Education Foundation Focuses on Life Readiness

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New student success centers being funded by the Education Foundation of Sarasota County starting this August help students at North Port High and Riverview High figure what life path works best for them, whether that means college, the workforce, the military or some other course. “That’s what we’re helping them sort out,” says Jennifer Vigne, executive director of the foundation. “The end goal is to help develop an appreciation of the value of learning and know it’s a continuous process in a lifetime.”

The new centers will be among the most notable steps in a $500,000 investment into the foundation’s College, Career and Life Readiness initiative, an effort to make students aware of their post-secondary options and help them to make choices that best suit their own plans and needs. The new centers could serve as pilot programs for similar efforts at other schools, but, more importantly, they contribute to better informing an education continuum focused on life preparation.

Vigne says the most important lesson may be for students to keep their own outlook flexible in a highly changing environment. “We are not suggesting students just pick Door A for college or Door B for careers,” she says. “It’s a blended approach more to look further in a lifespan.” So don’t just plan to stay on one path and live in one silo the rest of your life, she says.

These centers will be financed and operated by the foundation, but they are also part of more behind-the-scenes realigning of resources within the Sarasota County Schools. Foundation leaders have worked closely with new Sarasota Superintendent of Schools Todd Bowden on his career readiness strategic initiatives. Besides the centers, the foundation has also fully funded a new district position, a director of College, Career and Life Readiness. Suzanne Burke, formerly the associate superintendent for academics for the Austin Independent School District in Texas, has been hired into that role.

The entire effort will also look at the implementation of Florida school standards, see where that curriculum helps with post-high school life readiness and identify where there may be gaps that need to be filled. 

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