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Our Story

We believe that education transforms lives. We believe that when students can access resources and relationships that make a difference, when they have personal agency and wellbeing, and when they have a plan for life after high school, they can graduate ready to go further and succeed in life. These beliefs frame the Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s story and inspire our vision to unite the community to prepare each and every student for life.

Our story begins more than 30 years ago, when citizen advocates representing a cross-sector of Sarasota County leaders formed a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and enhancing our district’s public education. They knew that a highly effective education and a thriving community are inextricably linked.

 

Today, the Education Foundation annually serves nearly 44,000 students and over 5,000 instructional staff and support personnel in 55 public schools in the Sarasota County Schools district. With the addition of families, employers, and citizens who depend on an educated population, we serve many more thousands. Behind these figures are individuals whose unique stories, along with our community’s needs, serve to guide our expanding narrative.

We remain the only organization exclusively dedicated to supporting students and teachers in Sarasota County Schools. Governed by a board of citizen advocates and funded by individual philanthropists as well as corporate and foundation partners, we are dedicated to creating an educational ecosystem for our community that captivates learners and instructors at all levels of K – 12 education. We want each and every student to graduate prepared to successfully progress to and through their pathways beyond high school, whether that be in careers, active military service, technical schools, community colleges, or four-year universities. We want each and every student to find their purpose and be equipped to flourish in productive careers and nimbly adapt to a rapidly changing world.

We invest in meaningful work that goes beyond supporting students to get their high school diplomas. We move quickly and thoughtfully to create lasting change. In 2016, we launched the College, Career, and Life Readiness (CCLR) initiative, which continues to guide our work. In 2018, we partnered with the school district to pilot innovative, comprehensive, and accessible Student Success Centers in area high schools where students could work individually with Education Foundation College Career Advisors to find their right pathway and formulate a plan. They could easily access valuable planning resources such as technology, workshops, Career Explorations, and open houses. We developed a proven model for the district to adopt.

Understanding the need to reach those students who most need extra support, in the summer of 2022, in addition to opening a new Student Success Center at Sarasota Military Academy, a public charter school near downtown Sarasota, we evolved the role of College Career Advisor into Student Success Coach. The change reflects a more holistic approach to life readiness and a need to actively establish relationships in low-income communities to better reach them where they are and help them prepare for college, career, and life.

WE WANT STUDENTS, NO MATTER THE PATHWAYS THEY CHOOSE, TO BE EQUIPPED TO FLOURISH IN PRODUCTIVE CAREERS AND NIMBLY ADAPT TO A RAPIDLY CHANGING WORLD. 

To align with the CCLR initiative and to support our students and teachers, we have expanded a signature resource, EducateSRQ Teacher and Schoolwide Grants. The program includes immersive, hands-on, science-based inquiry grants that engage students and teachers in all subject areas at all levels. Starting in 2022, we will also pilot a teacher grants program through DonorsChoose. With these grants, schools and teachers can get innovative supplies, projects, and learning opportunities to help create a 21st-century learning environment. These grants make education more transformative.

We also continue to expand our role as a leading community partner in education. In October of 2018, we assumed coordination of Sarasota County’s Local College Access Network, PLANit Sarasota, a collaborative comprising organizations committed to increasing students’ college and career readiness, with a focus on helping students from low-income families access financial aid and college planning resources. Now over 60 partners strong, PLANit Sarasota is harnessing the power of the community to create opportunities for students.

Two more recent chapters of our story—mentoring and LaunchPad4U—further highlight our goal of inspiring students and teachers while supporting the broader community. In 2019, we created our mentoring program. We match volunteer mentors with high school juniors and seniors pursuing an educational pathway after graduation to help ensure they have the necessary support to succeed in what can be a daunting journey, especially for low-income and minority students as well as first-generation college students. We believe that when people look out for others and provide needed, sustained guidance, great things can happen.

In 2020, we opened LaunchPad4U, a learning lab and community resource center where educators, students, and parents can collaborate to accelerate achievement. Innovators unite to help students, especially those in most need of assistance and resources. They create lessons and content that teachers in Sarasota County can use to navigate our complex world. LaunchPad4U serves as the hub of PLANit Sarasota, our mentoring program, and a Student Success Center, where students can work one on one with a Student Success Coach to prepare for life. Students can attend workshops and open houses, and they can access technology to plan for college and career.

We celebrate and support students who have overcome significant obstacles to improve academically and socially through the STRIVE Awards recognition program and through scholarships such as Jumpstart Your Future, which will cover low-income students’ tuition at a Florida college for one year. For many students, the financial support and resounding vote of confidence keep alive the dreams of a college education.

Central to our story is the understanding that for every student who graduates ready to go further, countless teachers at all grade levels have dedicated themselves to these young people. We celebrate and support these teachers with the IGNITE Education Teacher of the Year Awards Celebration. Each year, we honor K – 12 educators whose commitment, leadership, and inspiration play such a vital role in preparing students to succeed in the 21st century.

As the world rapidly changes and as new challenges arise, more chapters in our story will be written. But the opening and closing will remain unchanged: We believe that education transforms lives. We believe that when students can access resources and relationships that make a difference, when they have personal agency and wellbeing, and when they have a plan for life after high school, they can graduate ready to go further and succeed in life.

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