Young Scholars

Community Foundation


In 1981 the Ringling College Library Association had an idea to raise funds—bring in a series of the most noteworthy speakers from across the world to the Sarasota Audience and charge a subscription to come hear them speak. Starting from humble beginnings out of the Sarasota High School Auditorium, the Ringling Town Hall Lectures Series now reigns out of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and has become one of the largest series of its kind in the country. Spanning over a few months a year, the programming brings in a mix of topics ranging from politics, education, science, nature, pop culture and many more subjects. Attendees have heard from noteworthy politicians like former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, esteemed minds like Dr. Charles Krauthammer and Sir Ken Robinson, notable journalists like Charlie Rose and Walter Isaacson, as well as documentarian Ken Burns.

Eight years ago, the idea was brought up about how to best leverage the impact of these notable speakers coming into town. While many residents were able to afford the opportunity to hear from some of history’s greats, there was one audience that was missing—students. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County decided to partner with the Ringling College Library Association and the Sarasota County School District to create the RCLA Town Hall Scholars program, which created the opportunity for the region’s outstanding student leaders to hear diverse ideas and opinions while learning about the world around them. Thanks to this partnership, principals from 14 different high schools in Sarasota and Manatee counties personally select the best and brightest students from their senior classes to attend one of the Town Hall Lectures, and the Community Foundation underwrites all the tickets so that nothing comes out of the students’ or schools’ pockets. Even more unique about the opportunity is that each student is afforded the opportunity to meet backstage with each speaker before the lecture. Students are able to ask a number of personal or professional questions to the speakers to help guide them on their own academic journey. It’s often a mutually beneficial experience, with many of the speakers giving feedback about how they enjoyed the experience of meeting some of the most outstanding students in the state of Florida—

Story to continue in next Wednesday's Philanthropy edition of SRQ Daily. 

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is proud to partner with SRQ Media Group to highlight stories about community impact powered by philanthropy in our region, thanks to the support of donors and our local nonprofit partners. The Community Foundation is a public charity founded in 1979 by the Southwest Florida Estate Planning Council as a resource for caring individuals and the causes they support, enabling them to make a charitable impact on the community. For more information, visit

Image provided by The Ringling College Library Association

RCLA Town Hall Scholarship Program

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