Our Story

We believe that education can be transformative, and we help students graduate with purpose, prepared to lead successful lives. These words frame the Education Foundation of Sarasota County’s story and serve as our ultimate goal.

Our story begins more than 30 years ago when citizen advocates, representing a crosssector of Sarasota County leaders, formed a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting and enhancing our district’s public education because 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 5,000 instructional staff and support personnel in 53 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 all students to graduate prepared to successfully progress to and through their educational pathways beyond high school, whether that be in active military service, technical schools, community colleges, or four-year universities. We want all students to be equipped to flourish in productive careers and nimbly adapt to a rapidly changing world. 

This is why we invest in meaningful work that goes beyond supporting students to get their high school diplomas. In 2016, we established the College, Career, and Life Readiness (CCLR) Initiative, and we have partnered with the district to establish comprehensive and accessible Student Success Centers in area high schools where students can work individually with a college and career planner to find their right pathway. We also are expanding experiential opportunities for students to explore careers and education after high school through programs such as Career and College Explorations.

To align with the CCLR Initiative and to support our students and teachers, we have expanded a signature program, the EducateSRQ classroom and schoolwide grants program. The program offers immersive, science-based inquiry grants that engage students and teachers in all subject areas at all levels. With these grants, schools and teachers can get innovative supplies, projects, and learning opportunities to help create a 21st century learning environment. The EducateSRQ program is one of the many ways we try to make education more transformative.



We also have expanded our role as a leading community partner in education by assuming coordination of Sarasota County’s Local College Access Network, PLANit Sarasota, a collaborative comprised of organizations committed to increasing students’ college and career readiness, with a focus on helping students from limited-income families access financial aid and college planning resources. And with the STRIVE student recognition program, we celebrate students who overcome significant obstacles to improve academically and socially.

Two most recent chapters of our story—LaunchPad4U and our mentoring program—further highlight our goal of inspiring students and teachers while supporting the broader community. In 2020, we opened LaunchPad4U, a learning lab where educators, students, and parents can work collaboratively to accelerate achievement. At LaunchPad4U, innovative minds work together to help students, especially those in most need of assistance and resources, and to create lessons and content that teachers in Sarasota County can use to navigate our complex world.

In conjunction with LaunchPad4U, the Education Foundation also created a new mentoring program. Volunteer mentors are matched with high school students and students entering their post-high school pathway to help ensure they have the necessary support to succeed in what can be a daunting journey. We believe that when people look out for others and provide needed guidance, great things can happen.

Central to our story is the understanding that for every student who graduates ready to follow a new pathway, countless teachers at all grade levels have dedicated themselves to our 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 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 first and last lines will remain unchanged: We believe that education can be transformative, and we help students graduate with purpose, prepared to lead successful lives.

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