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.

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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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Celebrate Outstanding Leadership Awards Honorees

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Leadership Sarasota County, a program of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, will host the annual Celebrate Outstanding Leadership Awards on Tuesday, May 8, at 11:30 a.m. at the new Art Ovation Hotel. Awards will honor influential graduates of the Leadership Sarasota County program in three categories: Lifetime of Leadership, Impact In Action, and Leadership Sarasota Dedication. The honorees were nominated by fellow Leadership Sarasota County Alumni members.

For reservations for the Celebrate Outstanding Leadership Awards Luncheon, click here or contact Barbara Hines, (941) 556-4026, if you have any questions.


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W.E. “CHIP” GAYLOR

Lifetime of Leadership Award Honoree

Chip Gaylor is a partner in the law firm of Muirhead, Gaylor, Steves, & Waskom P.A. He received his B.A. from Asbury College, his J.D. from the Washington College of Law at the American University and his LL.M. from the University of Miami Law School. He is a member of the Florida Bar Association and Sarasota County Bar Association and is a member of the Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section of both bar associations, and past Chair of the Sarasota County Bar section. He currently serves as President of the Sarasota County Bar Association.

Attorney Gaylor served on the Board of Directors of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Inc., and was Chair from 1995 to 1997. His law firm currently serves as general counsel to the Foundation. He joined the New College Library Association Board in 1998 and was elected President for two terms in 2000. In 2003 he was elected to the board of the New College Foundation and served until 2014. Continue reading “Celebrate Outstanding Leadership Awards Honorees”

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.

The Q Dash Scavenger Hunt: 5 Reasons to Join in the Fun

Sarasota’s most unique downtown scavenger hunt is back! The 2nd Annual Q Dash Scavenger Hunt, hosted by the Sarasota Young Professionals Group, will take place on Saturday, March 3, 2018, from 2-5 p.m. Teams of four will compete to decode clues and find landmarks throughout downtown Sarasota and earn points by posting on social media.

Wondering if you should join in on the fun? Here are 5 reasons why you’ll regret not signing up:

Compete for a Grand Prize package…and bragging rights.

            Teams earn points by decoding clues and discovering landmarks throughout the city. When teams find a correct landmark, they will post a photo on social media, which alerts our Q Dash judges to add points to their total score. The team with the most points will win a Grand Prize package of goodies from local businesses and organizations, including Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Escape Countdown, Bookstore1, Penzey’s Spices, and more! Even if you don’t win the Grand Prize, there are still opportunities to win prizes with the Judge’s Choice for Most Creative Photo, Best Team Costume, and Best Wrong Answer.

 

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“The Tape Players” team from Intertape Polymer Group hamming it up in the
2017 Q Dash Scavenger Hunt.

 

It’s a cheap, fun way to get your team out of the office and do some real team-building.

Looking to re-energize your staff and help them connect outside the office walls? The Q Dash is a wonderful team-building experience! Learn about your staff’s areas of strength and how they work together to solve problems in a new context, all while having FUN!

Being new to Sarasota can be an advantage.

            You might wonder it life-long Sarasotans will be more likely to find the landmarks, but that simply isn’t true. Q Dash Co-Chair, Andrea Knies, says “Having a diverse team really makes a big difference. Newcomers to the area will have fresh eyes, and spot things that those who grew up here easily overlook.”

 

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Team “Where the Wild Things Are” spot a mosaic in Burns Court

 

Discover a side of downtown you didn’t know.

The Q Dash is all about noticing. One of the common themes we heard from our participants last year was that they noticed interesting buildings, public art, and other quirky landmarks that they hadn’t before; even after walking past them hundreds of times. In the year since our first Q Dash Scavenger Hunt, we’ve added lots of new landmarks and expanded the bonus menu—keeping even the most seasoned Sarasotans on their toes!

 

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The “K2 Mountain Climbers” enjoying specialty cocktails at MeLange.

 

 

Sample food and drink at the Q Dash Pit Stops.

Need a break and time to re-strategize? Check in at one of our Pit Stops, like Louies Modern! Enjoy complimentary food and drinks while reviewing the Clue Book.


Register Here!

TEAMS OF 4 – $80

Contact Mimi Cirbusova, Q Dash Coordinator, for more information: mcirbusova@sarasotachamber.com or (941) 556-4038.

Your Chamber Focusing on Education & Workforce

Friday, February 2, was deemed unofficially, “Education & Workforce Day” at The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce as we hosted two separate events both focused on connecting students to the local business community to enlighten young talent of the job opportunities in the area.

Experience Engineering Luncheon

The first event was the 3rd Annual “Experience Engineering Luncheon” at Suncoast Technical College, where 125 high school juniors and seniors met with engineers from 22 local companies to discuss career and educational pathways into engineering. The engineers, ranging in areas of specialty, also brought examples of their company’s products, diagrams, and project plans to help illustrate how they solve problems with engineering.

“We are honored to help connect students with local employers to ensure a pipeline of future workforce talent, particularly in the high demand STEM-related fields,” shared The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce President, Kevin Cooper. “It’s through the power of partnerships with great organizations like CareerEdge and Sarasota County Schools that we are able to foster the next generation of innovators for Sarasota’s future.” Todd Bowden, Superintendent of Sarasota County Schools, advised the students at the beginning of the event, “We want you to be successful in college and in your engineering programs, but we also want you to come back when you graduate. Today is about seeing that there are great engineering careers right here in Sarasota.”

The event was hosted by the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, and Sarasota County Schools Career and Technical Education Program.


USFSM-Chamber Job Shadowing Event

The second event was a pilot program by USF Sarasota-Manatee and The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce to provide students with one-on-one, executive-level job-shadowing experiences with Chamber Board of Directors.

For two hours, 11 USFSM students “shadowed” local executives to learn the intricacies of their businesses, how they evolved through emerging technology, regulations and changing public attitudes, and, generally, what the executives do on a day-to-day basis.

After the session, the students and executives attended a lunch and networking event at The Chamber where the teams shared their views about the experience.

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The idea, according to Jay Riley, director of business development and engagement at USFSM, was to enhance the students’ education while providing “an authentic context” of the workplace.

Chamber President Kevin Cooper said one intention of the shadowing session was to convince students about the Sarasota-Manatee area’s many job opportunities.

“Awareness is a critical pathway to success,” he said. “We want students to be aware of the many opportunities present in Sarasota and employers to be aware of the homegrown talent emerging from our educational institutions.”

Both of these programs are examples of the ways your Chamber is connecting its members to the future workforce. Attracting and retaining talent in Sarasota is key to economic development and reducing the skills gap.

From the President’s Desk: Decide The Date

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For nearly 100 years, your Chamber has cultivated Sarasota’s prosperity and quality of life through our members’ business leadership and action. As we enter 2018, that tradition continues. Business leadership, through The Chamber, focuses on two areas: opportunities and problems. It identifies opportunities and removes the problems that would impede them. It also identifies problems and finds opportunities to solve them. Sarasota has a problem, and we are presenting an opportunity to solve it.

The foundation of a representative democracy is rooted in the principle of voter participation. Our democracy suffers when nearly 80% of voters either do not or cannot participate. That is exactly what is happening in the city of Sarasota and the community deserves better.

For decades, the city of Sarasota has held its municipal elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. Those elections tend to draw a voter turnout at or around 20%. During ordinary elections, the turnout is two or three times that.

In the last city election, held in May of 2017, just less than 23% of city voters participated. In the last general election, held in November of 2016, almost 72% of city voters participated. More than 18,000 additional ballots were cast by city voters during the ordinary election.

Interestingly, the city pays additional dollars to hold these off-cycle elections. Each spring election costs the city upwards of $100,000. The city can participate in ordinary, fall elections for free. Business principles wouldn’t have you paying for less than what you could otherwise get for free, and our community shouldn’t either.

Furthermore, what the data shows us is that special, spring elections have a dilutive effect on certain subsets of voters. Along with an overall increase in voter participation, a move to ordinary election cycles would see a significant increase in the composition amongst African-American, Hispanic, and under-30 voters.

In order to move elections to coincide with ordinary elections, the issue must be placed on a ballot for voters to decide whether or not they would like to move the dates. In order for voters to be given that opportunity, 10% of voters must petition the city to do so. It is that opportunity that we are seeking to provide through the Decide the Date initiative. Alongside a number of community partners, we are diligently working to deliver voters the opportunity to choose when they wish to participate in local elections.

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It is through your Chamber that this community can work towards being proud of its civic engagement. That, after all, is a quality of life issue and your Chamber stands at the forefront cultivating our quality of life. I encourage you to visit DecideTheDate.com for information and updates on this critical, community initiative. I ask that you reach out to me with any questions you might have. I hope that you will find ways to further support your Chamber as we seek to solve this problem.

Kevin Cooper, Chamber President


The article is taken from the January 2018 Bridge Magazine.

To read more from this issue, click here.

January 2018

5 Tips to Get The Most Out Of Your Chamber Membership in the New Year!

A chamber of commerce membership is oh-so-much more than just an “I’m a proud member!” sticker to put on the front door of your business. Member benefits like website listings, participation in exclusive promotions, invites to chamber events, and more put you at the forefront of the community when you’re a member of The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

But Chamber membership is a two-way street. While there are certain benefits you’ll receive year after year with your membership — interactive listings on our website, printed listing in The Chamber directory, invites to events, etc. — there is certainly a way to get more bang for your buck no matter what investment level you come in at. Let us highlight a few ways to get the most out of your membership.

1.) Attend Chamber Events

This one is a pretty obvious membership benefit that often goes overlooked by many. While we understand that you won’t be able to attend EVERYTHING with the dozens of networking events, workshops, and lunches we hold throughout the year, it doesn’t hurt to show up to an event once or twice if your schedule allows. This is a great way to get your name out there and to meet other business professionals in our community. Chamber events aren’t open to business owners or management only – staffers, please come!

2.) Interact with us on Social Media

Want to know a great way to get a conversation rolling online? Tag us in your posts! We’re active on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram to name a few. Chances are if you tag us in a photo or post, we’ll give you some social media lovin’ back. That means more interaction for your profile, and for The Chamber. Win-win!

3.) Post on our Website

With your Chamber membership comes exclusive access to sarasotachamber.com for you to post events, coupons, job postings and more. Use this access – you pay for it! The Chamber fields dozens of phone calls and email traffic every week with people looking for events, jobs, and deals. We can’t offer your awesome information if we don’t have it!

4.) Submit Your News

This one goes hand-in-hand with what was previously mentioned. When you have some newsworthy information to share, send it our way in the Press Release Tool located on the website! We’re always looking to brag about the amazing things our members are doing. Whether your business recently completed a remodeling project, your staff headed out to the community for a volunteer day, your business won an award, or you have other great news to share — we want to know about it so we can share your news on our social media pages, add to the news section of our website, and send member news out in our email newsletters.

5.) Reach Out

Is there an area of your business that could really use some help? Maybe you’re looking for some creative marketing ideas or want to form partnerships with other business professionals in town. Whatever it may be, always be sure to reach out to us here at The Chamber to see if we can help make some connections. If we don’t have immediate answers, just give us some time to think about things and point you in the right direction.

If there are any membership benefits that you have questions about or think that you might be under-utilizing, give us a call or set up a meeting! We want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your investment. Utilizing your membership benefits makes your business, our organization, and our community stronger.


If you have any questions about getting the most out of your membership, we want to hear from you! Please feel free to call Craig McGonigal, our Membership Engagement Manager at The Chamber at 941-556-4034 or shoot him an email at cmgonigal@sarasotachamber.com.