Partnership Blooms for Tomorrow's Environmental Caretakers

Guest Correspondence

Photo by Daniel Perales. Family Togetherness Night at Selby Gardens - Downtown Sarasota Campus.

Our region’s relationship with the beaches, swamps, pastures and estuaries that enrich our lives is inseparable. This is something many of us only rediscovered during the pandemic (or gave greater priority to), and this rekindling of greater appreciation for the outdoors has conjured childhood fascinations of the natural world.

To help ensure today’s young people who are fascinated with the natural world keep that inquisitive sense of wonder, we at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County are proud to partner with Marie Selby Botanical Gardens to ensure the next generation has access to the world-class assets and possibilities blooming at our community’s botanical garden.

Through a three-year partnership with our Community Foundation and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, local students interested in the growing field of environmental sustainability will have access to hands-on, real-life experiences to nurture their goals of pursuing a career in the natural sciences. A new Education Lab Series, being developed by Selby Gardens and reviewed by Sarasota County Schools, will open these college and career-readiness pathways for middle and high school youth, guided by a curriculum focused on renewable energy science. Students will be able to take an active role in developing their own studies, sharing feedback alongside their teachers, school administrators, and industry experts.

Naturally, our K-5 learners will also have their learning moment in the sunshine. Recognizing that our interests sprout young, three donors working with our foundation have personally invested in the partnership to fund an array of solar panels for elementary schools, further enhancing their STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) offerings and possibilities.

Think of all the future scientists, activists, and change-makers these efforts will inspire amongst our children and their families, as these experiences are also critical investments in adults too. As part of our commitment to a “two-generation” approach, this partnership will also expand the Family Togetherness program established in 2017 to connect more underserved families to Selby Gardens’ Historic Spanish Point campus. In the years to come, this programming will bring together those families that might not otherwise have the means to enjoy events and other activities at Selby Gardens – like Lights in Bloom®: An Open-Air Holiday Light Show and the Enchanted Garden Festival – with all expenses covered.

From Family Togetherness to the Education Lab Series, all of these are invaluable opportunities to inspire today’s youth to become tomorrow’s environmental caretakers, carrying with them a lifelong passion that will only continue to grow.

As this partnership reminds us, the responsibility of building a more sustainable future doesn’t only fall to the next generation. It’s a task that requires each one of us to think of ourselves as forward-thinking stewards of this planet we all call home. I believe that by deepening our understanding and connection to sustainability, and taking micro, everyday actions, every generation can plant the seeds for macro change and grow, bloom, and thrive where they’re planted.

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

Photo by Daniel Perales. Family Togetherness Night at Selby Gardens - Downtown Sarasota Campus.

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