Community Foundation are renewable, allowing for multi-year support. For the 2021-22 school year, 168 students were approved for a renewable scholarship, and 46 of those received increased award amounts based on changes in their financial situation.

Kiarra Louis is one such student who has received a renewable scholarship since 2018. In a handwritten thank you letter, she expressed her gratitude and excitement about her recent accomplishments. “I am proud to share that I have graduated from USF with a B.A. in Professional and Technical Communications debt free! As I am the first in my family to graduate from high school and college, I want to thank the Community Foundation for its financial contribution to my academic journey and for believing in me.”

Looking Ahead

Scholarship Program opportunities at the Community Foundation continue throughout the remainder of the year, beginning with the Mid-Year Adult Scholarship application which is available September 2021. Scholarships awarded from this cycle will support students 24 years of age or older pursuing further education from January through July 2022.

For more than 40 years, the Community Foundation has been investing in the next generation of community leaders of Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, and DeSoto counties through traditional and adult scholarships, awarding approximately $2 million to more than 500 students each year. To learn more about available scholarship opportunities, 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 $418 million in more than 1,500 charitable funds, the Community Foundation awarded grants and scholarships totaling $21.5 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 $274 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.