Guest column: We're rededicated to being 'champions' for Collier students

The Education Foundation has a proud, 22-year history as the connection be­tween the community and education in Collier Coun­ty. During these years, we have developed a number of key strategies that have worked to strengthen edu­cation for the children of our community.

We believe we have a unique and important role in the learning process. As an independent, nonprofit, community-based organization, we can work across the spectrum to underscore and support the value of learning in our community.

Today, we stand re-energized and re­committed to doing even more for Collier County’s students.

This journey started with a landmark initiative for our organization and Col­lier education called Connect Now. This 18-month community engagement and listening process produced a statement of aspirations in 2009. It helped us to understand the inextricable relation­ship between our community and qual­ity education; it opened our eyes to new possibilities.

Inspired by what we heard from our community, we have completed a rigor­ous strategic-planning process, and re­dedicated ourselves to being the commu­nity catalyst and convener for education. We have created a new mission: to bring our community together to invest in innovative practices that enrich the environment for student learning.

We have heightened our identity: We now call ourselves Champions for Learn­ing.

And we have sharpened our focus on the learning environment, and on giving students opportunities to gain the life skills they need to succeed.

As we move forward, we will continue with the programs we know work. Teach­ers need community support, so we will maintain our educator networks, class­room and school-based grants, and the Golden Apple teacher recognition pro­gram.

We also will remain diligent about enriching the environment for student learning, with the Take Stock in Children scholarship and mentoring program, real­-world experiences and enriching music programs.

At the same time, we will expand, de­velop and advocate innovative approach­es that benefit student learning.

Acknowledging the importance of parental involvement in the education process, we will continue to highlight and support the student-led conferences model, exemplified at Parkside Elemen­tary, which achieved 100 percent parent participation!

We also will double the number of stu­dents participating in the Take Stock pro­gram by offering two-year scholarships. We will develop “real world” support programs in areas of demonstrated un­derperformance, such as completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a requirement for many col­lege scholarships and grants.

And we will offer Real World Universi­ty sessions for all students and parents to provide leadership and workplace skills, college preparation, career exploration and more.

We are committed to providing op­portunities for teachers and principals to share best practices; we will accomplish this by expanding educator networks and sharing program outcomes with educa­tors and community.

And we will build community-based networks that inspire innovation. This will involve programs such as the Nov. 29 Education Forum, “It’s Being Done,” featuring Kati Haycock, CEO of the Edu­cation Trust, as well as roundtables for community leaders to share understand­ing and ideas.

Finally, we will continue to build the website and volunteer framework to pro­mote involvement and align community support with identified school-based ini­tiatives, so successful programs will not go unimplemented due to lack of funding. For The Education Foundation — Champions for Learning, this is a new and exciting time. We can see a future in which students are prepared to move for­ward, with their lives and their careers, on much stronger footing. And we intend to advocate and fight for them to have that chance.

Still, it requires broad-based com­munity support to achieve successes in learning that have real impact on student performance. We urge you to become in­volved by learning through our forums and roundtables, by volunteering as a mentor for a Take Stock scholar or in a classroom or by making a financial gift to support any part of our work.

We owe it to our community and to our children to provide every student with an education that will prepare him or her to thrive in this ever-more-competitive world.

Won’t you join us on the bus and be­come a Champion for Learning?

For information on the forum, volunteer activities and funding opportunities, please call President Susan McManus at 239-643-4755 or visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org. We can see a future in which students are prepared to move forward, with their lives and their careers, on much stronger footing.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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