Our Team

President

JENNIFER VIGNE

Ever since I was a little girl, I have been a voracious reader and my love of learning continues to this day. I consider myself a “forever” student and am energized by opportunities to stretch myself and grow. I have personally seen how education changed my life and the lives of many respected leaders throughout the world.

At its very core, education opens doors, provides hope, and propels societal advancement. I firmly believe all children should be granted the opportunity to grow, learn and discover to their fullest potential. Education should not be limited by economic, social, racial, or gender restraints and certainly should not be limited by our failure to transform education to meet the needs of the 21st century child. While the development of a child’s potential transcends beyond the realm of the classroom, teachers should be positioned as an influential instructor to develop intellectual curiosity, creative inquiry, artistic and athletic abilities, and character development. Communities should collaborate together as a collective change agent by unifying their shared responsibility to produce educated citizens for our democratic country and economy by nurturing the whole child and investing in our children’s future for generations to come.
 

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Program Support

KATI BURNS

As a product and parent of Sarasota County Schools, I have been privileged to witness first-hand the tremendous decades-long growth and exceptional leadership our school board, its leaders, our principals, and, especially our teachers have generated in our students’ lives and in our community at large. We are incredibly fortunate to have so many school choices to fit each kid’s needs, which I believe is unique to this area. Kids aren’t pigeonholed; academically diverse children with different strengths are being well-served at different schools. When people ask me which school is best, I tell them it doesn’t matter, any one of our schools will fit your child. That’s the beauty of our system.

The Education Foundation supports all our schools. I find that being involved with the individual schools my children attend is great, but it’s a charge being able to serve all the schools. What I also love is that we’re connected in a bunch of different areas of curriculum, not only academics, but the arts, STEM, and anything you can dream of. This team is trying to raise awareness in our community of all we do in the schools. I’ve been on PTOs for my children’s schools, but the Education Foundation resembles a PTO designed to help all Sarasota County Schools.

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Kati Burns
Director of College & Career Development

ELYSE CHAPLIN

Education changes lives – it most definitely changed mine. I am proud to be a graduate of the Sarasota County school system having attended Riverview High School, New Directions, Brookside MS, and Philippi Shores Elementary.  For 25 years I have worked with high school and college students to foster their success and transition to postsecondary education and their careers. University was a highly transformative time in my life, and I am passionate about the work that we do at EFSC to impact students’ outcomes and success.

My career began with teaching at-risk first-generation college students at University of Maryland’s TRIOS/Academic Achievement Program, then as a professor and counselor for students at a 2-year college in Rockville, Maryland focusing on student success and career development. My work has involved serving as a dean in student affairs at Brown University and at FAU’s Harriet Wilkes Honors College in Jupiter, Florida. Throughout my career, helping students to realize their potential, navigate perceived obstacles, and to thrive academically, personally, and vocationally has been the primary focus of my work.

My Master’s degree was in Secondary Learning Disabilities and Transition from The George Washington University, where I am also ABD (All But Dissertation) on a Doctorate of Education in Higher Education with a focus on student development. My Ph.D. is in Higher Education Theory and Policy Studies from The University of Toronto (O.I.S.E.), in which I focused on students with learning disabilities’ acquisition of learning about success strategies in high school and the transferability of this learning as they began their college experiences.

I am delighted to be a part of the exceptional team of colleagues at The Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Inc. as the Director of College and Career Development.  The work that we do is imperative, exciting, and essential to our children’s futures.

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Grants & Scholarships Manager

HEATHER FERRIGNO

It has been said that education is a gift that no one can take away. From a young age this concept was instilled in me from parents who believed that education was the pathway to success and that I should always strive to be a lifelong learner. After becoming a parent a few years ago, I began to experience first-hand the beauty of a child’s mind and all the wonderful possibilities it possesses. Children are thirsty for knowledge. I see in my own son and daughter how enthusiastic they are to learn new things. My hope is that nothing will ever hinder that enthusiasm and love for learning. I believe all children deserve the chance to develop their minds, skills and talents and become successful, compassionate, open minded citizens in our local community and the world. It takes a village to raise a child and the Education Foundation of Sarasota is an integral part of that village for the children of this community. I am proud to invest myself in the Education Foundation because they play an important role in helping to remove barriers for students to thrive intellectually, adopt a love for learning, and accomplish dreams they might not have known they had otherwise.

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Strategic Engagement Officer

JENNIFER SAMS

I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in Sarasota and experience Sarasota County Schools firsthand. (Proud graduate of Brentwood Elementary School, McIntosh Middle School and Sarasota High School!) My experience in our school system was very positive and to this day, I often think about my favorite teacher, Mrs. Stevens, and the impact she had on my family and me. I recognize that many of our students have a much different experience due to social and economic issues so I’m passionate about giving back and helping provide opportunities to all students, regardless of their background. If we want our students to succeed in the “real world”, we must actively lift them up to see their potential. The next Steve Jobs or Marissa Mayer could be sitting in one of our classrooms, their talents going untapped forever unless we show them the possibilities.

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Director of Communications & Strategic Engagement

MICHELLE YOUNG

As a mother of school-aged children, it is imperative to me that our teachers and schools have the resources they need to bring out the best in our students. The work we do at the Education Foundation supports everything our educators are trying to and connects communities throughout the county via educational opportunities.

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