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As families make back-to-school shopping lists and other preparations for a new academic year, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County (EFSC) also is endeavoring to have our strategies and activities ready to support students and teachers who will be arriving soon on school campuses.

Of course, our preparations were underway long before the summer break. Just as we encourage incoming 9th graders to look beyond just their freshman year to plan their course sequence for all of high school, we apply that same principle to our own organization’s long-term planning.

Last year we delved into the thorough, comprehensive activity of recreating our multi-year strategic framework. The exhaustive process was timely and necessary to appropriately reflect our recent pivot to focus on work grounded in and resulting from the EFSC’s College, Career and Life Readiness (CCLR) Initiative.

Our CCLR Initiative was designed in response to our organization’s intensified emphasis on and collective commitment to help prepare our students to be ready to pursue and succeed in well-chosen postsecondary pathways. In other words, we want our graduating students to be qualified and ready to flourish in college, career—and life.

Attaining that success doesn’t start in the senior year, or even in the 9th grade of high school. It begins with imbedding a readiness mindset throughout the K-12 continuum.

To that end, we reassess all of our programs and initiatives regularly to ensure they all are connected to our ultimate goal.

Take the EducateSRQ program, for example. Our signature teacher and classroom grants program, EducateSRQ is in its 29th year, having begun shortly after the EFSC was founded 31 years ago. The program is still going strong because it has been updated to keep pace with changing needs.

We keep our organizational lens focused on EducateSRQ in terms of providing the most effective resources to teachers but also to reward those schools and teachers that support innovative 21st century concepts, including immersive experiential learning.

In other new activities, we are excited to be spending our summer preparing to open our third Student Success Center at Sarasota High School (SHS) this fall.  The SHS center will join two that we piloted successfully at North Port High School and Riverview High School last school year.            The centers, which function as information and resource hubs for high school students, are hosted by partnering high schools and staffed with full-time college-career advisors who are full-time employees of the EFSC.

Data reports and student and teacher testimonials indicate the pilot Student Success Centers were embraced and utilized effectively by students and teachers. Those reports, coupled with data resulting from the ongoing implementation of Naviance, a college and career readiness platform, both validate the direction of the CCLR Initiative and provide insights for adapting curriculum and supports to further boost effectiveness.

The CCLR Initiative, with the component of life readiness receiving equal attention to the more familiar college and career components, is viewed as timely and increasingly valuable on a local and statewide level with Gov. Ron DeSantis signing House Bill 7071. The legislation mandates that school days include college and career work and aspects of social-emotional learning that are covered in our life readiness component.

With our long-term College, Career and Life Readiness Initiative already established and representing a shared vision with the Sarasota County Schools district, our partnership and work for our schools are more critical than ever.

We also are excited about the role we recently assumed as backbone organization guiding the work of the Sarasota County Local College Access Network (LCAN). The LCAN is a cross-sector, multi-partner collaborative that shares our commitment to increasing students’ college and career readiness, postsecondary access and completion for all socio-economic student groups.

We cannot and we don’t want to do all this work in isolation. Our work is done through the hands of many.

We welcome the community’s involvement. Whether it’s helping provide classroom resources, speaking about your profession in a classroom, or contributing to a Student Success Center, we need all “hands on deck” to respond to the new urgency to prepare students for the future.

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