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.

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Your Chamber Taking the Lead on Education

Why would a chamber of commerce get involved in helping students get to college?

While it is common practice for school districts, college and universities, and education-focused organizations to participate in chamber membership, increasing postsecondary attainment rates is not typically a role chambers are thought of playing. However, your Chamber has taken a different view.Print

The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce has stepped up to take a leadership role in the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership (T4T); an initiative that focuses on bridging the gap between high school graduation and postsecondary educational attainment. Working in close partnership with organizations like the Barancik Foundation, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Gulf Coast Community Foundation, CareerEdge Funders Collaborative, Education Foundation of Sarasota County, UnitedWay Suncoast, and UnidosNow (to name a few), The Chamber has been working over the last year to bring about new, innovative programs that help our local students go beyond high school graduation and into a postsecondary program.

One area Talent4Tomorrow has particularly targeted is FAFSA completion. Financial burdens are often cited as one of the top reasons students do not enroll in a postsecondary program. The FAFSA, or “Free Application for Federal Student Aid”, is a federal form that students must complete to receive Pell grants, most scholarships, and other types of financial aid. However, confusion and lack of awareness around this application process cause many to simply not complete the application. According to the Florida College Access Network, 59 percent of Sarasota students were eligible for Pell Grants in 2012-13, but fewer than half of them filled out FAFSA forms, resulting in more than $2 million left untapped by Sarasota County students. Ultimately, this results in fewer students entering quality educational programs that feed our local workforce needs and causes local businesses to feel the pain of seeking out qualified employees.

However, in the 2015-2016 FAFSA application cycle, the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership orchestrated a multi-faceted strategy to address the need for more students to complete the FAFSA. Thus, Sarasota County was recognized by the Florida FAFSA Challenge with awards in eight categories. Even more impressively, these efforts resulted in an additional $283,000 in Pell Grant funds being accessed by Sarasota County students. With those additional funds, many more students have been able to attend technical/trade schools, two-year degree programs, and traditional Bachelors programs. For our Chamber members, this equates to more skilled workers ready to take on important jobs for their companies.

Efforts of Talent4Tomorrow have not gone unnoticed by those around the state and the nation. Recently, T4T partners collected $62,500 in matching funds to procure a $50,000 grant from the Florida Philanthropic Network. With these grant dollars, T4T can begin to work on other barriers to postsecondary enrollment and attainment, such as college and career awareness. The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce is proud to be a part of this initiative, bringing the education and business communities together to help students see themselves not only in our colleges and universities but also as professionals that contribute to the future of Sarasota County.


Submission contributed by Mimi Cirbusova, The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professionals Group Coordinator.

Energized for Success in the Year Ahead

Our newly installed 2015-2016 Board Chair Lisa Krouse, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer at FCCI Insurance Group, reflects on the 95th Annual Membership Meeting, presented by Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP., and looks forward to the year ahead.

Lisa Krouse 1I am still energized by the positive momentum felt at our annual luncheon! Chris Gallagher’s tribute to Rod Warner (2015 Kerkering, Barberio & Co. Chair’s Cup Winner) was heartfelt and enormously touching to those of us there. We are a better Chamber because of Chris’ leadership this past year. I can assure you that we remain in good hands with the 2015-2016 Board of Directors and the organizations these individuals represent.

image33Let me share with you the three areas we will focus for 2015-2016. Continue reading “Energized for Success in the Year Ahead”

Chamber Priorities from the 2015-2016 Board of Directors

Recently, your Chamber Board of Directors met to review strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities facing our member employers, our Chamber itself, and the greater Sarasota community. To stimulate their discussions, they started the work session by looking at eight trends that will affect your businesses, local organizations, and The Chamber between now and the year 2025.

BOD 2015-2016

As we approach our 95th Annual Membership Meeting and Luncheon, we reflect on success of the past year, but also look to the following priority areas and objectives for our fiscal year running from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016. Continue reading “Chamber Priorities from the 2015-2016 Board of Directors”

Using Data to Develop Talent

Feature by Young Professionals Group Coordinator Mimi Fleck, Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

Less than a month ago, people all over Sarasota County added a few extra minutes to their commutes to accommodate school zones. Area colleges filled their dorms with anxious freshmen, and parents everywhere scrambled to find folders with tabs and pockets for their child’s school supply list. While many see back to school as a new start, local community leaders were gathering all summer long to prepare Sarasota for something much more challenging.EducationFlorida is bracing for a disaster that is beginning to brew below the surface. We need talented and skilled individuals, and we need them now. Sarasota County is expected to see a job growth of nearly 30,000 jobs by the year 2020—only half of which is for the replacement of retiring boomers (Florida Department of Economic Opportunity). And while many of these jobs will require a post-secondary degree, only 40% of Sarasota County’s working age population (aged 25 and older) have obtained some college, associates, bachelors or a graduate/professional degree. This is a challenge that has deep roots. Nearly 1 in 4 of our students entering Kindergarten are not ready to learn, and 30% of our students do not demonstrate reading proficiency by 3rd grade. In a recent Chamber Member Intel survey, 60% of employers reported having difficulty filling open positions in the last 12 months, with respondents sharing that too few applicants applied and/or that the applicants lacked occupational skills. Continue reading “Using Data to Develop Talent”