Success, Fulfillment and Futures On the Summer Syllabus

Guest Correspondence

Photo courtesy Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties.

Following a year of tremendous changes, the school district and nonprofits across our region are rallying for student success on a truly collaborative scale. The timing and urgency couldn’t be more pronounced. We’re seeing longstanding efforts and new partners take significant leadership in helping fill gaps – be it gaps in achievement or children’s needs – and ensure hard-earned gains are sustained into the summer months and beyond.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County has a longstanding commitment to ensure that this wrap-around support engages our youngest learners and families through a two-generation (2Gen) lens. For nearly a decade, thanks to the trust of donors we work with, we have invested in programs that prepare new students to enter the classroom and mitigate learning loss for returning ones, which includes our work with Summer Learning Academies and Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. In the face of a global pandemic, however, the student learning environment has drastically changed and along with it, new possibilities have emerged.

Earlier this spring, we brought together 17 local leaders representing cause-driven nonprofits, the Sarasota County School District, libraries, and other philanthropic foundations with the goal of crafting collaborative strategies for summer learning. What transpired was brainstorming and problem solving at its finest. Youth-supporting organizations shared strategies for safely approaching future stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, cultural institutions provided the framework for arts-integrated curriculums, and the libraries supplemented the conversation with resources aplenty.

So inspired by these ideas and the potential for long-lasting partnership behind them, our foundation is investing $240,000 through the Allen Wirtz Nobbe and Jo Bowen Nobbe Fund, Advanced Leadership Initiative Fund and six other funds, each established with the generosity of donors who recognized the importance of education and all its facets. Funding will be disbursed among eight collaborative programs being offered to students, families and teachers this summer, complementing the school district’s programmatic work, during a shortened yet crucial seasonal break.

Here are some high-level snapshots of the possibilities being realized across our region:

  • Summer Reading & Exploration. With a focus on students grades K-4, SOAR Learning Center is implementing a Family Literacy Program that encourages parents – aided by a Parent Facilitator – to be engaged members in their children’s reading habits. Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast will build on its successful mentoring model by intentionally working with students who have been identified by their teachers as needing extra support in reading. In addition to providing books to 3rd graders enrolled in summer learning, funding for Sarasota County Schools will enable teachers to offer experiential education to students of all ages through EdExploreSRQ during months when it hasn’t traditionally operated.
  • Youth Development & Academic Enrichment. As part of its Great Futures Academy, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties will serve 600 children across six locations, with each learner receiving at least four hours of academics with social emotional learning and physical activity. Alongside J5 Experience’s Academic Boot Camp and Girls Inc.’s Support a Girl Summer Program, these youth-supporting organizations will empower hundreds of students in only three months.
  • Teacher & Parent Support. In a full-day, virtual training with local teachers and school staff, The Florida Center for Early Childhood invited experts to share insights into understanding and assisting early childhood brain development and mental health, an all-too-important topic given the context of the last year. As a long-term partner in our foundation’s 2Gen parent success strategy, the Women’s Resource Center’s parent support program – aligning resources with the whole family in mind – rounds out these undertakings.

Program by program, child by child, these partners are reinventing how to realize student success beyond the pages of a textbook or walls of a classroom. I think we can agree that should be part of everyone’s summer syllabus.

Roxie Jerde is President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Photo courtesy Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties.

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