Setting Pace for Literacy



Early success in education is the key component of a future grounded in possibilities, hope and economic self-sufficiency.

The fact is that too many children are entering kindergarten already behind. Too many young children are missing too many days of school. And too many children are losing ground academically over the summer.

But in Sarasota, we are setting the pace for success in early literacy. We just received an exciting call from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, congratulating Sarasota with the Pacesetter Award for making “measurable progress” on summer learning loss outcomes. 

As president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, this national recognition affirms what we are already so proud of. Working together, we can achieve great things, and each person has a role in making great things happen.  Together with The Patterson Foundation, local philanthropists such as Joe and Mary Kay Henson, incredible school administrators like Dr. Barbara Shirley, armies of volunteer mentors and tutors, well-established nonprofit organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota County, Girls Inc. and others, we are working not as many—but as one with a unified goal of success in education for at-risk students. 

The bottom line is that we are changing lives. And this is only the beginning.

The Community Foundation is concentrating our efforts in four Title One Schools in Sarasota—Alta Vista Elementary, Gocio Elementary, Tuttle Elementary and Emma E. Booker Elementary. Each has seen a reduction in chronic absenteeism, a significant improvement in the school readiness of students attending pre-K programs, and a rise of students attending summer learning programs to improve overall reading levels and prevent summer slide. 

Here’s just one of many examples of success. Last summer, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading efforts inspired a new summer literacy program through the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County in partnership with the Community Foundation called the Great Futures Academy.  One hundred percent of the 60 students who participated in this 11-week summer program did not experience any summer learning loss, and many actually improved in reading proficiency. These results are impressive, but in real terms, they mean students began the new school year prepared for success instead of prepared for catch up that may be difficult to achieve.

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading Communities Network, of which we are a part, includes 2,100 local organizations at work in 41 states and is dedicated to narrowing the gap between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers.  Along with all of Sarasota’s other incredible distinctions, we should share community pride in setting the pace.

There is work for all of us, and we look forward to our community continuing to lead the way, meaning new possibilities for students and for our future. 

Roxie Jerde is president of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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