Graciously hosted by the Guadalupe Center at their striking new campus in Immokalee, Future Ready Collier Goal Groups joined together on February 9 and 10 for focused conversations and shared goal-setting. As a part of regular quarterly meetings, the Early Development, School Success, and College and Career Success Goal Groups dedicated time to assessing priority team progress and to collectively considering systemic capacity challenges that present barriers to action and impact. As is consistently the case, Goal Group participants showed up with their whole selves, making the importance of the work clear through the commitment of their presence.
Large group discussions encapsulated the needs and worries of this moment in time. Regardless of their focus on early education and development, elementary and middle grades progression and support, or preparation in and beyond high school, everyone identified a few overarching pressures on our community. Educators across all settings are contending with workforce shortages greatly worsened by COVID’s long-term effects, a crushing hurricane less than six months ago, and a crisis of attainable housing made more acute by both the pandemic and the natural disaster.
All the big ideas and heartfelt energy generated through collective impact work can’t overcome a fundamental lack of teachers in classrooms or homes in which teachers and their families can live. These circumstances are not unique to Southwest Florida, though Hurricane Ian’s historic destruction complicated an already tenuous reality. Much is being done. Recently, Champions For Learning released over $1 million in funding for Collier County Public School teachers displaced by the storm. In total, 177 funding applicants received financial support to address their lost or damaged vehicles or residences. Critically, nearly $600,000 of the $1.2 million distributed was donated from the Collier Community Foundation.
Concurrent with ongoing relief efforts, the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation is asking for all Collier County residents over 18 who lived at least six of the last twelve months locally to complete a community assessment survey. This survey, which is readily available online and may also be requested in print, is a follow-up to the widely referenced 2018 report on our regional health and vitality. Survey responses are being collected through March 31, 2023. Among the tangible results of the previous survey, greater efforts were put towards early education, affordable housing, mental health, and career and technical education.
To the extent that this year’s assessment is likely to reaffirm these as central priorities, the report will be a new and valuable tool for area nonprofits applying for grant funding, for civic organizations making the case for corporate and philanthropic support, and for public agencies establishing policies and programs. To access the online survey as well as the 2018 report, visit the Schulze Family Foundation website. Contact Lisa Church at (239) 610-1447 with questions or to request paper copies for completion.
To get involved in the Future Ready Collier’s collective impact network, or with any questions about the organizations and partnerships represented, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.