NEWS

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap

by Juana Brown, Director of Charter School for RCMA (Redlands Christian Migrant Association)

The room was already filling up with first grade parents when Mrs. Sanchez arrived. She sported the standard attire of soiled jeans, long sleeve shirt and a loosely knotted kerchief around her neck worn by most farm workers. She greeted Miss Wise and Miss Drago, the first grade teachers, apologizing for her lateness and took her seat among the thirty six other first grade parents. It was a full house. Mrs. Sanchez chatted with several parents and shared how Marby, her first grader, had been reminding her of this important meeting for several days, suggesting that she write it on the calendar so she wouldn’t forget. As the teachers stepped up to the front of the room, several staff members began to distribute the IPads to each family.

Mrs. Sanchez had been very nervous about the evening’s training; after all, like most participants she had never used a computer or accessed the internet.  When the teachers explained how the IPads would be a way for her to help Marby at home and reinforce what he learned at school, she was determined to do her best.  First step was opening the cover, the second step was turning it on; by the end of the evening her group of parents had even managed to use the camera to video themselves.

When she asked what would happened if she forgot all of this at home, Miss Drago assured her that Marby was a very good teacher and would be more than glad to help.

This important ritual has marked the beginning of the school year for first and second grade students and their families at RCMA’s Immokalee Community School for the last three years. In this small rural school, notable for serving children of working poor agricultural families, parents and students are learning together through a unique program facilitated by the use of IPad minis.

This program helps foster a link between home and school by enlisting parents in support of students at home using concrete activities with built in accountability. Students take the devices home and work on reading skills introduced, modeled and practiced in the classroom. Parents work alongside students using reading strategies and IPad skills learned in the workshops. The process is videoed by a student or parent for viewing by teachers the next day.

One surprising effect of this process has been the frequent sighting on the videos of siblings joining in and participating in the learning activity. Zaida, Marby’s five year old sister, is one of the most frequent sightings.

As the school year drew to a close Mrs. Sanchez and Marby each had a request. Marby wanted to continue using his device in second grade. Mrs. Sanchez wanted to continue participating in the technology workshops.

With continued support from partners like the SWFL Community Foundation, RCMA can say “yes” to these requests and help bridge the opportunity gap for students like Marby and their families.

 

RCMA has been serving migrant and low-income families in rural, agricultural communities in 21 Florida Counties, including Collier County, for over fifty years. We provide child development, education, and family services to children as young as six weeks through a range of programs. Our Immokalee Community School, a Title 1 school, serves 246 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and 200 students in the out-of-school time and summer programs. We also provide a series of support services for families, including workshops and training to help them grow their skills as their children’s first educator and advocate. To learn more about how you can support our work call (239) 658-3560 or visit www.rcma.org.

This summer and fall, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida 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 $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund to hold fall luncheon

Community Foundation’s Women’s Legacy Fund to hold fall luncheon

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Sept. 21, 2016) – The Women’s Legacy Fund will host its fall luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 11:15 a.m. at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club located at 18061 Miromar Lakes Parkway. The theme of the lunch is “Encouraging Girls to Go For It: Career Exploration for Young Women & Girls.”

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.

Speakers will include Captain Diane Meyers and IT Programs Manager Denise Spence who will share their common journey in nontraditional careers.

Among their many other accomplishments, Meyers was the first female U.S. airline pilot to fly routes for a Turkish airline, and Spence has been recognized with the distinguished “Woman in Technology Award.” These two trailblazers will share their passion for encouraging camaraderie among women and will help the WLF’s grant focus to give career confidence to girls.

Denise SpenceDiane Meyers in cockpit

The luncheon will also feature the 2016 WLF grant check presentation and an Angels Tribute

In just nine years of existence, the WLF has been able to provide more than $122,000 in grants to benefit people and communities in Southwest Florida. Currently, the Fund has $547,000 in endowment that will continue to help fund local issues now and in the future.

The event is for contributors to the fund, WLF Prima Donors and women who are interested in making a difference in their community.

Contributors to the WLF give a minimum of $250 each year ($100 for women younger than 25). 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.

To purchase a ticket, visit click here or contact Sydney Roberts at 239-274-5900 by Oct. 6.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. 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 $93 million, it has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

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

Connecting People with Plants and Beyond

Connecting People with Plants and Beyond

by Renee Waller, Communications Coordinator, Naples Botanical Garden

At Naples Botanical Garden, we strive to not only connect people with plants, but also to inspire and offer barrier-free access to the pleasures of the garden experience. Gardening, after all, is about so much more than plant knowledge. The act of gardening requires patience, problem-solving skills, and physical activity; gardening in a shared space with other people necessitates teamwork and cooperation.  Nowhere are these qualities more evident than in the Buehler Family Foundation Enabling Garden, a space uniquely designed to allow people of all abilities to participate in the art of gardening.

The Buehler Enabling Garden is the site for a collaborative program that brings together teachers and students from Collier County Public Schools. The pre-vocational program aims to educate, engage, and empower high school students with special needs and ease the difficult transition into adulthood.  Each week throughout the year, students work together to tend the Garden while gaining the ‘come to work’ skills necessary to gain employment after graduation. The students, working together as a team, design, plant, cultivate, and harvest the garden’s fertile beds. Vital life skills such as creative problem solving, teamwork and leadership, socially appropriate behaviors, and increased self-esteem have resulted from this program; these skills represent a higher level of learning, as they not only follow students back to the classroom by improving test scores and academic dedication, but also follow them home to instill feelings of self-efficacy and personal wellness.

Students in one session this year were given the challenge of designing and building an herb garden in a small space.  Given a list of materials and an area to bring their plan to life, the students set about finding a solution.  Their design, an herb spiral, was based on a project they learned about earlier in the year.  When building the spiral, students worked in an assembly line to layer bricks which increased in height as the spiral got tighter in the middle. One student, Wilson, took on the role of a creative problem solver when the group prematurely ran out of bricks. He stepped forward as the leader, instructing his classmates how to rearrange the existing bricks to complete the spiral. Another student, JP, climbed into the garden bed to stack bricks on the hard to reach places. Jimmy and Rosa then passed him the bricks he needed to work in the middle.  The students worked as a team to fill the spiral with soil, then learned about different herbs before each planting one. This session required the group to come together to creatively solve a problem.  The challenge offered students the opportunity to use the vocational and social skills learned in the program.

 

This is just one of many examples of the unique work being done to further our mission, empower lives, and improve the quality of life in our community. Through the grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Garden is growing this partnership with schools and local service providers to significantly expand our pre-vocational programs.

 

 

This summer and fall, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida 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 $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

 

FutureMakers hosts annual Champions Breakfast

FutureMakers hosts annual Champions Breakfast

Goal to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce

FORT MYERS, Fla. (Sept. 20, 2016) – More than 100 attendees recently gathered at Six Bends Harley-Davidson in Fort Myers for the FutuerMakers Coalition’s annual Champions Breakfast, part of a Southwest Florida partnership committed to transforming the regional economy by increasing post-secondary completion.

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with high-quality degrees, certificates and other credentials to 40 percent by the year 2025.

With the help of Lumina Foundation and its coaches, the Champions Team plays a pivotal role in the Coalition’s success. Team members include regional leaders from education, economic development, business and government who have the ability to create a stronger workforce and vibrant economy by improving cradle-to-career opportunities for students, offering job training and certifications, employee educational incentives and more.

“The Champions Team members are key leaders and influencers who, together, have the opportunity to help shift the culture and conversation in Southwest Florida,” said Sarah Owen, president and CEO of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the backbone organization for FutureMakers Coalition.

According to Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, this year’s breakfast was held to bring together the Champions Team members so they could better understand what collective leadership means to the success of the Coalition, contribute to the interpretation of the data and identify opportunities, and contribute to moving the effort forward.

The meeting included presentations on the cradle-to-career pathway, aligning workforce demand and post-secondary pathways, and a look forward through data.

Regional outcomes of the FutureMakers Coalition include:

Aspiration and Preparation: Increase percentage of students ready to enter kindergarten

Access and Entry: Increase Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates

Progress and Persistence: Increase business-education partnerships

Completion: Increase number of local post-secondary graduates placed in jobs in the region

Southwest Florida is one of 75 metropolitan areas working alongside Lumina Foundation to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide while increasing the number of working-age adults with degrees and certifications.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit www.FutureMakersCoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected].

Tessa LeSage and Dr Guido Minaya Sydney Roberts and Ashley Skalecki Susan McManus, Mary Beth Geier, Eileen Connolly-Keesler and Meredith McLean Susan McManus and Eric Berglund Sharon Bayata, Pat Riley and Sarah Owen Sharon Bayata, Kim Esworthy, Luis Solano and Lisa Church Mike Quaintance and Veronica Schell Megan Just and Jonathan Romine Mary Andrews and Arpi Solti Lisa Church, Dr Donald Wortham, Kevin Hunter and Peg Elmore Laura Neal, Kevin Hawk and Sara Jordan Kristin Zouras and Arpi Solti Kelly Thawley and Molly Chase Joy Mahler, Eileen Connolly-Keesler, Kamela Patton and Courtney Stahlman John Patrick Boland and Joe Paterno John Meyer, Jeff Gibbs and Larry Miller Gina Frazier, Denise Spence and Thais Kuoman future160915vm-5412 future160915vm-5410 Dr. Aysegul Timur and Gail Markham Dr. Aysegul Timur and Dr. Kevin Shriner Colleen DePasquale and Peg Elmore Tessa LeSage, Mary Andrews Tessa LeSage, Kevin Shriner, Mary Andrews Sharon Bayata, Kim Esworthy, Lisa Church Scott Bass, Sarah Owen, Marquese McFerguson Meg Just, Tessa LeSage Eric Berglund, Susan McManus, Jonathan Romine Aysegul Timur and Mike Quaintance

 

The Immokalee Foundation gives young readers the literacy boost they need to succeed

The Immokalee Foundation gives young readers the literacy boost they need to succeed

by Steven Kissinger, executive director of The Immokalee Foundation

 

When older students help younger students improve their reading skills, the impact is great on many levels. The Immokalee Foundation’s Immokalee Readers program has proven this for years.

Teachers recommend students in kindergarten through third grade who read below grade level, as well as those who have difficulty completing required skills, including initial sounds, alphabet recognition and sight words.

Those students who are recommended for the program enroll with their parents’ permission and, three days a week, work directly with high school-aged tutors until the young students’ skills are brought up to grade level.

Testing is done every nine weeks to evaluate progress in the achievement gaps identified by teachers. If students still need help, they remain in the program; those who have made sufficient progress continue learning with their regular classroom teachers.

The difference is usually obvious even without testing – just ask the young students’ mothers.

Mary Ramirez was understandably concerned when her youngest son, Isaiah Torres, didn’t talk much until first grade. Consequently, his English language skills lagged behind those of his classmates at Lake Trafford Elementary School.

After a short time working The Immokalee Foundation’s high school tutors, Torres caught up to his appropriate reading level. “Now, Isaiah comes home and tells me about how he works in a group and they read together, and he loves to read now,” Ramirez said. His tutor also was a role model and friend, and Ramirez noticed a boost in her son’s confidence level as a result.

The experience is rewarding for the older students, as well. “Being involved in Immokalee Readers has helped me develop my resume and opened my eyes to new experiences,” said Karina Estrada, who began tutoring when she was accepted into The Immokalee Foundation’s Take Stock in Children scholarship program her senior year at Immokalee High School.

Ulna Beaubrum finds tutoring personally satisfying, as well. “As young as I am, it is heartwarming to know I am playing the role of a leader, role model and teacher to students who are below the academic requirements,” she said.

Tutoring at school is particularly important because many Immokalee Readers students come from homes in which English is not the first language spoken, and it can be difficult for their parents to help with homework, said Marisol Sanders, program specialist for the nonprofit. Many of The Immokalee Foundation’s student tutors struggled with language skills themselves when they were younger, so they bring a personal understanding of their reading buddies’ situations.

Contributions from generous donors – along with a recent Community Impact Grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation – keep vital programs like Immokalee Readers lighting the way to brighter futures for Immokalee’s youth.

The Immokalee Foundation provides a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and post-secondary preparation and support, mentoring and tutoring, opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit www.immokaleefoundation.org.

 

This summer and fall, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida 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 $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

 

 

Southwest Florida Community Foundation opens grant cycle

Southwest Florida Community Foundation opens grant cycle

More than $500,000 available in grants

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation will open its 2016-2017 Community Impact Grant cycle with a call for innovative projects and programs. More than $500,000 is available for both established and new programs that are designed to increase the quality of life in sustainable and equitable ways for Southwest Floridians.

Based on its available Field of Interest funds, the Foundation’s Community Impact Grants provide strategic funding in the following areas:

  • Environment
  • Health, Safety & Animals
  • Education
  • Arts & Community Culture
  • Equity & Empowerment

A list of eligibility requirements can be found by reviewing the Grants Process for Community Impact Grants under the Grants page at www.floridacommunity.com.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2016. 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 $93 million, it has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.

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

 

Pre-school/Library Partnership for Success: Moving the Needle on Kindergarten Readiness

Pre-school/Library Partnership for Success: Moving the Needle on Kindergarten Readiness

by Ava Barrett, Director, Hendry County Library Cooperative

How do you change unfavorable educational ratings in a county? The Hendry County Library System believes the answer is “from the bottom up.” To this end, this library system started out on what has proven to be an adventurous, groundbreaking, and rewarding venture, including several pre-schools in the county.

One person who was tremendously impacted the program was teacher Deana, from a pre-school in Hendry County.  When Deana heard that the children in her pre-k class would be going to the library on a regular basis, she thought her role was to simply go to the library with her class, help each child pick up a few books and then return to the school. Her big concern however, was how in the world would they be able to get the students there? Walking was the only option but it was not an attractive one because the school is far from the library and she knew of no transportation for the weekly round trip.

She also knew all her students needed help with early literacy skills and were from homes where the library was the last thing on anyone’s mind.  So how would this work? The answer was provided by the library through a comprehensive network of community funding, partnerships, and volunteers that made Deana a participant in an exciting venture she confessed she will never forget. This is the story of how she, her students, and several other pre-school teachers and students throughout Hendry County were blessed.

Working with the directors of several pre-school programs throughout Hendry County, as well as directors of the Barron (LaBelle) and Harlem libraries, and me, we developed a three pronged approach to providing early learning experiences and learning for the students in the pre-schools, that was able to realize miracle after miracle for the children of these schools. It allowed schools in LaBelle that couldn’t come to the library to have the library come to them utilizing a mobile, computer lab. Schools in Clewiston were bussed to and from that library through a generous arrangement with the Good Wheels bus company at no cost to the library, and students from the school that shares a campus with the Harlem Library simply walked to that library. The results of these activities are amazing.

In the ABC Mouse program, every child that entered that program in the three libraries came out knowing not only the parts of the mouse but how to use that tool to solve problems in the reading classes by clicking, dragging, and dropping objects as instructed,   to develop literacy skills provided in the Lexia reading program. The result was 100% knowledge of basic computer skills and 68% of the children in the Lexia program experienced significant gains in the learning of literacy skills. Thus, this project accomplished far more that was expected which is truly phenomenal and ground breaking in this tiny part of Southwest Florida, where the library system seeks to help move the needle on kindergarten readiness. All this was only possible because of the generous grant we received from the SW Florida Community Foundation and because of the help we got from Good Wheels.

This summer and fall, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories.  The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers. 

About the Southwest Florida 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 $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.