With another eventful and impactful Collier County public school year drawing to a close, members of Future Ready Collier’s Goal Groups convened in May to assess progress to date and shared purpose going forward. High-level areas of focus included early childhood development and education, school success, and college and career success. Common themes discussed across the groups included challenges and opportunities related to access and engagement.
Mission and Meetings
Future Ready Collier’s mission broadly encompasses development and readiness among children from birth to kindergarten, student progress and wellbeing during their school years, and the milestones surrounding high school graduation and college or career. This inclusive narrative requires the diverse perspectives of education providers, social service organizations, healthcare operators, civic leadership, and community constituents. To ensure that ongoing conversations are robust and outcomes-oriented, Future Ready Collier regularly brings together its subject matter expert members. These meetings, historically organized around topical Goal Groups, empower network partners to share accomplishments and concerns and consolidate next steps.
Impact is Enough
One word that consistently comes up during these conversations? Enough. Are there, for example, enough early childhood centers with available space? Are families engaged enough to support their students? Are students themselves engaged in their academic and personal growth, with enough awareness of career and financial aid pathways to plan for the future they want? Is there enough community understanding of the challenges facing students, educators, families, and social service providers, especially in the context of compounding global and regional disasters?
It’s easy for passionate people to question if they’re doing enough. Information gathered by Future Ready Collier suggests that there is, without question, a lot of good work being done throughout Southwest Florida. Examples of community-level initiatives and programs being facilitated by and through Future Ready Collier members include:
- Increasing young child screenings, with collaboration among early childhood providers and healthcare operators.
- Fun Time Early Childhood Academy opened three new classes in partnership with Collier County Public Schools.
- Planning a Books, Balls, and Blocks event in Immokalee over the summer.
- Literacy-focused workshops hosted at and by local organizations.
- Increasing access to online school registration, leading to higher rates of on-time kindergarten registration.
- Best practices and materials for summer literacy instruction for students in kindergarten through 3rd
- A forthcoming culturally tailored Haitian Creole book series developed by Room to Read.
- Organizing to inform parents, including about important topics like housing, with collaboration among Grace Place, Collier CARES, and the Salvation Army.
- Working steadily with schools, organizations, and students to increase FAFSA completion rates.
- Hosted Be Future Ready Day, with representatives from local colleges and universities, including instant application decisions and financial aid application assistance.
- Coordinating student visits to regional colleges and universities, including Immokalee Technical College and Florida SouthWestern.
How Does it Work?
What drives this activity? Collaboration and information-sharing are influential factors in Future Ready Collier’s collective impact. There is a regular drum beat of requests for more and better information-sharing, reduction in duplicated efforts, communal best practices, data collection and distribution, and mutual respect for the intensity of the work. The heaviness of the work, at times, confronted with constrained resources and regular external interruptions, is amply lightened by the gratification that comes from elevating young people to achieve.
While Future Ready Collier’s large group meetings are on summer recess, small group conversations continue, and are always welcoming of new members with focused interest and involvement in the shared mission. For more information about Future Ready Collier, its 60-plus member network, and how to join the work, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, and learn more on our website.