For Third Straight Year, Sarasota County Schools Lead State in Pell Grant Pursuit

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The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, a collective impact team of local organizations focused on increasing college and credential attainment in Sarasota County, announces that the Sarasota County School District has been recognized as having the highest FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) completion rate in the state, according to the Florida College Access Network (FCAN). This is the third year in a row that Sarasota County has been named number one in the state for “Large Districts” in FCAN’s annual Florida FAFSA Challenge.

2018 FAFSA Photo 1

Completing the FAFSA is the first step to accessing financial aid for college, as well as a leading indicator of college attendance. But research indicates that Florida high school graduates leave behind over $100 million in federal Pell Grants alone by not completing the form. Through targeted efforts developed by Talent4Tomorrow in partnership with the school district, 47.8% of Sarasota County high school seniors completed the FAFSA as of March 31, 2018. According to FCAN, the incremental increase in FAFSA completion over the last two years has resulted in approximately $800,000 in additional Pell grants available for Sarasota County graduates to pursue their higher-education goals, with the average student award approximately $4,000.

“The Talent4Tomorrow initiative demonstrates an example of a true collaboration between a broad range of organizations coming together for a common goal – the future of our community’s youth.  The Chamber believes strongly in this alliance and the outcomes are a testament to the strength and commitment that the partners bring to the table,” said Kevin Cooper, President of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce which serves as the ‘backbone’ organization for Talent4Tomorrow.

Innovative Strategies

Talent4Tomorrow partners worked with the District to implement several strategies that assisted graduating high school seniors and their families with completing the financial aid form. Talent4Tomorrow hosted FAFSA labs at high schools, with support from local college financial aid officers and other community volunteers, to assist students and their parents in the application process. It also implemented a communications plan to raise awareness about FAFSA that included flyers, text messages, emails, classroom visits, morning announcements, outreach to youth-serving partners and the faith-based community, press releases, and social media posts.

2018 FAFSA Photo 2

The Partnership developed some new techniques this year, such as the innovative use of Snapchat geofilters, introduced by CareerEdge Funders Collaborative and piloted at Booker High School. A geofilter is similar to a frame or sticker that can go on a Snapchat photo and is shared with the user’s friends. An organization or individual pays to have the filter available in Snapchat for a specific location and period of time. With approval from the school, the electronic FAFSA lab filter was made available in the cafeteria for the students. On lab day alone, the filter was swiped by 367 students, and 64 of them posted these framed photos on their account, which resulted in 2,900 views of the FAFSA filter.

According to FCAN, Booker High School had the second-highest completion rate improvement in the District compared to last year, with a 9% increase.  The Snapchat strategy was seen as a positive application of a platform used by students daily. The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership plans to expand the use of this social media tool next year and will continue to look for ways to engage and connect with students on the value of completing the FAFSA.

Support for these programs and events comes from Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation, and Community Foundation of Sarasota County, with matching funds from the Florida Philanthropic Network through its College Access & Success Initiative (CASI), which is supported by the Helios Education Foundation and The Kresge Foundation.

More information about FCAN and the FAFSA Challenge Winners is available here.


About the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership

Talent4Tomorrow was launched by the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce in 2013 to cultivate a competitive regional workforce by developing a talent pipeline for area students to enter local jobs that are in high demand. Initially a broad-based regional business and education collaborative, it has since sharpened its focus on improving college attainment for Sarasota County youth. It serves as Sarasota’s “Local College Access Network,” or LCAN, coordinating the diverse efforts of a team of community partners to increase college and career preparation, access, and completion. It is one of nine such regional groups, representing 22 counties, aligned with the statewide Florida College Access Network (FCAN). Leadership of the collaborative includes the following organizations: Charles and Margery Barancik Foundation, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Sarasota County School District, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. Additionally, more than 30 other nonprofits, businesses, and educational institutions participate as implementation partners, making it possible to deliver programs and services to students and their families.

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Reimagining the Sarasota Bayfront

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Reimagining the Sarasota Bayfront

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The Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO) is working to fulfill the community’s vision for a blue and green oasis – a connected and culturally vibrant waterfront – created for and open to everyone as a lively new gathering space. After 5 years of public input from Sarasota residents, The Bay is now on its way to becoming an exciting destination where local residents can meet up.

We’re working on a plan – right now!

SBPO is leading the creation of a comprehensive, long-term master plan for our one-of-a-kind Bayfront that delivers on your expectations with a plan that is financially feasible, operationally do-able, and environmentally sustainable. A plan that delivers on your expectations and the adopted Community Vision and Guiding Principles below.

Over 3,000 community residents have weighed in so far with their ideas about what should happen at The Bay.

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What’s Next?

Join the Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO) in April as Sasaki shares three design options for The Bay’s future! These options build on community feedback in February and the desired future activities along The Bay. Though each design will be different, all three will combine nature and environment, arts and culture, and recreation and boating opportunities into one spectacular place that is welcoming to all.

April Public Open House Times with Sasaki Design Team:

  • Robert L Taylor Community Complex – 1845 John Rivers St (Formerly 1845 34th St) Tuesday, April 17, 2018
    5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
  • Van Wezel Grand Foyer – 777 North Tamiami Trail
    Wednesday, April 18, 2018
    8:30 AM – 10:30 AM or 11:30 AM – 1:30 PM
  • Herald-Tribune Community Forum – Sarasota Orchestra Hall
    Wednesday, April 18, 2018
    5:30 PM – 7:00 PM

It’s Not About Voting for a Winner…

The purpose of the upcoming meetings is to share the three options and gather your input about which aspects of each appeal to you as well as feedback about what is missing. It’s not about voting for a winner; we will take all your feedback and use it to create a desired master plan for the site. The draft plan will be shared at the next community meetings in late May and will incorporate ideas from the different options.

Tell Us What You Want!

Like the February meetings, we will also launch an online survey with identical questions you’ll see at the open houses. The survey will close on April 27, 2018.
We hope to see you in April! Please help spread the word to your friends and neighbors, too.

How You Can Be a Part of It

  • Learn more about The Bay opportunity: www.thebaysarasota.org
  • Share your ideas: Attend our April open houses and tell us what you think
  • Attend SBPO Board Meetings (1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month)
  • Participate in community get-togethers and meetings
  • Help us schedule speakers for events and meetings to share news
  • Join in the dialogue via www.TheBaySarasota.org and on social media
  • Volunteer as we partner with other organizations on Bayfront events
  • Any combination of the above!

Contact The Sarasota Bayfront Planning Organization (SBPO) with any additional ideas or if you have any questions: info@thebaysarasota.org.

 

Sarasota Chamber Reaffirms Focus on Education and Workforce with Development of Chief Workforce Strategist Position

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce has announced the hire of Mireya Eavey to fill the newly created role of Chief Workforce Strategist. The hire reaffirms The Chamber’s long-standing strategic posture to support education and workforce development in the community. In her role with The Chamber, Eavey will greatly broaden and expand the organization’s education and workforce support programming.

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“This is an exciting and logical extension of the many years of work we, as an organization and community, have invested in,” said Chamber President|CEO Kevin Cooper. “If I could have chosen anyone to further The Chamber’s efforts in this area, it would have been Mireya. I hope our membership and the community-at-large is just as excited as I am.”

Prior to joining The Chamber, Eavey was Sarasota Area President for United Way Suncoast where she provided strategic and operational direction for all Sarasota and DeSoto area United Way community programs. During her tenure with United Way Suncoast, Eavey maintained her service as managing the team of CareerEdge Funders Collaborative. In the capacity of her new position with The Chamber, Eavey will continue her leadership role with CareerEdge, to provide an exceptional labor force to the region’s growing industries by leveraging community assets and forming high-performing workforce partnerships.

Career Edge

Said Mireya Eavey, “I grew up in Sarasota County, raised my family, pursued my career, and have advocated for both workforce and economic improvement for the community. To work in a formal capacity alongside The Chamber team, where I’ll support a thriving workforce community is not only my passion, I feel it is my purpose.”


For more information or questions on the integration of CareerEdge and the addition of Mireya, please contact Kevin Cooper at kcooper@sarasotachamber.com.

5 Ways to Market Your Business for the Holiday Season

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and the time is now to make sure you get the most of your marketing efforts to help secure sales success in the coming months. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to help get you started.

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Social Media Contests

If your small business has a social media presence, contests on Facebook and Twitter are often a popular way highlight your brand and engage with customers, reminding them that your product or service is available – and a potentially great gift idea. With a few rules, a clever hashtag and incentive such as a prize or discount on your offerings, you can drum up excitement about – and draw people in to – your business.

Extra Appeal for Your Loyal Customers

Take this time to make your loyal customers feel extra special – it may come back to you by way of additional business and referrals. Without breaking the bank, you can provide special offers, sneak previews, free shipping or secret sales.

Special Events or Open Houses

Make your small business stand out by hosting an open house or special event at your store or restaurant. Use it to showcase holiday season gifts, menus and merchandise so customers can get a glimpse of your seasonal goods in advance. Pair the browsing with light refreshments – a mug of hot cocoa or a glass of cider – to get people in the holiday spirit. On their way out, give a special offer or coupon that invites customers back to make their purchases at a discount.

Holiday Help

This is a great idea from Illana Bercovitz at Small Business Trends: use social media to offer helpful tips during a stressful holiday season. Consider your industry, product or service and related advice you could offer to make customers’ lives easier. “Everyone appreciates useful advice and your customers will thank you for pushing content that makes their holidays slightly less stressful,” Bercovitz says. Use an original hashtag to maintain brand awareness across platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Email

Although it’s often considered overused, email remains inexpensive and easy to implement when it comes to maintaining contact with existing customers. That’s a key to remember – to be effective, email marketing should be used with folks you have already done business with or who have expressed an interest in your business and have requested email from you (otherwise known as permission marketing).

Keep these tips in mind if you plan to use email to support your holiday marketing efforts:

  • Keep the e-mail short and sweet. Link directly to the content of interest so you make the process as easy as possible for your customers.
  • Clearly state the email’s intent in the subject line. For example, “A Special Offer Just for You. Thanks for Your Business in 2018.”
  • Be festive in your design. Appeal to the sights of the season with a special design for the holidays.
  • Follow online marketing rules. Don’t forget that online marketing is regulated, so whatever tactics you employ be sure to follow government guidelines that apply to list management, SPAM and other guidelines.

For more great holiday marketing insight, check out this recent post from guest blogger Rieva Lesonsky, “Start Now to Plan Your Holiday Retail Marketing Campaign.


kmurray

About the Author:

Katie MurrayContributor and Moderator
I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I’ll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

MEMBER TIP MONDAY: 4 TIPS TO MAKE YOUR BUSINESS MORE LIKEABLE

LikeablePeople buy from people they know, like, and trust. While you might be in the right place at the right time when someone is up against it, and they may buy from you once without knowing, liking, or trusting you, for them to return, you’ll need more than luck.

Know and trust generally come along when you establish yourself as a likeable business with a human behind it. It’s difficult for people to like you if they don’t trust you, unless you’re a villain and then being untrustworthy is your business. For most of us, that is not the case. You can’t like someone you don’t remember, so let’s get to work on establishing the like part of the sales equation.

Share Your Reason

Think of how filmmakers or storytellers get us to like the main character. One of the ways is that they place him on a quest, or up against a challenge, that we want him to succeed in. Often it’s one we identify with. Share your reason for doing what you do. There’s probably someone in your audience or potential audience who can identify with your convictions and story. Passion is contagious.

Find Commonalities

In order to find commonalities, you need to share things about yourself outside of your business and how it came to be. Share your likes, be positive. Share what you love about your community or your love for bacon. Be genuine and people who see your social media posts or read your content, will begin to identify with what you’re sharing. They’ll jump in and say “me too” and you’re one step closer to getting them to like you.

Ask Questions

If they’re in your store or business ask them their opinion on something and really listen to their answer. On social media ask what they think or what their preferences are. Involve them in your rebranding by crowdsourcing some of your marketing decisions. People like being involved and if you really listen to, and then act on, their advice, they’ll remember it and like you more because they see you as someone who values what they think. That’s all a lot of us are looking for.

Anticipate Your Customers’ Needs

As a business you are in a position to help, whether it’s helping someone look better, feel better, be entertained, or whatever it is you do for your customers. But you are also in a position to solve problems or answer questions. Use your content and social media to help customers with problems they face in their lives. If you run a boutique, you can create posts about unique gifts for the women in your life. If you are a CPA create helpful checklists of things people should track throughout the year for effortless taxes. Be helpful. Anticipate what your customers need and then give it to them. If they know they can count on you, they will return again and again.

In today’s competitive market place it’s hard for your product alone to set you apart. Often it’s the things behind your product that will help you make a name for yourself. It’s the service, personality, and assistance you provide. These are the things that make people like you and they are also what keeps people coming back.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.comand the Event Manager’s Blog.  She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.

Sarasota County Wins State FAFSA Completion Award

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The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is proud to announce that Sarasota County Schools has won four awards for highest FAFSA completion rate in the state from the 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge, a campaign to increase the proportion of high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Through leading local efforts made by the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, 45.5% by Sarasota County high school seniors have completed the FAFSA. This is a 9.1% change over the previous application year, which equates to an estimated additional $513,180 in Pell grants awarded to Sarasota County students. Additionally, the Florida College Access Network (Florida CAN) has awarded Sarasota with the following honors:

  • Sarasota County Schools–“MVP for Large School District” (Having the highest FAFSA completion rate through March 31st, 2017)
  • Riverview High School–“Biggest Boost for Large Schools” (Largest week-to-week change in percentage of students completing the FAFSA)
  • All-Stars”—(Achieving an increase of FAFSA completion by at least 5% over last year):
  • Sarasota County School District
  • Suncoast Polytechnical High School
  • Sarasota Military Academy
  • Booker High School
  • Venice Senior High School
  • Sarasota High School
  • North Port High School
  • Riverview High School

 

FAFSA Awards 2017-edit
Talent4Tomorrow Partners and Sarasota County School District Officials accepting the award for “MVP for Large School District”

 

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership is a community collaborative known as a “Local College Access Network”, and consists of CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Schools, UnidosNow, and United Way Suncoast. The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership seeks to increase career awareness and postsecondary attainment through increased college and career awareness, aspiration, and affordability initiatives. Kevin Cooper, President of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce stated, “Every dollar counts when it comes to accessing post-secondary education.  When we come together, focus together, and lead together, it’s gratifying to see results getting our students one step closer to where they and we want them to be.  This is a truly great example of leadership through collaboration.”

The Talent4Tomorrow Partnership has spent several months planning and executing FAFSA awareness and support activities, including FAFSA completion assistance during community- and school-based events. Community volunteers as well as financial aid officers from Ringling College of Art & Design, State College of Florida, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, and Keiser University assisted families of high school seniors in completing the FAFSA form at North Port High School, Booker High School, and Sarasota High School, as well as community-based FAFSA events and United Way Suncoast VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs.

According to the Florida College Access Network, less than half of all eligible Sarasota County high school students in 2012-2013 completed the FAFSA form, thus leaving over $2 million in Pell Grant dollars untapped. 59% of Florida students in 2013 were eligible to receive a Pell Grant, which awards up to $5,815 a year per student.


For more information regarding the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, contact Mimi Cirbusova at mcirbusova@sarasotachamber.com or (941) 556-4038.

From the Chair’s Corner: Small Business is Big Business

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is committed to the support of business in

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Chair | George McGonagill | Questar Construction

the greater Sarasota region. As is common in most communities, your Chamber is certainly reflective of the community that invests in it. For Sarasota, that means that your Chamber is comprised mainly of businesses that carry less than 75 full-time employees. In fact, 80% of your membership is made up of those businesses.

Having worked for one of the largest employers in the region, Sarasota County Schools, and now as an entrepreneur with a small business, Questar Construction, I can say with certainty that the Chamber strongly supports the full spectrum of business sizes here in our area. However, it is the small business that drives so much of the economic engine in Sarasota and within your Chamber. It may come as a surprise to many that more than 60% of businesses in the United States have less than five employees. Furthermore, over 30% of workers in the United States are employed by businesses with less than 100 employees.

To be certain, regardless of size, business isn’t an easy endeavor. However, it is the small-business start-up that perhaps best embodies the spirit of entrepreneurialism. Roughly half of all small businesses will close within their first four years. That alone may speak to the importance of community support for small business. Those making the trek forward are our friends, family, and neighbors. It is critical for all layers of the community to support their efforts in hopes that our half is the half that succeeds, that our community be the place where small business beats the average. That’s not just something that would be nice, it is something we should strive for.

The Chamber is focused on promoting, supporting, and connecting the small businesses in our region. We are proud to include our annual Small Business Awards as a bridge across the entire spectrum of activities within those areas of focus. As we look to celebrating excellence in the small business community, I am always reminded of the fact that small business is big business in Sarasota. While your Chamber takes the opportunity to award small business excellence one day each year, it provides support for those businesses non-stop, all year long.

George McGonagill

Chair of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors

President of Questar Construction, Inc.


The 2017 Frank G. Berlin, Sr. Small Business Awards will take place on Friday, June 2 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota. The event is presented by The Herald-Tribune Media Group.

Save Your Seat for Small Business Awards!