At the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, we are committed to empowering community members by providing support that helps individuals develop the knowledge and skills needed to realize a fulfilled life. Our approach to empowerment involves collaborating with community partners, leveraging their expertise, and connecting this expertise to meet the needs of individuals.
The following are some recent examples of initiatives and support provided to enhance our community:
There are varying reasons why academic success is difficult for students, from access to early childhood education to household environments, and undiagnosed learning abilities.
According to the Florida Department of Education, which administers the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener (FLKRS), students entering kindergarten in Sarasota County and the surrounding counties (Manatee, Charlotte, DeSoto) are less prepared for school success than their peers across the state. Similar state testing shows that third-grade reading scores vary year-to-year, and were especially impacted during the years of remote learning during the pandemic. In addition to these measurements, we also know from the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, that 1 in 5 – or 20% - of students have learning disabilities that impair reading, and most are undiagnosed.
Since 2014, the Community Foundation has lead Sarasota County’s collaborative initiative to address barrier to student success through the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Our approach incorporates a 2Gen philosophy so that children are
prepared to attend school, continue to learn during summer breaks, and the adults in their
families are also supported in learning and career pursuits.
To address certain learning disabilities, our Strauss Literacy Initiative was established in 2019 to help children and families, alongside teachers learn to identify dyslexia and developing learning and instruction skills to make improvements in reading proficiency.
This special place we call home is nationally-recognized for its vibrant arts scene. Across our four-county region there are 141 nonprofits providing cultural programs, with a majority offering educational outreach, according to The Giving Partner.
One way we have connected students to these experiences is through EdExploreSRQ, a collaboration with Sarasota County Schools to provide field trips, virtual explorations, in-class activities and access to cultural events through more than 250 unique experiences. These activities are combined with student lessons and related costs are covered by the Community Foundation through ongoing, rolling grants for teachers to introduce their students in grades K-12 to the many cultural experiences that make our community so unique.
According to our research built on 40+ years of awarding scholarships, academic and career success as an adult are connected to three factors: being prepared for higher education, having funding for college, and having the supports to complete a certificate or college program.
For students of all ages seeking to pursue higher education, the Community Foundation awards more than $2 million in scholarships each year, alleviating unnecessary financial stress to allow postsecondary learners to focus on their own path to academic and professional success. Scholarship opportunities are available to both youth (younger than 24 years of age) and adult learners (at least 24 years of age). A 2Gen Scholarship is also available to connect low-income parents with children attending Alta Vista, Emma E. Booker, Gocio, and Tuttle elementary schools with educational pathways to build skills that lead to family-sustaining wages.
Career Development & Advancement
We support learning and career path programs that have potential to increase household income to create generational wealth improvements. Opportunities range from:
- Earning important credentials and certificates through our Age 24+ scholarship program
- Progressing in careers in programs like the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition to increase the number of local skilled nurses
- Exploring career opportunities through paid internship programs such as the Environmental Discovery Awards Program and DIAL (Diversity in Arts Leadership)
Generations United (GU) found that 1 in 4 Americans live in a multigeneration household, a statistic that has quadrupled in the last decade. In 2021, the US Census estimated that nearly 40 percent (37.2%) of Sarasota County residents are age 65 or older. Building relationships at all ages enhances overall quality of life, from mental and physical health, to financial wellness, and other factors, according to GU.
To help develop lifelong learning and important social relationships, we proudly support a variety of outreach programs and campaigns designed to welcome, inform, and unite adults such as:
- ProjectPRIDE’s Brunch Show and Outreach Programs
- Senior Friendship Center’s Adult Day Care
- Financial Literacy training with Project 180
And more programs.