A decade ago our Community Foundation came together with Ascend at the Aspen institute to formalize our 2Gen approach as the critical lens in which we view our impact. Today, more than ever, we continue to be focused on how to move the needle on core indicators in our region – from education to workforce development to economic vitality – by focusing on families.
This approach was built upon the groundwork of programs begun in the 1990s and early 2000s like the Nurturing Dads Initiative and L.E.A.F. (Literacy Empowers All Families), thanks in part to the generosity of donors like Edward K. Roberts and Jo Bowen Nobbe, whose legacy funds keep families as their focus.
Our whole-child, whole-family philosophy – a two-generation (2Gen) approach – guides much of our community investments and supports.
Over a decade of intentionally leading with this philosophy, we’ve seen valuable lessons emerge. Here, we look back at some milestones from the last decade and share what we have learned by shaping a long-term, multi-generational approach to helping families thrive while addressing our community’s most pressing challenges.
2012: Mary Kay and Joe Henson’s vision for a family-centered approach to changing lives launched a 2Gen pilot called Eagle Academy at Alta Vista Elementary School. Eagle Academy provided then, and continues today to offer, free comprehensive summer education to enrolled pre-kindergarten through rising third grade students while simultaneously providing certificate and training programs for parents. The program includes a social worker and opportunities for families to build social capital and strengthen their economic status through a parent university, while also providing transportation vouchers, job training, dinner events, and food pantry access.
2013: Through the lens of a 2Gen approach, Community Foundation staff saw an opportunity to address the key pillars of the National Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which include increasing third grade reading proficiency by reducing both summer learning loss and chronic absences. Ultimately, this leads to reducing intergenerational poverty, closing the achievement gap, and reducing high school dropout rates. At the end of this year the Community Foundation became the lead agency for Sarasota County’s acceptance into the national campaign and decided to focus on student success in four high need or Title 1 school attendance zones in northern Sarasota County that had opportunities to make the greatest gains.
2014: The Community Foundation established a 2Gen Task Force committed to taking the philosophy to a level of greater visibility. Specific funds and giving strategies were established, along with a commitment to gain greater community support so that 2Gen would be further embedded, integrated, and embraced beyond the Community Foundation.
2015: The task force designed a two-day 2Gen convening that engaged stakeholders from Sarasota County and neighboring counties. The 2Gen Summit was held the following year on April 5-6 at the Lee Wetherington Boys & Girls Club of Sarasota County, bringing together more than 200 people from around the state to learn the core tenants of this approach from Ascend fellows.
2016: With successes building, the Sarasota County Campaign for Grade-Level Reading was recognized as a national “community solutions pacesetter” among its peers across the country. The campaign also grew regionally with support from The Patterson Foundation to expand and include Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties, becoming known as the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Each community determined its own approach to bring needs of parents and children together in ways that worked best for their residents.
2017: Recognizing that much learning happens well before a child ever arrives at elementary school, our strategy evolved to include early childhood education. By providing quality early learning experiences in childcare facilities, homes, and across the community, students can be poised for success once they matriculate. This year the Community Foundation began a three-year collaborative pilot program with Horizons Unlimited Christian Academy that included support for teachers, students, and their parents. This year the Foundation also began providing financial stipends to place mental health clinicians employed by The Florida Center for Early Childhood within Sarasota County elementary schools.
2018: Data from pilot site summer learning academies showed students taking part in the program made learning gains and outperformed their peers. Sarasota County Schools leaders were able to use this information to successfully advocate during the legislative session to secure state funding to support the Summer Learning Academies long term. That summer, 11 elementary schools in Sarasota County offered Summer Learning Academies, which included a “Parent University” program – all at no charge to student families. What had started with 62 student families in 2012 would go on to reach more than 1,400 households by summer 2019 in 12 elementary schools.
2019: In partnership with several rural community colleges in Florida, we connected them with 2Gen strategies and support for 182 scholarships to students who are parents. Some 90% of those students are female, and half are single mothers. Knowing that the average age of the students supported is 30 years old and that 75 percent of them are attending college part-time is helping reshape how community colleges approach students as parents. We anticipate learning from these parent students how to offer even greater supports so that education leads to economic vitality for them and their children.
2020: In the spirit of continuous improvement, the Community Foundation turned to parents of students taking part in programs we support to learn how parent-centered strategies could further expand opportunities to improve education, economic stability and mobility, and overall quality of life of whole families. A Parent Advisory Council was created to listen to the concerns and hopes shared by parents – and to unite a supportive group of parents trying to improve their own lives, as well as the lives of their children. During the pandemic the group adjusted and changed their check-ins to virtual zoom meetings, not missing a beat. By building a small — but effective — support network, these parents drew from their peers the resiliency, accountability, and knowledge and resources needed to persevere during an unprecedented time.
2021: We learned that since 2013, more than 80 percent of the 194 parents whose children attended Tuttle, Alta Vista, Gocio, and Emma E. Booker completed a college program. Within that same group, 85 percent increased their annual wages by more than $7,100. A report of how 2Gen-focused programs are tracking measurable outcomes is available at: www.cfsarasota.org/media-center/publications.
Each of these steps reflects our Community Foundation’s commitment to a long-term, whole-family philosophy of support that assists families through educational successes and economic security improvements. This 2Gen work directly affects community-level outcomes and affirms ours is a community where everyone can thrive.