It was just as the fall semester was beginning at campuses both digital and physical that a small, unassuming envelope found its way to our offices at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Inside was a thank you note with the beautiful, hand-written words of Kiarra Louis, a recent graduate of the University of South Florida and longtime scholarship recipient of our foundation. As she described the pride she felt having been the first in her family to graduate not only from high school but also college – debt free, no less – we couldn’t help but hold her letter close to our hearts.
In a matter of weeks, Kiarra’s letter would be joined by hundreds of others – some coming in the form of emails, others as video – from past and current scholarship recipients. Each message recounted an inspiring story of those who bravely decided to better their lives through education in the face of a global pandemic. Not lost within a single word was the heartfelt gratitude expressed for the support they received along the way and optimism for all that lies ahead.
As unimaginable economic hardships continue to challenge local families and individuals, support from our community remains key to unlocking possibilities for students of all ages and journeys. It’s why, this year alone, our Community Foundation has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships to positively change the futures of nearly 500 learners, young adults and parents who call our area home. Imagine what this assistance will do to break down barriers, alleviate stress and build opportunity, especially knowing that nearly 100 percent of our applicants who demonstrated financial need received at least one scholarship.