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SRQ DAILY Aug 7, 2021

"To think that all this positive momentum for today's learners began with one woman who lived most of her life unaware of a dyslexia diagnosis."

- Roxie Jerde, Community Foundation of Sarasota County

[Education]  Championing Frontline Heroes who Focus on Opportunities
Jennifer Vigne, jvigne@edfoundationsrq.org

With the start of the new school year just three days away, most of us find ourselves in a place we neither expected nor wanted to be. We are a full year after the daunting beginning of last school year when the COVID-19 pandemic was mere months old but already had altered our lives in ways we couldn’t have foreseen.

Schools, teachers, students and families have been and continue to be fundamentally impacted.  Our resilience has been tested. But our perseverance remains unshakable.

As a community and as individuals, it is likely we will face many challenging obstacles in the days ahead--obstacles that may not have easy solutions but that can more readily be tackled with confidence, calm and a dose of optimism. It will allow us to think more clearly and seize opportunities to learn new life lessons, find new and better ways of doing things, and discover new strengths within ourselves.

I’m reminded that we already have role models who demonstrate these traits on a daily basis. They are the professionals on the pandemic battlefield frontlines, taking care of the most vulnerable among us.

When we think of those serving on the frontlines, we naturally think about doctors, nurses, EMTs, home healthcare workers and police officers. We laud their skills, professionalism and selflessness. They deserve our respect, gratitude and support.

So do educators, for they serve on the frontlines too, caring for our future—our students. They are the teachers, principals, custodians, food service workers, coaches, bus drivers, school crossing guards and school resource officers, just to name a few. Last school year, they rose to the unprecedented challenges and improvised, learned new techniques and endeavored to meet every student where that individual student was academically, physically and emotionally.

Even while many of them had their own family struggles caused by covid, they showed their calmest and most caring faces to their students. Some made heroic efforts to keep some consistency and continuity for students whose home lives and social relationships suddenly had been upended.

Faced with challenges they never imagined, educators responded by asking, “How else can we get this done? If we can’t do that, then how can we do this?”

It wasn’t perfect, but it was heroic.

Now, here we are a year later. The amazing teachers and staff who work in our district are well aware that they have their work cut out for them this year. They know that the pandemic has impacted the overall academic progress of many students, and their commitment to stay the course has not wavered.

There’s much more to do and educators can’t do it alone. It is time for us, as parents and as members of our community, to demonstrate confidence in our educators, to remain calm as we overcome obstacles and to project optimism in the face of adversity.

Please join me. Let’s unite in solidarity for educators and all who commit to supporting our students as we kick off another school year. Through our collective energy, we can emerge on the other side of this challenge as a stronger, more cohesive and robust community. And isn’t that the role model we want our students to emulate?

Jennifer Vigne is President and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.

[Community]  A Legacy of Literary and Learning Support Lives On
Roxie Jerde, roxie@cfsarasota.org

Growing up, Patricia “Patti” Strauss found reading and writing uniquely challenging, yet for most of her life could never pinpoint why. After years of searching for answers with loving encouragement from her husband, Ira Strauss, Patti at last received a diagnosis and could put a name to her learning difference: dyslexia.

Often going undiagnosed for years and sometimes entire generations, dyslexia affects more than 40 million Americans – nearly 15% of the U.S. population– many of whom do not know where to turn for much-needed resources. In their lifetime and beyond, the Strausses wished to positively change this narrative and ensure struggling students of all ages could overcome their individual challenges and read proficiently for their age, just as Patti had been helped.

This vision shared by Ira and Patti lives on today through a charitable fund they established with their estate attorneys and collaborative planning with our Community Foundation. Designed to provide a continuum of services for children, families and teachers, the Strauss Literacy Initiative is reimagining opportunities for struggling readers in three key ways: 1. identifying those with learning differences; 2. supporting literacy interventions from early reading supports through post-secondary services; and 3. professional development for teachers to equip them with intervention strategies that help identify, predict and adjust for dyslexia and other learning challenges. And after years of research and community engagement, the initiative’s early efforts at three local organizations are already uncovering meaningful results.

What began with a distribution of backpacks, books, and puzzles during the winter holidays at Visible Men Academy (VMA) has transformed into a deep dive of evidenced-based instruction that’s individualized, multisensory and inclusive to all students. This included screen-reader tests for young learners and professional development training for teachers and school staff, which bolstered their awareness about literary challenges. (Early experiences from VMA students and teachers are encouraging.) The culmination of these opportunities? By the end of the school year this past May, VMA had screened all Kindergarteners and recommended three out of eleven students – 27% of the kindergarten class – for additional services that will ultimately help improve their reading proficiency and comprehension.

In recent months, the initiative’s reach has expanded beyond its inaugural partnership with VMA, encompassing an equally diverse breadth of geographies and generations.

Take for example St. Mary Academy – a K-8 school serving Sarasota, Bradenton, and Venice – where students with dyslexia will be able to access scholarships to attend and succeed in an educational environment conducive to their needs. Understanding teachers are essential in stewarding this inclusive environment, our foundation is supporting intensive teach participation in Orton-Gillingham training, a direct and multisensory way to teach literacy for struggling readers.

At the other end of the age spectrum, State College of Florida is strengthening its Disability Resource Center to identify, evaluate and accommodate older adult students with learning challenges. This is a game changer, as students at the post-secondary level often are at a stage in their lives when supports are traditionally no longer provided.

There is much still to explore and address through the Strauss Literacy Initiative. Even at this early stage, though, we know that what we learn locally has the potential to inspire conversations and solutions far beyond our region, into national conversations about dyslexia and other learning differences.

To think that all this positive momentum for today’s learners began with one woman who lived most of her life unaware of a dyslexia diagnosis and the potential for her own circumstances to change is bittersweet, but also inspiring. Thanks to Patti’s tenacity and vision along with her supportive husband, the next generation now has supports to experience a very different learning environment, created by a legacy of empowerment that will live on through students of all ages and abilities.

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

Pictured: Teachers and students at VMA. Photography by Daniel Perales Studio.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Florida Studio Theatre: Great Balls of Fire , June 15 – August 22

In the Cabaret, FST will present the ultimate tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis: Great Balls of Fire. Created by Jason Cohen and Michael Schiralli, Great Balls of Fire brings the ivory-smashing superstar back to life, featuring “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” This electrifying act will play in FST’s Court Cabaret beginning Tuesday, June 15 and will play through August 22. Jerry Lee Lewis was the original bad boy of Rock & Roll. Led by Jason Cohen, who has played Lewis in nearly 80 cities across North America, Great Balls of Fire brings the ivory-smashing superstar back to life. With hits from the ‘50s and beyond, including “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” “Shake, Rattle, and Roll,” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On,” this electrifying act will have you dancing in your seat.

[SOON]  MUSEUM: Skyway 2020: A Contemporary Collaboration , June 20 – October 3, 10am-5pm

The Skyway 2020 exhibition, now in its second iteration, is a celebration of artistic practices in the Tampa Bay region, as it is a collaboration between four institutions: the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg; The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota; the Tampa Museum of Art; and the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa. Working together, curators from each institution will offer context for the diversity of art being made in Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties. Artworks and projects in the exhibition will be selected by museum curators and the guest juror, Claire Tancons, an independent curator and scholar whose practice takes a global focus on the conditions of cultural production. Tancons has curated biennials around the world, including Prospect.1, New Orleans; the 2008 Gwangju Biennial; and the 2019 Sharjah Biennial. This exhibit will begin on June 20, 2021 and will end on October 3, 2021. Runs from 10am to 5pm.

The Ringling Museum, 5401 Bay Shore Road

[SOON]  GALLERY: Embracing Our Differences , July 1 – August 8

An international art exhibit designed to proclaim inclusion, respect and kindness debuts at Sarasota-Bradenton’s Nathan Benderson Park. The annual, juried art exhibit is composed by a Sarasota-based arts and education non-profit, Embracing Our Differences (EOD). It consists of 50 billboard-sized works of art, each accompanied by an inspirational quote. The international exhibit uses the power of art and prose to promote diversity and inclusion. The 2021 exhibit brought 15,912 entries from 128 nations, and from 48 U.S. states. The winning quotes and art are showcased in the Bayfront Park every year, from January through March. Thanks to the generosity of the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, the public will have another opportunity to see this exhibit. The exhibit is on display at the park May 20 - Aug. 8 and is free for the public to view.

Nathan Benderson Park, 5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: In Dialogue with Nature: Glass in the Gardens , July 10 – September 26

Selby Gardens and the Duncan McClellan Gallery in St. Petersburg present the fourth annual summer glass show at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus from July 10 to September 26. This year’s exhibition, featuring nature-inspired glass work created exclusively by Duncan McClellan, will be displayed in the Tropical Conservatory and the Gardens against a backdrop of lush flowers and plants.  All artworks are available for sale with a percentage of proceeds benefiting Selby Gardens.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens , 1534 Mound St., Sarasota

[SOON]  GALLERY: We Dream A World: African American Landscape Painters of Mid-Century Florida, The Highwaymen , July 10 – September 26

We Dream A World, African American Landscape Painters of Mid-Century Florida, The Highwaymen, explores the depth of art and business enterprise created by a unique set of landscape artists. Guest Curator Radiah Harper takes visitors through the experience of African Americans who, living in a hostile climate of racial injustice, were able to both learn their artistic craft through formal and informal education, and successfully break away from traditional field labor jobs to monetize their work. This exhibition will be presented in collaboration with the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition from July 10 to September 26.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens , 1534 Mound St., Sarasota

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Florida Studio Theatre: Shades of Buble: A Three-Man Tribute to Michael Buble , July 13 – September 19

With three voices singing incredible songs like “Feeling Good,” “Moondance,” “Come Fly With Me,” “Home,” “Everything,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and many more, Shades of Bublé: A Three-Man Tribute to Michael Bublé brings the swinging standards and pop hits of Bublé to the stage in an unforgettable high-energy concert event. Next up in the Cabaret is Shades of Bublé: A Three-Man Tribute to Michael Bublé, a high-energy concert event highlighting the swinging standards and pop hits of “The Modern Sinatra.” Since the show’s sold-out debut in 2015, Shades of Bublé has entertained audiences across the country with exciting three-part harmonies, smooth choreography, and sophisticated charm. Featuring songs like “Feeling Good,” “Moondance,” and “Home,” Shades of Bublé will play in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret starting Tuesday, July 13 and will run through September 19.

[SOON]  GALLERY: The Ringling: Sam Gilliam , February 21 – August 15, Museum hours.

The Ringling is pleased to announce a new exhibition of the work of Sam Gilliam. The exhibition, which is being drawn primarily from local collections and features work from the early 1970s to 2010, will run February 21, 2021 through August 15, 2021. Sam Gilliam is one of the most important abstract artists working today. He will have a career retrospective, at the age of 87, in 2022 at the Smithsonian Institution Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. Known for his experimental exploration of materials and constant invention, Gilliam first came to critical attention in the 1960s as a later member of the Washington Color School artists. To emancipate his art from constraints, Gilliam infused his appreciation of blues and jazz improvisation to be conceptualized in abstraction. His radical freedom to express spontaneity when working with materials created the first of his important "drape" paintings in the late 1960s that he would continue to explore throughout his career. By removing the canvas from the traditional stretcher, Gilliam created innovative work that was both painting and sculpture. His installation of the "drape" works filled galleries with painted canvases suspended off the walls or from the ceilings and often draped over objects such as sawhorses or ladders. These pieces encouraged improvisation because they could not be hung in the same manner twice.

[SOON]  SCIENCE AND NATURE: 15: Mission of Discovery: Celebrating the the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 15 , July 20 – August 15, 12:15-2:45pm

When people think of the Apollo program, they tend to remember Apollo 11 (the first moon landing) and Apollo 13 (the successful failure), but Apollo 15 was an extremely important mission as well. Mission commander David Scott and lunar module pilot Jim Irwin became the first humans to drive a vehicle on another world — the 460-pound Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV)! Scott and Irwin traveled 17.5 miles (compared to Apollo 14’s previous record of 2.1 miles) and Scott and Irwin set a record for most time on the lunar surface during extravehicular activities: 18 hours and 37 minutes. Have you ever imagined what it was like to drive a rover on the Moon’s surface? You can experience one of humanity's greatest achievements in The Planetarium during 15: Mission of Discovery, a new show created exclusively by The Bishop to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 15 moon landing! Playing July 20-August 31 only at The Bishop! Tuesday-Friday: 12:15 and 2:45pm Saturday: 12:15 and 2:45pm Sunday: 12:30 and 2:30pm

The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature , 201 10th Street West., Bradenton

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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