Categories: Two-Generation Approach, CEO Message,

I had the honor of attending a graduation ceremony at Alta Vista last week, and the joy of the occasion is a gift that will be with me for a long time.

Let me set the scene: picture the Alta Vista cafetorium stage where excited graduates sit, awaiting their turn to be celebrated for this profound accomplishment. But these are not fifth graders - all these graduates are parents, and their children and families make up the audience. When the ceremony itself ends and the youngsters run to their parents with obvious pride in their eyes to give them big hugs, you can feel the sense of fulfillment and hope that’s been created in this special moment.

This moment is a turning point for all of them—the parents earning credentials in high-demand fields like health care and construction management are stepping onto a new pathway for themselves and their families. The pathway of financial security and social capital has been made available to them through a hard-wrought journey of committing to education, even while balancing studies with other jobs and family responsibilities. The Community Foundation is proud to provide scholarships for these dedicated students whose path is not easy, however, it’s a pathway that empowers their family to reach higher levels of success, not just now, but for generations to come.


Parent-scholars celebrate their accomplishments at their graduation ceremony.

That’s the magic of the 2Gen (two generations) approach to family empowerment. It is an approach that doesn’t isolate caregivers from children in considering a plan of support but instead evaluates what the whole family needs, accounting for the interconnected dynamics between generations in determining the most strategic path forward.

The approach, coined in the 1980s and expanded upon through the Ascend at the Aspen Institute, places families in positions of authority in determining their own transformation into prosperity and overall well-being. We often think of students’ difficulties in school as a challenge requiring focus on students, but research shows this thinking is not only limited but inaccurate. Focusing on parents has a direct impact on the trajectory of their children. According to research, parental education level is an important predictor of their children’s educational and behavioral outcomes and is the most important catalyst for family economic mobility. Investments in people are critical, especially when we consider that 38% of Sarasota County households are struggling to afford the basic essentials.

"Focusing on parents has a direct impact on the trajectory of their children."

Celebrating with these families at these momentous events is gratifying. To witness the happiness of hard work rewarded, the pride of achievement, the hope of what is now possible is a true gift, and one I cherish.

While not everyone in our community attends these graduations, the gift is one we all share. Empowering people to achieve their potential elevates the entire community through fortifying the workforce with talent developed right here. Helping adults rise to the challenge of providing more opportunities to their families through economic mobility and social capital likewise strengthens our community.

Unlike many gifts, this gift won’t fade or lose its luster after a few years. Empowerment through education is a gift that grows through generations and is key to building and sustaining equity, not to mention innovating solutions to challenges that press us now and into the future.

I’m curious: can you share a story of a memory in your life that has remained a steadfast gift?