When students are inspired, when they find their purpose, school tends to make more sense. When students have personal agency and wellbeing, when they can access resources and relationships that make a difference, when they formulate a plan for life after graduation, most will progress along their K – 12 journeys more intentionally.
These beliefs underpin all our work, fueling our efforts to prepare each and every student for life. For the past four years, these efforts have included developing, staffing, and managing Student Success Centers at four area high schools and another at a standalone community resource center, LaunchPad4U. At these centers, we have provided individualized advising and accessible resources so students can identify a college or career pathway, develop a plan, and prepare for life after graduating.
The school district has recognized our work to prepare more students for life. As they pursue their goals to increase students’ life readiness, they will take over the operations of the four school-based centers. We are proud of our partnership with the district to develop and pilot these centers, which were validated by the dramatic increase in student visitors each year and in students’ level of preparedness for life after high school. We are grateful for the generous philanthropic support that made this important undertaking possible.
While we will no longer staff and operate Student Success Centers at North Port High School, Riverview High School, Sarasota High School, and Suncoast Polytechnical High School, we remain steadfast in preparing each and every student for life. We are excited about the opportunity to expand our community outreach and provide comprehensive support that will help students, especially those who most need it, get ready for life.
Our Student Success Coaches will continue to provide college and career advising but with a stronger focus on becoming life ready. They will help students gain a better sense of who they are, what they are good at, what interests them, and how they can better navigate the world, from financial literacy to college knowledge.
To connect those students who most need support with Student Success Coaches, we will build and nurture relationships in low-income communities across Sarasota County and actively identify and recruit underserved and underrepresented youth. Student Success Coaches will meet and advise these students where they are, be it in schools, community centers, places of worship, coffee shops, or LaunchPad4U.
We are also excited to announce that we are opening a new Student Success Center in Sarasota Military Academy (SMA). Located just a few blocks from LaunchPad4U, SMA serves approximately 680 students. Of these students, 50.2% are students of color and 50.4% are economically disadvantaged. We will staff the new center with two Student Success Coaches who will help students identify their purpose and passions and formulate a plan for life after high school.
Further, we will also significantly scale up college, career, and life readiness activities at LaunchPad4U. In June of 2020, to help students access resources and relationships during the pandemic, we opened LaunchPad4U, a community resource center located in the Rosemary District, just north of downtown Sarasota. LaunchPad4U houses a Student Success Center that is open to all students in Sarasota County Schools. In addition to one-on-one advising, students can use laptops and access all the resources we provided at our school-based Student Success Centers.
Already this summer at LaunchPad4U, we have begun to host regular workshops on financial literacy, career explorations, college essay writing, resume building, and other topics that will prepare students for college, career, and life. In the fall, in addition to more workshops, we will again host numerous Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) workshops, where students can work individually with a financial aid expert to complete this important step of the college application process.
Since launching our College, Career, Life Readiness (CCLR) initiative in 2016, we have seen how relationships change lives. We have seen the difference one-on-one advising, workshops, and access to technology can make in the lives of students with limited resources and understanding of planning for college, career, and life. We have also seen that a one-size-fits-all approach to preparing students for life too often misses those who most need extra support.
As we chart our new course during the 2022 – 2023 school year, we are excited to do what we do best: to innovate and move quickly and adeptly to reach more students and prepare them go further in life.