NEWS

Lighthouse Puts Spotlight on Visually Impaired Children

Lighthouse Puts Spotlight on Visually Impaired Children

by Doug Fowler, Executive Director

This summer, as the SWFL Community Foundation gears up for the next competitive grant cycle, we have asked our 2015 grantees to send us their stories.  Here this week we learn from Doug Fowler of Lighthouse.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change makers.  If you have ideas and hope for the future, we’d love to hear from you at info@floridacommunity.com or @SWFLCFnd on Twitter.

Eight years ago, I accepted a positon to serve as Executive Director of an agency that provides vision rehabilitation to those with major vision loss through total blindness.   Services started at age 14 through the balance of the life.    The focus was on elderly people with blindness.   Sadly, a large amount of services would not be needed if those who lost full vision as a child or at birth were provided with high quality vision rehabilitation services.

Over this span of time, the agency required to be transformed. Funding for a Blind Babies program was provided by the State of Florida, Division of Blind Services four years ago.    Children, ages 6 to 14, were not funded by traditional sources of funding for vision rehab services.

Research in Lee, Hendry, and Glades Counties revealed 53 visually impaired children received educational instruction in their schools.   However, social and independence skills were not addressed.  Parental education about their child’s condition was also a great unmet need in the three county area.

The ingredients were cultivated:   children and parents identified in the three school systems, research for quality curriculum was completed, and finding a highly qualified teacher whose focus is on non-academic issues.    The one ingredient that was critical was funding.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation confidently provided funding to start the program.   From that decision, a church, a business person, and other resources contributed enough funding to start the program January 5, 2015 and it is now serving 6 children with visual impairments.

The Lighthouse of SWFL is one of the few Lighthouses in the state of Florida to have a Children’s Program in place and operating successfully. The program is growing as we are adding more children in and expanding its facility and outreach abilities. Children will be taught skills and disciplines to not only enhance their lives but also encourage independent living. In addition parents and other family members are included in the curriculum to help promote understanding and give guidance on how to help their child with a visual impairment.

The Lighthouse of SWFL, Inc. is positioned to grow our programs to all cultures living in our service area, become a training center for graduate school interns in vision rehabilitation, providing cutting edge vision rehabilitation, and teaching skills from basic living to using computer, iPad, Tablet, Smart Phones, as well as any sighted person in any environment.

If you’d like to learn more about Lighthouse services, call 239-997-7797  or visit www.lighthouseswfl.org.

 

 

About the SWFL Community Foundation

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $61.2 million to date in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.  For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com

 

 

Women’s Legacy Fund’s call for grant applications

Women’s Legacy Fund’s call for grant applications

FORT MYERS, Fla. (June 29, 2015) – The Women’s Legacy Fund (WLF) of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has opened its annual call for grant applications. This year, the WLF will be awarding $20,000 to an organization that increases access to goods and services for women and/or girls in a neighborhood in Southwest Florida.

Examples of programs that increase access to goods and services include, but are not limited to, a plan to distribute reduced cost bus passes to low-income women in the neighborhood to increase their access to goods and services; a series of neighborhood health days with free or low-cost doctors/dentists to increase access to health care; or a youth carnival at a neighborhood park to increase access to recreation.

For this grant cycle, ideas that increase access to food in neighborhoods are not eligible. Additionally, organizations must involve those that they wish to serve in the design of their program idea.

Organizations wishing to apply for the grant must meet the basic eligibility requirements:

Nonprofit organizations exempt from Federal income taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and units of government are eligible. (501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) agencies are ineligible.)
Applicants must be located in and primarily serve residents of Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades, and Collier counties.
Eligible organizations must be governed by a volunteer board of directors with at least five unrelated members.
Organizations must conduct business without discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, national origin or religious affiliation.

Agency leaders interested in receiving a grant through the Women’s Legacy Fund must submit a LOI (Letter of Idea) between June 29 and July 31. This letter is not a full, traditional Request for Proposal (RFP) but a one-page snapshot of the program/project idea.

LOIs will be narrowed based on alignment with the Women’s Legacy Fund priorities, and the top programs/projects will be invited to the Compassionate Shark Tank on Sept. 10. Applicants will be asked to prepare a three-minute presentation for the panel. The panel will ask questions about the organization’s LOI and presentation.

Awards will be announced in October 2015.

A fund of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Women’s Legacy Fund is a group of women who foster the immersion of women in philanthropy and develop the region’s next philanthropic leaders. In just eight years of existence, the WLF has been able to provide $100,000 in grants to benefit people and communities in Southwest Florida. Currently, the Fund has more than $400,000 in endowment that will continue to help fund local issues now and in the future.

Contributors to the WLF give a minimum of $250 each year ($100 for women under 25 years of age). The first half of contributions is pooled for the purpose of immediate annual grants, while the second half is pooled into the WLF’s endowment fund, which provides additional grants to be made both now and in years to come. Prima Donors are local women who have contributed $10,000 or more to the WLF endowment and are committed to making an impact in their community through charitable giving.

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

 

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Wild Patients

Wild Patients

by Rachel Rainbolt, Education Coordinator
Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

This summer, as the SWFL Community Foundation gears up for the next competitive grant cycle, we have asked our 2015 grantees to send us their stories. Here this week we learn from Rachel Rainbolt of the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change makers. If you have ideas and hope for the future, we’d love to hear from you at info@floridacommunity.com or @SWFLCFnd on Twitter.

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife is a teaching hospital and visitor center dedicated to saving wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research, education, and conservation medicine. Conservation medicine is a relatively new field that uses an interdisciplinary approach to study the relationship between ecological, human and animal health.

CROW is always continuing to grow with the community, and whether shared through an exhibit, a presentation or through live-feed footage, it is our responsibility to involve the community members in the lives of our patients. Since its inception in 1968 CROW has committed itself to treating wildlife that arrives to the hospital sick, injured or orphaned, and the “One World, One Health” approach to conservation medicine looks to improve the health of the environment, humans and animals through a better knowledge of wildlife medicine.

In addition to providing the highest quality of medical care, CROW offers educational opportunities for different members of the community in its visitor education center, which hosts more than 15,000 guests each year. By far one of the most significant additions for the visitor center has been with the introduction of the “If You Care, Leave It There” exhibit.

Believe it or not, but, prior to 2012, CROW used to admit a great deal of “abducted” babies. I am sure that even now there will be those reading this who believe by touching juvenile animals after they have ventured too far from the nest will result in parental neglect. Feel assured knowing that their instincts to raise healthy offspring will outweigh their fear of humans. Patient statistics supported the necessity for change, so CROW’s staff began producing literature regarding knowing the difference between animals that genuinely need help with those who would be best left where they were.

Support from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation has helped to empower this project by funding the “If You Care Exhibit”, which now serves as one of the main attractions in our education center. Its presence has been shared with 13 different groups from Lee County schools as well as thousands of visitors from all around the world.

If you’d like to learn more about our wild patients, contact us at www.crowclinic.org or call me at 239-472-3644, ext. 228.

About the SWFL Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $61.2 million to date in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com

Climbing Aspirations

Climbing Aspirations

FutureMakers Coalition sets out to fill the region’s dismal education gap

If you’re like most people — about 95 percent of adults who can work — you have to get up and go into the salt mines each day. So there hasn’t been a lot of time to sit around and think about “attainment equity.”

As a term, perhaps, it’s fairly leaden. But as a concept — one carefully defined by a private foundation called Lumina (from the Latin word for light) with a billion-dollar-plus endowment trying to muscle-up education in the United States — it’s magic. Hard economic magic, a cooking fire of sorts.

And now that economic cooking fire has been lit beneath the soup of Southwest Florida in a program known as the FutureMakers Coalition. The title is apt. It’s tailored and fit to the region by the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which has brought together a network of experts and advocates. The foundation is working with Lumina coaches and using a new and never-before-harnessed cadre of team members from business, education and government.

When it comes to “attainment equity,” they can see the light, and for two reasons: one, it’s worth immense community wealth (not to mention better personal fortune, for many) over the next 20 years. And two, we don’t have it.

As it stands, if Southwest Florida were the United States in microcosm, we’d rank way down in the so-called “second world” on the planet for level of education, at 27 percent: that’s the percentage of adults here who hold post-secondary degrees or certificates.

The national average is 40 percent. Which itself ranks the United States at only number 13 among developed nations for level of education. And that statistic is just plain flat dangerous, says Lumina. (Canada, for example, ranges up near 60 percent, according to Lumina statistics.)

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So the FutureMakers Coalition has a single definable goal: to raise the level of those with certificates or college degrees from 27 percent to 40 percent by the year 2025, in Southwest Florida. In the United States, meanwhile, the goal of the Lumina Foundation, which is based in Indianapolis, is to raise the percentage from 40 to 60 percent.

How? By working within the decades-old educational system as well as disrupting it, says Jamie Merisotis, the president and CEO of Lumina.

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“We’re working side by side with employers, postsecondary education leaders, and community members in 75 metro areas to encourage broader adoption of and support for Goal 2025,” he explains at ssireview.org. Those communities will shape their educations to fit their needs and residents “through significant technical and planning assistance, data tools, and flexible funding.”

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Which sounds nice, but also requires that communities redefine success in education by “rewarding all forms of postsecondary learning,” Mr. Merisotis argues.

“A core element of this approach is a strategic document called the Degree Qualifications Profile, which defines the skills and knowledge students need to earn degrees at various levels. In short, the DQP shifts the discussion on campuses from ‘What are we going to teach?’ to ‘What should our students know and be able to do? What knowledge and skills must they be able to demonstrate to thrive?’”

If it sounds easy enough, it may not be.

“Attainment equity” simply means getting a much greater percentage of people with high school diplomas or GEDs to go on in their educations — to earn useful certificates or college diplomas. And that means finding new ways to reach adults who want to come back to college or certified training programs, and first generation students whose parents don’t hold post-secondary degrees, and low-income and minority students who can’t figure out how to tap into a system that can offer money and help.

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At the FutureMakers Coalition, they call those people “21st century students,” the ones we need to reach to make the society stronger and wealthier.

When the statistic is broken down — that 40 percent of adult Americans have post-high school degrees or certificates, now — the demographics of 21st century students become more clear: Among Asian American adults, 59 percent have post-secondary certificates or degrees. Among whites, it’s 44 percent, African Americans 27 percent, Native Americans 23 percent, and Latinos 20 percent, Lumina figures show.

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But why bother with all that if you’re getting up and going into the salt mines every day, and you’re not an educator?

Why should such diverse organizations and some of their best thinkers across the region get behind this, volunteering their time (which, after all, is money) — outfits such as Fifth Third Bank, Wells Fargo, The Microenterprise Institute of Goodwill, Deva Industries, CareerSource of Southwest Florida, the city of Fort Myers, the Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership, Lee Memorial Health System, the PACE Center for Girls, Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida SouthWestern State College, Keiser University and Hodges University, the Scientists Society of Southwest Florida, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Charlotte County, Al and Nancy Burnett Charitable Foundation, the engineering and planning firm, EnSight, the Glades Education Foundation, theCollier, Lee and Charlotte county school districts, the Guadalupe Center, the Horizon Council, PR Zebra and Florida Weekly, among many others?

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Here’s the answer and it’s based on this demonstrable statistic: Those who earn degrees or useful certificates after high school will, on average, take in $2.8 million more in their working lifetimes than those who don’t, government statistics show.

And when that happens, the places those people live, the children those people raise, the businesses and organizations that pay those people salaries and benefits, along with those people themselves can contribute significantly more to their communities and their country, and probably have a lot more fun in the meantime.

That’s why the Lumina Foundation has now chosen the five-county region we call Southwest Florida to become one of the key metro or sub-metro regions in the U.S. to make fundamental changes in the way we, as a region, approach education.

Boots on the ground

It’s happening in 74 other regions or major metropolitan areas in the U.S., as well, says Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability at the Community Foundation, or as she puts it, the woman with “the neatest job title in the world.”

The Lumina Foundation, administering grants of about $50 million annually and guiding the various regions, has chosen Southwest Florida because of the increasing population here — 1.2 million and climbing — and because the region’s struggles to raise the level of education, and to avoid “brain drain,” as they call it when young people move away, taking their skills elsewhere.

Ms. LeSage herself is a model for the future, perhaps, like many of those who are joining the FutureMakers Coalitions and its special teams: the Aspiration and Preparation team (35 team members to date); Access and Entry (13); Persistence and Progress (11); Completion (32); Data (six) and Media (seven team members).

Ms. LeSage grew up here before getting a higher education in Boston and then returning — with her brainpower, education and talent — to her birthplace, making her the model of deportment of the FutureMakers Coalition.

She is now raising her own children in the region, and she describes what the FutureMakers Coalition will make happen, this way: “This is a cradle to career system, which includes education and workforce development and economic development and jobs — each of the functions in our (community).

“My job is to get people on these teams. I say, ‘We’re not here to create a new job for you. We want you to come be a part of this team and have it enhance, and make your work easier and more effective. Most people are thrilled, and they want to get on board.”

Voices

Here are the voices of just a few of those who are stepping in — who have gathered for their first strategy meetings, who are now able to work with such coalitions in other cities or regions, and who consult with coaches at Lumina.

TEAM COMPLETION

¦ Peg Elmore, director of business, Career Source Southwest Florida

“We are in our early stages. It’s an ambitious goal but I do think it’s achievable. We support this as part of what we do. We work within the five counties now, and we know there are thousands who cross county lines every day for work.

At the last meeting we broke up into different groups, asking who was repping somebody, who was doing training or working in the high schools — then we did asset mapping (using data to understand who and what is available). I walked away thinking, ‘Wow we have a lot of resources… the breadth of them… everything from needing space, to funding, to contacts and collaborative efforts — it’s across the board.”

“More people are moving into Florida instead of out if it. And we need trained and educated people.

“Even within the hospitality industry the value of credentials can be crucial — and sometimes people don’t know what they don’t know. But they can enter into a tiny program and learn; there’s so much more to the software than they realize. So the act of getting the credential is a learning and growing experience itself. We must all be lifelong learners.

“Even though unemployment is now at a low of roughly 5 percent, I work with businesses who are seeking qualified talent on a daily basis. And there are gaps in occupations. Computer skills, the building trades — there’s an instructor at the Fort Myers Institute of Technology who’s having trouble keeping the automotive service technicians in the class long enough to graduate because they can get such good jobs even before they finish.

“And insurance programs that affect the health-care industry. We have a number of medical personnel who have learned on the job, but with tighter insurance regulations, its critical they get certified.”

TEAM PERSISTENCE AND PROGRESS

¦ Gina Frazier, president of Deva Industries.

“If we are to have an impact, we must take a total systems approach, involving not just the schools but local businesses, nonprofits, government entities, private citizens, and the students themselves.

“We need ways to excite kids about learning, so they want to go on for degrees or certifications. Especially those kids facing circumstances that place them at risk. There are many great programs locally that do this, such as those through the JROTC, I Will Mentorship Foundation, Kappa Alpha PSI Educational Foundation, Uncommon Friends Foundation, Lee County Electric Coop, to name just a few. What I do at Deva for Good (Ms. Frazier’s pro-bono arm) is help make the connections and facilitate collaboration among those who can make a difference.

“I look at things from a big system approach — how do things interact together?

Most people think in a silo — you’re thinking one way, the only way education occurs. But that’s not the case.

How do you get kids excited? They have to want to do it, to know there are possibilities — and, they have to have the financial responsibility.

When I was young, I hated math in school. Later I entered dance competitions, and I realized it was all geometry. They’re doing angles and curves. And I thought, ‘Why didn’t they tell us this is in school?’ And I developed a computer program that would create patterns for the dance. Everything around us is math. It made me look at the world completely differently. So if you can make it meaningful to kids, you can change how they feel about learning.

“Getting that 27 percent up to 40? That’s going to be a tough goal. It’s a campaign, a marketing campaign.

“We need to pull in students to get their opinions, and ask them, ‘Why aren’t you going off to be educated (after high school)? I don’t think I saw any students in the meeting.’”

TEAM DATA

¦ Brent Kettler, data consultant

Data, says Tessa LeSage, is one of the FutureMakers Coalition’s most powerful tools. “We can use Geographic Information Systems to create layered maps with data that let you understand almost anything about a community: what infrastructure is in place, what access to internet service are in place, what properties are already zoned or have entitlements, or, as in the Tampa Bay Regional Partnership, a map on top of commercial or office space that also offers information about the workforce, the kinds of degrees or certificates they have and where they are.

“And the other side is understanding what’s going on in terms of the cradle to career system, with data.”

Enter Brent Kettler.

“When I worked for Lee County’s Economic Development Office, my role morphed into business intelligence, technology, and the role of databases

“Because economic development has morphed into something else.

“Traditionally, businesses would come to different metro areas and vet the area for clients and everything else — quality of life, education, and workforce. They’d physically show up, doing interviews and getting background.

“But it has a different face, and there’s this younger generation of directors, in charge as senior level economic development directors, and their understanding of information, and they way mine it and use it is different.

“Now you can provide data sets that paint a picture.

“So where this spins into Lumina and Tessa and my assistance with the FutureMakers Coalition is here: I started to look at our numbers and the 27 percent of post secondary attainment, and ask a couple of questions. That 13 percent we want to make up, there’s a lack of definition about what a post secondary degree or certificate is — it has to be employable, but there’s a problem: there are all these great information tools out there, and on line, but they’re hard to measure, to track.

“I was shocked at how many (good programs) there are down here and how employable these folks are who come from them.

“So the meat and bones is: how are we going to achieve this, and how can we make this effort work. We have to figure out what our landscape looks like.

“The Census tells us that Lee County alone has just north of 15,000 employers, and 92 percent of businesses have less than 20 employees. You look at revenue of organizations and head count to learn that there are 1.12 IT employees per 20 head count. So that means that every single business relies on technology now. It’s multifaceted, and I would be very shocked if Collier and Charlotte are not similar. Information security, website security, customer data management… those don’t require four-year degrees.

“So this gets into social part of it. There’s a ton of momentum here for this, there’s no state tax, a great broadband structure, and the rent isn’t too bad either. And with ACA and the availability of health care, you can work by yourself, if you have some kind of usable skills. So this is a great place to live. But there’s a problem, and that’s brain drain or migration of workers — it’s a hole in the boat. Business is coming in, but the workforce leaks.

TEAM ASPIRATION AND PREPARATION

¦ Jonathan Romine, landscape architect and principal at EnSite Inc.

I’m doing this in part because I wanted to help mentor youth and at-risk kids — pipe dream stuff — who didn’t have a fairy tale upbringing, like I did. And my wife is a public school teacher.

“I also didn’t believe we should be waiting until retirement before we give back. I think it is a duty and corporate responsibility to be involved — not just invested but involved. As a business owner, I was looking for something that didn’t have a huge liability attached to it, too.

“I have two kids I’m mentoring now. They’re both going to be seniors. We all had conversations about the Future- Makers program. A lot of times these kids have no money, so they can’t go to college in their minds, but they don’t realize what’s out there. There’s money available if they keep up their GPAs and finish. So the idea of helping these kids understand opportunity appeals to me.

“This is still the only country where anybody can make it if they’re willing to try. And I still think public education is the most valuable tool available to everybody, because you cannot be successful without education. I’m not saying everybody should go to college, but education is still the foundation. And as a country, the fact that we provide every single child with access is wonderful. So I’m committed. My mom, my wife, my mother-in-law, some of my cousins — they’re all teachers. At the end of the day, they make pennies but they produce productive citizens.

“We take that for granted far too often.

“I love it when people say how awful public schools are and how great private schools are, and I ask them when was the last time they rolled up their sleeves and stepped in to help.

“That’s what we’re doing here.”

TEAM ASPIRATION AND PREPARATION

¦ Ava Barrett, library director for Hendry County

“FutureMakers is a great idea. Southwest Florida has this challenge, and with the number of certifications we have, this is a great opportunity for us to help change these kinds of statistics that are not very complimentary.

“I am in Clewiston, and I think the statistics might be worse here than anywhere else.

My role: To be able to work with local entities, such as CareerSource, to see how I can run programs to reach people who can get this done. I can be there to help sign people up for postsecondary degrees or certificates, and for the money that can help them pay for it.

So we’ve started to talk to young people, and help them sign up for (scholarships for low-income students). There is money available. Free money, and they can’t take advantage of it if they don’t know how.

“So my role is to push — to push the idea of getting them scholarship and aid money. That way we will have more certified people.

“Another thing I’m doing at my library — we have purchased subscriptions to some Microsoft IT academy places. Through this they are able to get Microsoft certifications — and we’ve started off with Office. Right now, we’re talking with Florida SouthWestern State College about how we can partner to help provide instruction so we can get more people who are qualified. This looks positive for the Hendry County library system and we’re hoping to entice people from Belle Glade and Moore Haven as well as Labelle and Harlem.

“I believe it’s doable. If we put all our effort into do it, it’s possible to move those percentages. Especially if we’re working with the school system, and not only with people still in schools, but many out of school.” ¦

Degrees of Separation

Degrees of Separation

How local leaders are trying to close the higher education gap and diversify the workforce.

For most Southwest Florida adults, education stopped at high school.

Just 27 percent of working-aged people in the five-county area hold a post-secondary degree, plus an untold number of others who hold technical certifications.

In some ways, the education level doesn’t seem problematic. As of about a month ago, 46 percent of job openings on the state’s employment database asked for no more than a high school diploma or equivalency. That’s not unusual.

But those aren’t the jobs that lead to individual or regional economic gain, and they certainly aren’t the jobs that will move Southwest Florida beyond its traditional tourism, hospitality and construction base. If the recession taught the region one lesson, it’s that economic diversification is paramount.

Now some community leaders and educators are wondering if the education gap is holding Southwest Florida back—and they’re taking big steps to make college more alluring and attainable.

“One of the first things businesses ask when they are expanding or relocating is, ‘Can I find people?’” says Dennie Hamilton, CEO of Lee County Electric Cooperative and a member of the recently formed Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance.

The answer: Not always. “It has been a bit of a challenge to attract individuals,” acknowledges John Patrick Boland, the vice president of strategy for Hertz Equipment Rental Corp., a subsidiary of the rental car business. His firm, which is in the process of separating from the parent company, will primarily seek people with “knowledge” skills such as information technology.

Hamilton and Boland are among the 80 business leaders, educators, politicians and civic leaders supporting the newly formed “FutureMakers Coalition,” dedicated to increasing the region’s higher education completion rate to 40 percent by 2025.

Sarah Owen“Everything people have talked about what they want the region to be, the key is attainment,” says Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, who initiated the post-secondary push and the formation of FutureMakers (pictured left).

The coalition’s formation was a big deal. The Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit dedicated to increasing college and technical school grads nationwide, has adopted Southwest Florida as one of its partnering communities, throwing resources, expertise and clout behind the effort. The U.S. undersecretary of education attended a kickoff meeting, affirming the coalition’s significance.

To meet the new coalition’s goal, Southwest Florida will need 40,000 more degree holders in the next 10 years at current population levels.  To make that happen, Southwest Florida will need more students like Todd Hammer entering desperately needed—and often-forgotten—skilled trades, or those like Florida Gulf Coast University’s Madeline Heath and Elliott White finding ways of keeping their peers from dropping out, or civic leaders like Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson making it easier for adults to return to school.

 

A NATIONAL PROBLEM

The degree challenge isn’t unique to Southwest Florida. Globally, the United States ranks 11th in post-secondary attainment with 40 percent of adults holding an associate’s degree or higher. In South Korea, the rate is 64 percent; in Canada and Japan, it’s 60 percent, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In Florida, 38.6 percent of adults have a degree.

The obvious response—coaxing more students into college—is not the real solution.

The region’s (and nation’s, for that matter) problem isn’t enrollment. It’s completion.

Nearly 70 percent of high school graduates make their way to college within two years; only about four in 10 will finish, according to the 2011 Pathways to Prosperity report by Harvard University. At Florida Gulf Coast University, 49 percent of students complete their degrees in six years, and 72 percent return to school after their first year with a grade point average of 2.0 or above.

Florida SouthWestern State College has a 24 percent three-year graduation rate.

The individual impact of dropping out is obvious; what’s less recognized is the overall blow to the nation’s economy. Four-year college dropouts cost taxpayers $9 billion in federal and state grants, and two-year college dropouts waste $4 billion in government aid, according to the Indiana-based nonprofit Complete College America.

People leave school for lots of reasons.

Financial: Money to start college is relatively easy to acquire; harder to secure is money to finish college after freshman-year scholarships run out. In addition, many students don’t realize they have to request financial aid every year, or they decline to seek federal help because the application is so complicated (the government is looking to simplify the process).

Family obligations: Work and parenting can make degree completion impossible for nontraditional students.

Failure to connect: Students who don’t bond with peers and professors are more likely to feel alone and overwhelmed, especially in the first year.

Lack of preparedness: Despite efforts at the K-12 level, 51 percent of two-year college students nationwide need remedial help to master college-level work.

Lack of interest: College isn’t right for every high school grad, but it’s the option most heavily promoted at the expense of technical schools, which offer career-specific training for well-paying jobs.

Pick any one of those factors, and you’ll find lots of ways Southwest Florida educators, nonprofits and business leaders are trying to address the challenges surrounding higher education completion.

What FutureMakers is trying to do is bring all of these efforts—and new ones—into alignment so that isolated initiatives become regional ones.

“We’re missing the interconnectedness,” says James Wohlpart, dean of undergraduate studies at Florida Gulf Coast University. [FutureMakers] will create that force.”

ACADEMIC SUPPORT

Elliott White, a sophomore at Florida Gulf Coast University, found his post-secondary career in jeopardy before it even started. His math scores were too low to earn immediate acceptance; he was offered a spot only if he completed a summer program and improved his numeric skills.

He did—and then he soared.

White earned a 4.0 grade point average his freshman year, was accepted into the Honors Program and is majoring in biology, the first step, he hopes, toward medical school.

Now, White is a peer academic leader in “Effective Learning,” a course newly required for those on academic probation. He’s hoping the study skills and strategies he and a faculty member deliver will help students turn their grades around—and keep them in school.

The university has stepped up such retention efforts in the past three years, says Wohlpart, undergraduate dean.

Efforts include: increasing internship and service-learning opportunities; linking students with mentors; finding new sources of financial aid for the later years of college; and working more closely with “super seniors,” those students who can’t quite seem to finish their degrees.

Wohlpart has encouraged students to pursue their own ideas, too, hoping to see them form stronger connections with each other, their professors and their community. One of them is Madeline Heath, a senior and the One Book, One Campus outreach coordinator. She has helped the university transform a required freshman reading project into a campus-wide analysis of a book, its issues and the ways its themes relate to students.

“I help create different events around the theme of the book,” says Heath. “It gets them academically engaged outside of the classrooms.” But more importantly, she suggests, it gives students a reason for being on campus aside from classes.

“One of the most brilliant people I ever worked with, she almost dropped out her freshman year,” Heath says.

“She was depressed and thought college wasn’t for her.” The student discovered a service-learning program that assists the Dominican Republic. The would-be college dropout graduated with a degree in anthropology and is now in Peru. Heath herself won a full scholarship to University of South Florida for graduate school. Her One Book experience inspired her to pursue work in university student services.

The retention efforts are paying off. This past year, 79 percent of freshmen returned for their sophomore year. The national average is around 73 percent, Wohlpart says. The percentage of students graduating within six years has increased from 44 percent to 49 percent, and thanks to local business support, FGCU has the highest rate of job placement for graduates in the state.

Florida SouthWestern State College has launched similar initiatives. Retention can be harder on that campus, populated largely by nontraditional and commuter students who don’t experience the bonding that dorm life fosters or have time to linger after class.

The college two years ago started the “Cornerstone Experience,” a course designed to ease the transition into college life, says Christine Davis, the vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. The curriculum includes goal-setting, selecting majors, mapping career plans.

“We felt they really needed this course at the start of their college careers,” Davis says. Other efforts include an Early Alert system that flags students with waning grades and links them with faculty members for support, a peer mentoring initiative and “Service Saturday” volunteer efforts, bringing students together outside of class.

“We’re building a community among students so they feel connected,” Davis explains.

College success also means making sure high school students are ready for college in the first place. Collier, for example, administers the Postsecondary Education Readiness Test, or PERT, to gauge the 11thgraders’ readiness for college-level reading, writing and math. Those who do poorly are offered additional instruction during their senior year.

“We spend a whole year trying to get the kids prepared,” says Dale Johnson, the Collier County School District’s supervisor of career and technical education.

 


Fort Myers Institute of Technology director William McCormick

 

MAKING TECHNICAL SCHOOL RELEVANT

When Todd Hammer graduated from high school, there was no question he was going to college. He attended Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio, and majored in criminal justice. “Trade school was not something pushed by my parents or teachers,” says Hammer, now a Fort Myers resident.

But Hammer later decided he wanted a career change and a hands-on profession. He enrolled in Fort Myers Institute of Technology to study air-conditioning, heating and refrigeration technology, and within 18 months, he had completed his training and landed a job.

“[My attitude] evolved. Working with your hands is a forgotten art and it’s making a comeback,” Hammer says.

Or so hopes William McCormick, the school’s director.

“We constantly fight this challenge that people just forget about us as part of the educational spectrum,” he says. A technical certificate is the equivalent of an associate’s degree.

The nation faces a shortage of skilled workers as generations of hands-on workers head into retirement. A Georgetown University study projects 47 million job vacancies by 2018 in fields such as health technology, construction, manufacturing and natural resources.

“Not enough high school graduates are going into these fields. People don’t think about them. They don’t think about technical professions being worthy of pursuit,” McCormick says.

Fort Myers Institute of Technology last year had the highest first-year wage ($38,064) and highest percent of employed graduates among the state’s 47 public technical schools. Those graduating with associate degrees from the state college system earn a median wage of $28,884; four-year state university graduates have a median salary of $36,884. Additionally, McCormick says, many technical school graduates go on to establish small businesses, the backbone of Southwest Florida’s economy.

“Most of the jobs in this region do not require a college degree, but they do require a technical certificate,” McCormick says.

EARLY EXPOSURE

The region’s K-12 schools want students to start thinking about careers and college years before graduation day arrives.

Across Lee and Collier counties, public high schools have implemented programs such as academically rich AVID and Cambridge AICE, in addition to an array of Advanced Placement courses and dual-enrollment offerings that allow students to earn college credit or work toward technical certifications while in high school.

“We want to provide as many different pathways and options as possible,” says Dale Johnson of Collier Schools.

Both districts are growing their career academies, special schools-within-schools that train students for industries ranging from construction to public service to health care, in addition to a standard academic foundation.

These students may take industry certification exams—the same tests adults take—qualifying them to go to work straight out of high school or to go on to more advanced post-secondary training.

In some cases, career academies target specific workforce gaps, such as a new welding program at East Lee County High School.

“As far as I know, it is the only full-time welding program at a regular high school,” Principal Brian Mangan says. In its first-ever round of certification tests, 204 students passed. “That was huge for us. It was inspiring, and we’re now setting up our second round of testing,” Mangan says.

Other students at his school are graduating as certified automotive technicians, nursing assistants and EKG technicians.

Outside organizations help. Florida Gulf Coast University both brings younger students on to campus and sends its students out to K-12 schools to lead special programs. Ave Maria University dispatches its students to Immokalee to work with children. Area businesses are working with Collier County Schools to offer teens summer internships. Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida sends business people into classrooms to deliver programs ranging from work-readiness to financial literacy to entrepreneurship.

“You have to plant these seeds now,” says Anne Frazier, the Junior Achievement CEO. “They are starting to make decisions that will affect them for the rest of their lives.”

Frazier thinks volunteers provide the link that is missing for many young people, answering the perennial “Why are we learning this?” question.

“We are helping them to see that ‘wow, there is a life outside of school,’” she says.

GETTING ADULTS BACK INTO CLASS

Nationally, some 36 million working adults have had some college, but no diploma to show for it, according to Lumina. That’s true for about 2 million Floridians, 21 percent of the state’s population.

Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson (pictured left) wants to create a downtown college center, a place where multiple institutions can offer courses or learning labs. Every day, some 10,000 people come into the city to work. Why not bring college to them rather than making them travel to college, he reasons.

“Every venue where I just happen to casually mention this, it turns heads,” he says. Henderson thinks it can be a reality in the near future.

Hodges University is working on other ways to aid adult learners, says interim President David Borofsky, whose campuses are comprised of mostly nontraditional students.

The university is addressing everything from childcare to transportation to financial aid, the challenges that derail its students, Borofsky says. He’s also pushing to enroll graduates of the school’s sizeable English as a Second Language program into degree programs. And Hodges has come up with creative ways to help adult professionals earn degrees that will propel them ahead in their industries. The UPower program is an online program that allows people to show mastery in the fields in which they already work and earn the credentials they need for advancement.

“The more students we can graduate or help have careers or get promoted, the more we add to the economy,” he says.

COMBINING FORCES

Elsewhere, communities that have made a regional commitment to post-secondary education are starting to see results, according to Haley Glover, strategy director for the Lumina Foundation. Louisville, Kentucky’s 55,000 Degrees initiative, for example, has resulted in a 20 percent increase in college graduates since 2010. The region has seen a 67 percent jump in the number of adult learners enrolling in school, and more than 60 employers have joined a Degrees at Work program.

Locally, the FutureMakers Coalition wants to address everything from changing the perception of technical education to encouraging high school grads to go to college or trade school to developing mentoring programs.

Efforts must include exposing students to high-end jobs available in this market, adds Mike Boose, the human relations director for Arthrex, a Naples-based medical device company that employs 1,500. Too often, he says, locally grown students think they have to go elsewhere for good opportunities.

“We want every student in the region to understand what employment opportunities are available,” says Boose, whose company has been setting up everything from in-house internships to training programs at local technical schools. “We invest in 12 years of educating a student and then we give them away.”

Industry leaders are eager to see what the postsecondary push can yield.

“Let’s just get this done and start trying to move the needle and figure out what works,” Hamilton says. “I think it’s exciting, and it’s a fairly diverse, broad set of folks being brought under the umbrella to make this happen.”

Boland, of Hertz Equipment, looks at places like Silicon Valley, once farmland that evolved into a hightech, start-up, entrepreneurial mecca. “Cities re-invent themselves and go through creative destruction every day. This area has a great chance to reinvent itself,” Boland says. GB

Exceptional Entrepreneurs

Exceptional Entrepreneurs

by Patti Nemazie, Director of Reach and Send Ministries
Cape Coral Campus and Grace Community Center
GRACE CHURCH
2015 grantee of the SWFL Community Foundation

This summer, as the SWFL Community Foundation gears up for the next competitive grant cycle, we have asked our 2015 grantees to send us their stories. Here this week we learn from Pattie Nemazie of Grace Community Church. The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change makers. If you have ideas and hope for the future, we’d love to hear from you at info@floridacommunity.com or @SWFLCFnd on Twitter.

With a smile on his face, a paycheck in his hand and joy in his heart, Josh declared, “I did a great job!” And as the old saying goes, “it ain’t braggin’ if it’s true”! Just a few months ago, Josh rarely spoke at all and now his confidence inspires everyone within the sound of his voice. Josh’s life is being transformed by a combination of his God-given spirit and his faithful participation in a new program in Southwest Florida appropriately named Exceptional Entrepreneurs. Exceptional Entrepreneurs is a ministry of Grace Church that seeks to empower persons with special needs by equipping them with job and life skills.

Exceptional Entrepreneurs began in the fall of 2012 when a special education teacher in our community, Betty Henderson, gave full voice to her dream of making a difference in the lives of people with special needs. “I have a really crazy idea and I believe it is from God,” Betty shared with church leaders. Betty had not only a calling to make a difference, but also a background in agriculture. She brought her two passions together to create an opportunity to educate her students in vermiculture (“worm farming”). “I want to start a worm farm for students with special needs,” she shared, “so that they can find worth and value in themselves and who God made them to be,” including the dignity of having employment.

The ministry launched with six students from two local high schools, but has since grown to include over 20 students from 4 high schools, in addition to 13 full time participants. Participants began raising fishing worms, making fertilizer and natural pesticides. In true entrepreneurial fashion, while waiting for the worms to grow, students began creating whimsical garden art flowers and other products that caught the attention of many customers. Since then, the program has expanded to include products such as honey sticks, baby tutus, shea butter cream and even the outsourcing of office work. The Franklin Shops in downtown Fort Myers carries many of these products.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation has been vital to the growth of this ministry through the award of two grants and the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of other nonprofit leaders in the community.

The Exceptional Entrepreneurs program is providing Southwest Florida with a fresh voice of hope that inspires us all to be who God made us to be.

About the SWFL Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $61.2 million to date in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com

Weaving a New Narrative for Youth

Weaving a New Narrative for Youth

By Abdul’haq Muhammed, Executive Director
2015 grantee of the SWFL Community Foundation

This summer, as the SWFL Community Foundation gears up for the next competitive grant cycle, we have asked our 2015 grantees to send us their stories. Here this week we learn from the Quality Life Center. The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change makers. If you have ideas and hope for the future, we’d love to hear from you at info@floridacommunity.com or @SWFLCFnd on Twitter.

“I like the weaving program because there’s no pressure,” said 13-year old Alanna, a student in Quality Life Center’s teen program. “It’s just relaxing. We weave and talk, and hear the ladies’ stories.”

Many of the youth in our community deal with issues like poverty, violence and living in an unsafe neighborhood. These stressors can cause problems that make it difficult for kids to succeed. Small behavioral issues can lead to bigger problems that can derail a young person’s life. Finding acceptable ways to cope can be a challenge.

An opportunity arose when the Weavers of Char-Lee brought the historic Newcomb Loom to the center, along with a few of their members to teach youth in the teen program the art of weaving. With a grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the program took off. Smaller, individual looms were purchased to allow students to work on projects like bracelets, belts and cell phone bags, while making bigger items with the large loom.

Always looking for ways to make money, the teens anticipated selling the products they made and learning a little about business. Their first lesson came as they realized how long it takes to make each item. In addition to classes about finance, they learned about different types of businesses when professionals from the community came and spoke to students about their careers. During a business tour one Saturday, students visited different types of businesses, and had the opportunity to ask the owners questions. “We learned that there are different business models. Some require a lot of money to get started, and others just require a computer,” noted 15-year old weaving student, Carisma.

All of the 20 students involved in the program learned a new skill, and had the opportunity to express their creativity. In addition to spending time with the ladies from the weaving group, students participated in events, demonstrating how to weave, and interacting with the public. These activities helped students gain communication skills and confidence speaking with different types of people.

“You can have classes and help with homework,” said Quality Life Center instructor Shari Armstrong, “but having some time to bond, to talk without an agenda, is crucial to make a difference. They know people care; they feel loved.” This project showed how three organizations worked together to turn stressful circumstances into opportunities to build strength and character.

About Quality Life Center of Southwest Florida
Quality Life Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization transforming the community by developing the potential of underserved populations in Southwest Florida through early learning and youth development programs, including afterschool and teen and summer camp programs. “The Q” is celebrating 25 years of instilling values of discipline, integrity and self-sufficiency. Quality Life Center is headquartered in Fort Myers, Florida. For more information, call (239) 334-2797 or visit http://www.qualitylifecenter.org.

About the SWFL Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $61.2 million to date in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com

Hope for the Future

Hope for the Future

by Rev. Robert V. Selle, CEO, Amigos en Cristo d.b.a. Amigos Center
2015 grantee of the SWFL Community Foundation

This summer, as the SWFL Community Foundation gears up for the next competitive grant cycle, we have asked our 2015 grantees to send us their stories. Here this week we learn from Pastor Selle, Amigos Center. The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change makers. If you have ideas and hope for the future, we’d love to hear from you at info@floridacommunity.com or @SWFLCFnd on Twitter.

Imagine waking up each morning knowing that your life is terrible and filled with fear with no hope for a solution in the future! That’s the realization faced by many immigrant women living in our community and suffering domestic abuse but not reporting it to the authorities for fear of being deported and separated from their children who often remain with the abuser.

Amigos Center has partnered with Abuse, Counseling & Treatment (ACT), SWFL Community Foundation, United Way, and the Bridge Fund to start a new program named “Esperanza Para el Futuro” (Hope for the Future). In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act. Part of that program provides for a U Visa that removes the fear of deportation for women suffering domestic abuse (and other crimes) by authorizing them to temporarily live and work legally in the USA. After 3 years they can request permanent residency and work authorization and continue on their pathway towards citizenship. They earn these benefits by cooperating with authorities to prosecute the perpetrators.

Lindsay Ray, Amigos Center staff attorney since March 2015, is experienced in legal matters of domestic abuse and prepares the necessary and complicated documentation required by US Customs & Immigration Services to give these women “hope for the future.” ACT refers qualified victims after they’ve gone thru counseling and SWFL Community Foundation, United Way, and the Bridge Fund have provided startup financing. Amigos Center’s services are especially important since Florida Equal Justice, the not for profit agency formerly providing these services, was forced to close 1 1/2 years ago due to lack of funds. Now, the only alternative to Amigos Center’s service is an expensive law firm who may charge $5-10,000 or more–money these women don’t have.

Quoting a recent victim/client (upper profile and name withheld for protection) who asked Pastor Selle, Amigos Center CEO, “Please say a prayer for these documents which give me hope that I’ll finally achieve my American dream. I love this country!”

To find out more about the program or to offer your financial or other assistance, please visit the web site at www.amigoscenter.org. You’ll also find information on other AC ministries including Family & Country Based Immigration, English as a Second Language, Food Pantry, Clothing Pantry, and Plantings of Lutheran Immigrant Churches.

About the SWFL Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $61.2 million to date in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com

Dr. Badia joins Southwest Florida Community Foundation board

Dr. Badia joins Southwest Florida Community Foundation board

Anais Aurora Badia, MD has joined the board of directors of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.

A board certified dermatologist, Dr. Badia opened Florida Skin Center in July 2001, just after completing her dermatology training in Albany, N.Y. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami, a doctorate of osteopathic medicine from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, and a doctorate of medicine from University of Health Sciences Antigua School of Medicine. She completed her pediatric residency and a pediatric dermatology mini fellowship at Miami Children’s Hospital, and a dermatology residency at Albany Medical College. She is board certified by the American Osteopathic Board of Dermatology.

Dr. Badia sits on the national osteopathic pediatric dermatology certification board. She has been recognized locally with the Hispanic Affairs Advisory Board Volunteer of the Year and nationally with the Congressional Medal of Distinction. She is a regular lecturer at the Miami Children’s Hospital Pediatric Postgraduate Course and is a national speaker for the American Association of Anti-Aging Medicine. She also lectures nationally and locally on a variety of dermatology topics and is published in leading dermatology and pediatric journals.

As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided $61.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

CAUSE & EFFECT: MAY 2015

CAUSE & EFFECT: MAY 2015

May 2015

Sustainability &

Summer Planning

As our scholarship recipients prepare for college, and the events “season” calendar takes a rest, the otherwise blank squares on my Outlook calendar are filling up because I am back on the Listening Tour to all corners of SWFL.

In April the Foundation made an agreement with the Lee County Board of Commissioners to acquire the Sustainability Plan and although sustainability is in the fabric of all we do at the Foundation I know there is much to discover on this topic.

I am already learning a great deal from members of the Foundation team who have worked for years asking countless rooms full of people what sustainability means. Early on the answer was always different. Today the answer is becoming more consistent with some variation of “meeting today’s needs without compromising the needs of future generations.”

So when I call, I hope you’ll answer, and if you have some thoughts on sustainability in our region, I would love to hear from you!  Just click here, because I am listening, and I always  will.

 

 

         Save these

     Important Dates

Prima Donor Reception -
July 16
Women’s Legacy
Fund Fall Luncheon-October 22
Traveling this summer?

 

As seasonal residents go back north and our year-round friends head out on vacation, we have been busy helping them with what we call “letters of request & direction,” it’s often one of the last pieces of an estate plan.  While your will may direct how to handle your assets to benefit your heirs after you are gone, you can also plan your philanthropy and your legacy quite specifically.

 

It is something that doesn’t require an attorney as long as you have  some language in your will to express a desire to give, and you can change your wishes at any time  Questions? Please call us at 239-274-5900, we can share some examples and help to guide you.

 

It’s Scholarship Season 
More than $500,000 will help 98 students thanks to our donors and volunteer readers
 
Leah, shown here, is just one of 1,221 students to apply for a 2015 Community Foundation scholarship. More than $500,000 will be divided among 98 students this year, and for some students up to 4 years.

Over 100 volunteer readers helped to review the applications assuring the criteria was met and scoring the submissions. (Thank you, readers!!)

“We offer scholarships for vocational students, and not just for attendance at colleges and universities thanks to our donors,” said Sarah Owen, President & CEO of the SWFL Community Foundation. “As we work closer with FutureMakers Coalition and our donors, we are able to shift the way scholarships are granted to better benefit the student’s ability to not only access schooling, but to complete it.”

 

To view the 2015 list of recipients for the scholarships, click here.

 

 

Scholarships Support Student Success

From homeless to helping others

 

  

Yajaida Vasquez, ARNP,

helps others in the community because our community helped her achieve her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner.

Read her story and see why she says, “I was supposed to be a statistic.”

Click here to watch a short video of her story and those who helped her help herself and her son and daughter.

 

Women’s Legacy Fund
Contributors Dive Deeper into Issues
 
It  was a virtual “who’s who” list of concerned SWFL women who, as contributors to the Women’s Legacy Fund, gathered this month to explore the needs of women and girls in our region as told by the end-users themselves.  The SWFL Community Foundation’s program evaluator Dr. Cindy Banyai met with female students and mothers throughout Southwest Florida to learn what really is going on in our region from their perspective. 
 
The research revealed the cause areas for the 2015 WLF grant focus:
  • Youth programs for girls
  • Increased access to goods & services in neighborhoods
  • Safety for women & girls

During the WLF spring luncheon, the topics were discussed, debated and brought forth for vote.  The WLF grants committee will tally the votes and seek nonprofits serving that the specific area and request proposals for the $30,000 grant.  The winner will be announced and the check presented at the Fall WLF Luncheon on Oct. 22. Save the date!

Want to become a contributor?  Simply click here to make a $250 contribution.  Half will go directly to next year’s 2016 grant and half will go to endowment so that we can provide for women and children in Southwest Florida in perpetuity.

 

Calling all Angels

A beautiful way to honor someone special

 

Angel art by Ellen Sheppard

We know there are angels among us, just click here and you can see a whole gallery of Women’s Legacy Fund angels, beautiful women who have been honored or memorialized here.

With a gift to the WLF endowment fund, you or a group of your friends or family can honor your angel.

Check out their stories and click here to nominate your own angel.  Angels will be honored at WLF fall luncheons or privately with a special angel certificate and letter from the Foundation.

 

Regional champions gather to share and assess the work currently being done in the region

 

Action Teams at Work


FutureMakers Coalition has sprung into action with the first of many Action Team meetings.  The group divided up into teams specific to their area of work:

  • Aspiration/Preparation
  • Acces/Entry
  • Persistence/Progress
  • Completion

To get involved, click here and sign the wall on the FutureMakers website, or call Tessa LeSage at 239-274-5900.

 

Art Exhibits Bloom in Community Hub

 

Irma Backelant, Diane Dowthitt and Tracey Owen-Cullimore

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation hosted its spring art exhibit reception, featuring work from the PanAmerican Alliance for Art, Culture and Industry this month. Click here to see reception photos.

Part of the 2014-2015 Art & Community exhibition series, the exhibit included more than 45 art pieces of varied mediums such as pastels, watercolor, acrylics, jewelry and more from Irma Backelant, Elizabeth Jaramillo, Jefferson Jones, Annie St. Martin and more. The exhibit will run through May 28 and is available for public viewing hours Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule a tour, call Kim Williams at the Community Foundation office at 239-274-5900.

Wait til you see what we have planned for next season! A one-woman show with Barbara Yeomans and an exhibition by photographer Brian Teitz.  Stay tuned for details.