Graduating with Purpose



Most of us would agree that obtaining a high school diploma is a fundamental requirement that must be obtained but still offers no guarantees. Completing a postsecondary credential has never been more important as it creates margins of opportunities for job stability and growth, economic competitiveness and social mobility. As Americans, we should be concerned that the United States ranks 16th out of 36 developed countries in the percentage of workers age 25 through 34 who hold a postsecondary credential. According to the Lumina Foundation, since 2011 the U.S. economy has added 11.5 million new jobs for workers with postsecondary education but only 80,000 of those new jobs are for those with a high school diploma or less. The case is clear: we need to help our students not only graduate from high school, but with a realistic and achievable plan and purpose to pursue some level of postsecondary education whether via technical school, community college or a four-year college or university.

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County, in partnership with Sarasota County Schools, is committed to provide resources to students and families to help with this journey. With private philanthropic support, the Education Foundation is exposing more middle school students to career explorations with area businesses. Set to begin in January, the Education Foundation is also working with the Cross College Alliance—a network of seven area colleges, including Ringling College of Art and Design, University of South Sarasota-Manatee, and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota—to provide college field trips for middle school students to local campuses. Research strongly supports the value placed on such activities in terms of the students’ college aspirations as a result of college visits. Thus, we are in strong alignment with Superintendent Dr. Todd Bowden that if students can transition from middle school to high school with an aspirational plan they will be better prepared to enroll in the appropriate classes that correlate to their individual goals for postsecondary.

The Education Foundation also recently gave more than $65,000 in financial support to Sarasota County Schools to provide Naviance to all eight area middle schools. Naviance is a college and career readiness platform that helps students connect their academic achievements to post-secondary goals, and includes college and career curriculum that will be used for weekly instructional time for all 6-8th graders. Unquestionably, the more we can engage students to think critically and strategically about their future, the better they will prepare for the inevitable.

An exciting and not to be missed event this week is the 2017 Fall College Night at Robarts Arena featuring nearly 100 colleges and university representatives. This free event, scheduled from 6-8pm on Thursday, Sept. 7, is open to all area high school students and provides an opportunity to personally interact with college admissions counselors and university representatives. The Education Foundation looks forward to being at College Night to support students and their families with information on how to prepare, engage and explore colleges, find scholarships and discover the resources needed to successfully navigate this important journey.

We are most excited to announce another tool for all students and families as they plan and pursue their postsecondary goals. Our new website——will be a comprehensive resource for students and families to access invaluable information and guidance on college and careers. The Education Foundation will continue to expand this website over time, and we encourage feedback from students and families to ensure that this website is the most useful and comprehensive college and career resource out there.  As a member of NACAC, National Association of College Admissions Counselors, we are determined and proud to be your one-stop resource to help students in Sarasota plan and prepare for the future.

The Education Foundation depends on philanthropic support to support this critical initiative and we extend our heartfelt thanks to our Champions in Education which includes other foundations as well as individuals and business partners. We invite you, and our community colleagues, to join us towards realizing this important mission—TOGETHER. 

Jennifer Vigne is president of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.


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