Think of how much our families evolve in 10 years. A seven-year-old will move from second-grade spelling tests to walking down the hallways of their dream university. At the same time, their parents may transition from school pick-up lines to their own school successes and career advancement. We don’t traverse our lives alone. We build upon our experiences together, as individuals, as families, as communities.
A decade ago, our Community Foundation came together with Ascend at the Aspen Institute to ensure these very same hard-earned cycles of opportunity would endure long into their children’s – and even grandchildren’s – lives. Building on the groundwork of programs like L.E.A.F. (Literacy Empowers All Families) and the generosity of donors like Edward K. Roberts and Jo Bowen Nobbe, our partnership with Ascend crystalized a strategy long in the making that infuses all we do at the Community Foundation. Our whole-child, whole-family philosophy – a two-generation (2Gen) approach – guides all our community investments and supports.
Our 2Gen approach became the critical lens in which we view our work and move the needle on core indicators in our region from education to workforce development to economic vitality so families can thrive.
A decade on of intentionally leading with this philosophy, we’ve seen invaluable lessons emerge that I hope will enrich your own efforts:
- Collaborate to push through complexity: Early on, evidence-based partnerships were trusted catalysts in adopting and broadening 2Gen success. Pilots like the Eagle Academy at Alta Vista Elementary School, guided by Principal Dr. Barbara Shirley and philanthropists Mary Kay and Joe Henson, soon became models for other initiatives across all Title 1 elementary schools in Sarasota County. Multifaceted challenges like summer learning loss, school readiness, and parent education were met with solutions equally as diverse – from stipend and mental health support to ESOL classes and leadership programs – offered by community partners that continue to this day.
- The success of an adult’s life directly influences their child’s success: Through our Parent Success Program, post-secondary support – including scholarships provided by our foundation and other opportunities from our partnership with Sarasota County Schools – has empowered parents to enroll in post-secondary education or seek out foundational skills essential to continue on this path.
- Center those voices closest to the challenge: Listening to the concerns and hopes shared by parents – and acting upon them – is the purpose of our Parent Advisory Council. In addition to being a social support network, the council serves as a way for those who have been touched by our 2Gen work to have an active role in refining its ongoing blueprint and execution
That blueprint is still ongoing as we conduct a thoughtful review of our decade of investing in a long-term, multi-generational approach, and engage our community for guidance on our next step in this lifelong journey to address our greatest challenges. Look for more details in the weeks and months ahead.
The Community Foundation engaged in a three year, collaborative 2Gen pilot with Horizons Unlimited Christian Academy that included support for teachers, students, and their parents. Upon the conclusion of the pilot, parents shared how they felt they had a greater capacity to create a better future for their families.
In many ways, our own experiences of learning, listening, and leading with a 2Gen approach mirror both the complexities and aspirations of the many families our nonprofit community serves. As long as parents are willing to embark on the pathways to educational success and economic security, we will be ready to help continue their story, in this decade and all those to come.
If you’re willing, I invite you to share lessons from your own family story, especially how you’ve looked to them in your service to others, in a personal message. As always, I’m eager to continue listening and learning alongside you.
President and CEO
Community Foundation of Sarasota County
This blog post was originally published in the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s Blog.