Many community members find their paths to a happy and successful life obscured by a lack of education, confidence, and skills. If these obstacles are not replaced with opportunities to prosper, maintaining the motivation to move forward often leads to frustration and failure. A purpose-driven life requires the fundamental tools to succeed: Education, Academic Enrichment, Career Development & Advancement, Scholarships & Mentoring, and Lifelong Connections. Following are some recent examples of initiatives and support provided to enhance our community.
The following are some recent examples of initiatives and support provided to enhance our community:
Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (Sarasota)
Only 70% of Sarasota County’s third graders are reading at grade level – most of whom from vulnerable families. Without proficient reading skills, a child’s chances of graduating from high school or having a successful career decrease sharply. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a call-to-action to reverse this trend by mobilizing individuals, nonprofits, government agencies and local foundations in our community. Since 2014, the Community Foundation has spearheaded this collaborative initiate to achieve and sustain grade level reading proficiency.
Summer Learning Academies
Summer learning loss is a prime driver for the achievement gap, leading CFSC to partner with a passionate donor to pilot a summer learning program at a single school serving 62 children in grades K-3 in 2012. We supported the program’s expansion to other schools in the years following and in 2018, the Sarasota County School District then successfully lobbied to secure state funding to expand the program to most Title 1 schools elementary across the county. Called Summer Learning Academies, the program now benefits more than 1,800 elementary students annually at 12 Title 1 elementary schools.
Strauss Literacy Initiative
Helping children of all ages obtain the skills and support needed to read proficiently for their age was the driving force behind the development of the Ira and Patricia Strauss Fund for Children’s Literacy. With a primary focus on assisting those children challenged with dyslexia or any other obstacle to the development of their reading proficiency, new parameters and opportunities for this fund are currently in development.
“EdExploreSRQ” Student Learning
Our region offers an array of artistic, scientific, and cultural activities that offer educational opportunities for teachers and families. EdExploreSRQ is a web-based gateway offering more than 250 unique community experiences for K-12 students — including field trips, virtual explorations, cultural events, and in-class activities. The Community Foundation provides funding through rolling grants that enable teachers to apply for exploration funding throughout the year, allowing teachers to maximize the learning connections between an exploration and student lessons.
Dance for a Future
Dance for a Future is a program created by the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School to provide opportunities for low-income students to experience the benefits of a dance education and contemplate the possibility of professional dance career. Fourth grade students selected to Dance for a Future receive two and a half hours of dance class, two afternoons a week, free of charge at the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School. Transportation from Tuttle Elementary to the ballet studios and snacks is provided, as well as all the dance shoes and apparel needed for classes and performances. Those who demonstrate a commitment to studying dance and stay with the program for the two years will be offered scholarships to join the ballet’s pre-professional program.
Any Given Child
Any Given Child Sarasota is a partnership between the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, and Sarasota County Schools, supported by the Community Foundation. The program is designed to provide equity and access to high quality arts education for all students.
Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition (SNAC)
The Community Foundation works collaboratively with the SNAC to advance the number of nursing graduates and working nursing professionals — including RN, BSN, Doctorate and PhD-prepared nurses with attention to diversity — in our four-county area. By providing educational funding, scholarships, mentoring, loan repayment programs and practical information, the program is working towards accelerating an increase in our highly educated nursing workforce.
Women’s Resource Center
Our two-generation support of families is demonstrated through the work of the Women’s Resource Center, which has a direct line with the Eagle Academy at Alta Vista Elementary School, a Community School focused on student and family success through education. By supporting caseworkers, the Women’s Resource Center is able to help with system navigation and advocacy support, enabling parents to achieve greater professional success to empower the entire family.
Environmental Discovery Awards & Internship Program
The "Environmental Discovery Awards Program" (EDAP) funds paid, field experience internships for students pursuing degrees related to environmental studies at regional colleges. EDAP is organized by the Cross College Alliance, which focuses on sharing resources to improve higher education and student life at New College of Florida, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Ringling College of Art + Design, and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.
Higher Education Scholarships
The Community Foundation believes all students who wish to pursue higher education should have equal opportunities to achieve their goals, and for this reason is proud to offer scholarships that can minimize the financial barriers to earning an education and entering the worksforce. These scholarships are available to all students pursuing higher education and are designed to satisfy a wide variety of academic interests and fields. Scholarships programs are divided between students under 24 years of age and students 24 years of age or older.
Donors Ron and Carole Beckman, who have a passion to permanently redirect the life trajectory of challenged, disadvantaged youth and create opportunities for them to yield lifelong successes, created the “Beckman Boost” a scholarship program that offers select students an opportunity to earn full academic scholarships in partnership with Take Stock in Children of Sarasota County.
Ringling Town Hall Scholars
The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and the Lou and Rosemary Oberndorf Town Hall Scholarship Fund, awards $30,000 in college scholarships each year to deserving high school seniors from all Sarasota public and charter schools, including select private and Manatee County public schools.
Two deserving seniors with remarkable academic and community service accomplishments are selected from each high school by their principals to enjoy the privilege of attending a Town Hall lecture and meeting the speaker as “RCLA Scholars.” Students are then invited to submit a 750-900 word essay sharing the impact each speaker’s words had on them and how it relates to their own life experiences.
Families today cross multiple generations and the needs are varied. For those caring for older family members affected by health issues, Friendship Centers provides support not just for the person in need, but their caregivers as well.
Transportation for Individuals with Vision Impairments
One of the most difficult challenges for people with visual impairments is finding reliable, safe, and affordable transportation. It is a significant limiting factor influencing people’s ability to secure employment and to do what they need and want to do. The quality of people’s lives is strongly connected to their ability to secure transportation. We are proud to support ITNSuncoast’s efforts to provide transportation to individuals with vision challenges at an affordable rate, which is a significant issue for individuals with vision challenges. Estimates of unemployment and underemployment among people in this population group range from 70 to 85%.
Harvey Milk Festival: #WeSupport Campaign
Through the Community Foundation’s Community Impact Grant program, the Harvey Milk Festival’s #Wesupport campaign was granted $9,500 to educate and empower local businesses to better understand the diverse issues facing the LGBTQ+ community and their families. In addition to receiving educational materials, participants will have the opportunity to participate in a LGBTQ+ inclusion and diversity training led by #Wesupport consultants. Businesses will also have the option to take a pledge that will serve as their commitment to creating a welcoming and inclusive workplace environment for everyone in the community. To learn more about this campaign, or to register a business, visit https://harveymilkfestival.org.