Democratic Women’s Club of Marco gets a lesson on education

Vivian Patterson
Special to the Eagle
Karen Tessel-Blum, Kathleen Hendrix, Erick Carter, Vincent Keeys and Lauri Shafer at a meeting of Democratic Women'™s Club of Marco.

“Freedom isn’t free. Education is the key.

“A community is only as strong as its public school system.”

These were the key points made by Vincent Keeys, president of the Collier County NAACP and Erick Carter, Collier County School Board member. 

Carter presented Collier County Schools’ outstanding gains in success rates over the last decade. We have been an “A” district for the past three years. Only 36 out of the 67 districts in Florida earned an A.

Collier County now has an amazing 91.9 percent graduation rate in 2018, a 19.4 percent increase since 2011. In 2018, 91 percent of migrant students graduated, the largest in the state and a 41 percent increase since 2010.

Students with disabilities had a 91 percent graduation rate, 43 percent more than in 2010. This is in spite of the demographic shift in student population to a more diverse group.

In addition, the percentage of students in non-English speaking homes went from 42 percent to 55 percent in the same decade.

Collier County Schools prepares students both college, career and life readiness.  Students can earn college credit for classes. High school students can study a diverse variety of classes such as engineering, finance, health, information technology, hospitality and tourism, and aviation to mention a few.

Students can engage in college preparatory classes at Lorenzo Walker Technical High School while also participating in career dual enrollment opportunities at Lorenzo Walker Technical College and Immokalee Technical College, respectively.

Carter described his own experiences at Lorenzo Walker Technical College and how this led to a rewarding career. Some programs are work-based learning experiences where students are paid such as internships or on-the-job training. Most students have dual enrollment — academic in comprehensive high schools and career dual enrollment at  Lorenzo Walker Technical High School and college.

Acceleration opportunities are also available where students can study for a Cambridge  “Advanced International Certificate of Education” diploma or earn Advanced Placement (AP) course credit.

Keeys talked about NAACP’s role in the Collier County Schools. The NAACP promotes and supports the “Raising the Bar” program which is a five year college prep program, the ACT-SO program (Afro-academic, cultural, technological and Scientific Olympics), and the Premier Program which partners with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola. 

ACT-SO includes 32 competitions in STEM, humanities, business, and performing, visual and culinary arts.  It is a year-long achievement program designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievements among high school students.  For over 40 years, the mission of ACT-SO has been to prepare, recognize and reward young people who exemplify scholastic and artistic excellence. 

Keeys mostly spoke about the Premier Program. He is a pilot himself and loves flying.  This program’s aim is to prepare students to consider pursuing a career in some aspect of aviation – pilot, mechanic, flight attendant, any career related to flying planes.

It is open to all students, girls and boys alike. In fact, NAACP recently sponsored eight Collier County female students to attend the National Flight Academy in Pensacola.

To be able to attend this program, students need to write an essay and come from aviation programs at schools that offer them – Lely High School and Immokalee High School.

The NAACP keeps track of these students.  Many, when they graduate from high school, already have earned their pilot’s license.

The November 12th meeting of the Democratic Women of Marco will be held at 5 p.m. at the Mackle Park Community Center. The speaker will be Susan Cone of “Mom’s Demand Action,” a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence.

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