When she was a child, Patti Gondelman visited Sarasota with her parents, staying at the historic John Ringling Hotel. The family, from Long lsland, New York, was drawn to the Sarasota area, especially to Longboat Key, and Gondelman fell in love with the pristine beaches and the Gulf.
Gondelman’s parents would end up buying a condominium on Longboat Key, and years later, when she and her husband decided to move to Florida, they chose the same key and indeed purchased their own condominium in the very same complex.
While she found her new home wonderful and enjoyed the tennis, the golf, and the beach, she wanted to do more to immerse herself into the community. She’d always felt lucky to have had the opportunity to receive a strong education, which had taken her all the way to Geneva, Switzerland, during a semester abroad. Recognizing the transformative power of education, she wanted to help young learners who needed extra support.
Through a friend, Gondelman was connected to Emma Booker Elementary School, a Title I school, where she began volunteer tutoring students. She loved it. She loved making a difference in the lives of young people. For the next eight years, until the pandemic hit, she tutored, first at Emma Booker Elementary and then at Alta Vista Elementary.
Gondelman was also introduced to the Education Foundation of Sarasota County when a friend invited her to an Ignite Education Teacher of the Year Award Celebration luncheon. She was so impressed with the event—with the speakers and with the remarkable teachers being honored.
As she learned more about the Education Foundation’s direct student support, her interest in the organization grew. She was drawn to the relationships that were fostered—how Student Success Coaches and mentors worked one on one with young people to help them plan for life, no matter the direction they were heading. She understood that for students without strong support systems at home, accessing personalized assistance is vital. These trusted advisors, she noted, “give direction, no matter the pathways.”
In 2018, Gondelman began donating at the Circle of Champions level and has done so each year since, even opening her home to co-host a reception event. Through her generous support, she keeps the Education Foundation ready to adapt as new challenges arise, and she helps prepare students for life after high school. As Gondelman said, “Education is a major force in our country. Children today are our future, and I hope they continue to excel.”
Schools are the essential fabric that make up a place. They hold communities together and represent the future. To become interwoven in the schools, in the well-being of young people, and in the development of our future leaders is to become part of a place. Patti Gondelman has done just that and along the way has made a lasting impact on the next generation.
Learn more about the Circle of Champions and how members make a difference.