Each year, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County shares stories of students who have overcome challenges to succeed academically. The stories of STRIVE Award recipients provide hope when young people need it most. They remind us of the human spirit, of the power of grit and perseverance, and of the many ways that support systems and education can transform lives.
One such story of a STRIVE Award recipient caught the attention of the Bruce J. Heim Foundation, a philanthropic organization “designed to provide funding that will help young people realize their potential.” The foundation had previously supported the Education Foundation’s classroom grants. After reading the story, though, they thought, as Barbara Paliet, executive director of the foundation and sister of Bruce J. Heim, said, “Wait, this is what we want to do.”
The foundation began supporting the high school juniors and seniors in Sarasota County High Schools who are recognized each spring for their resilience in the face of great adversity. This spring, thanks to their support, the Education Foundation could provide high school junior STRIVE Award recipients $50 vouchers to help offset SAT/ACT testing costs, college application fees, or transportation costs for college visits.
By supporting the STRIVE Awards, Paliet said, the Bruce J. Heim foundation saw “an opportunity to help people, to help them one at a time,” just as the namesake of the foundation had once been helped.
As a boy, Heim struggled to read. However, his parents had the means to hire a tutor, who taught their son techniques to overcome this challenge. “With this extra help,” Paliet said, “he was able to achieve beyond anybody’s wildest expectations.” Salutatorian at his large Miami Beach high school, he went on to attend Dartmouth and pioneer the five-year BA – MBA program at the Amos Tuck School of Business.
Bruce became a leader in the finance industry and an incredibly successful man. Too early in his life, though, he learned he had contracted AIDS. Yet as his sister said, “Rather than looking at this as a tragic thing, he looked at it as an opportunity to do some soul searching and think about what he wanted to leave to the world.”
Understanding how important extra support had been to him, Heim wanted to help others, especially those without the means his own parents had had. He wanted to leave a lasting imprint.
The Bruce J. Heim Foundation was born out of the idea that challenges in life are inevitable but that with the right support young people can reach their full potential. Paliet, a former English teacher who has seen countless times how education and a little extra help can change lives, is dedicated to supporting students like those STRIVE Award recipients who have been through so much and who have so much potential.
As Paliet noted, the foundation takes its inspiration from the starfish story—from the girl who, upon seeing a beach full of starfish, begins throwing some back into the water. When reminded by a man that she can’t possibly save them all, the girl tosses in another and remarks, “Well, I made a difference for that one.”
We are grateful for the Bruce J. Heim Foundation’s long-standing support of the students and teachers and of the STRIVE Awards. Together, we are recognizing remarkable young people, opening pathways, and fueling success, one student at a time.