02 Jan Dare to Dream
There is something about putting a bow on the year passed and getting a fresh start that always makes a new year exciting. It’s a time for imagining new goals that comes with a more attainable sense of “out with the old and in with the new” than any other during our 365-day trip around the sun.
These are feelings we associate with our calendars and time. The reality for most of us is that it is not easy to let go of the old to be able welcome the new. New Year’s Resolutions are hard to achieve because our pasts and routines often catch up to us, making it difficult to harness the opportunity of a new beginning and change our lives in big or even small ways.
This is particularly true for the next generation of workforce and leaders who are the graduating high school class of 2019. A growing number of Southwest Florida’s graduates face a rough road to getting the skills and training they need to get well-paying jobs, break the cycle of poverty and in many cases become the first in their families to earn a degree or certificate.
Two big pieces of work we do at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation provides a front-row seat to the challenges this year’s graduates are facing.
The first is our scholarship season, which kicks off at the beginning of each new year. There are few things more rewarding than reading applications from area students. They share their dreams and we have the opportunity to help many of them get one step closer to achieving their goals. At the same time, a growing number of these applications illustrate the enormity of challenges our local students have overcome and still face in their life-journey.
In partnership with the FutureMakers Coalition, we also see the graduation rates, FAFSA completion data, and the numbers of students accessing (or not) college or career school annually. We hear stories of struggle from the students themselves and FutureMakers partners from throughout the region who are working hard to give every student the opportunity to achieve their dreams, despite the odds.
What we know from this work combined is that the class of 2019 doesn’t necessarily believe they have what they need to achieve their dreams. As disheartening as that is, it creates the opportunity to change that narrative and make a difference.
With that in mind, the FutureMakers Coalition held its first Dream Summit for high school students with the goal of inspiring them to dream big. Students from all over the region arrived by bus and piled in to listen to Bobby Petrocelli, speaker, author, educator and coach, describe how he triumphed over devasting tragedy and his message of “You Matter. It Doesn’t.” The students received information about scholarship opportunities, the importance of FAFSA, and had an opportunity to speak to representatives from local universities and technical colleges.
We received positive feedback from the schools about the students’ response. Now we just need ensure those dreams don’t get toppled over like New Year’s Resolutions so often do — and you can help.
Spread the word that scholarships are open at the Southwest Florida Community Foundation (www.floridacommunity.com/scholarships) and on the SWFL Scholarship Connector, tell someone how important it is for their senior to complete the FAFSA and remind a student how much you believe in them.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com