Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce leads partnership effort with the School Board of Alachua County, United Way of North Central Florida and Publix to provide school supplies to local students in need
Recently, the Alachua County Education Compact gave more than $22,000 in school supplies to Alachua County Public Schools. The supplies were donated for use in the School District’s 21st Century Learning Centers (21st CCLC), which operate in 12 schools. The supplies were part of a lot of school supplies originally donated by Publix to the United Way of Central Florida. Both the United Way of North Central Florida and the Alachua County School District are represented by signers of the Alachua County Education Compact.
“The Compact’s donation to students served by 21st Century Learning Centers is a perfect representation of how the Compact is designed to work,” said Compact Steering Committee Chair Dug Jones, who also serves as Associate Vice President for Economic Development for Santa Fe College. “As the Compact’s lead entity, the Chamber’s connection to business, community and education worked to the benefit of these students by facilitating a contribution via an existing collaboration.”
The Alachua County Education Compact is formulated as a “Collective Impact model.” That is, it represents the Compact signers’ commitment to a common agenda for addressing a single specific issue: aligning education opportunities with industry needs to create pathways to success for Alachua County students. Additionally, a Collective Impact model calls for a single organization or entity to function as a “backbone organization” to lead and staff the initiative’s activities.
The Chamber undertook this role when the Compact was signed, and continues to execute in that capacity through leadership of initiatives such as Career Discoveries, FAFSA Night, as well as its donation to the County School system and others. Collectively, the Compact has touched more than 1,500 students, parents, businesses, educators, guidance counselors and community members.
“Our 21st Century students will certainly benefit from this generous donation,” said Alachua County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Clarke. “We’ve had the pleasure of working with the Education Compact since it was established, and it’s been very effective at bringing community together partners and leveraging local resources to support education.”
The district’s 21st CCLC after-school programs provide students with academic support, recreation and other enrichment activities to promote their success both in and out of school.
“Our mission is to positively impact the eduction, health and financial stability of people living in this region,” said United Way of North Central Florida President/CEO Deborah Bowie. “We are so pleased that our role as a partner to the Chamber and a signer of the Alachua County Education Compact has facilitated an immediate use for these school supplies–which were so generously donated to us by Publix prior to the beginning of the school year–that will assist children today instead of leaving them packed away until next school year.”
Since 2015, the Compact has continued to garner support and gain momentum. It has added two signers and made great strides in aligning the 28 signers’ resources and activities to support the six goals, including:
- Career Discoveries Day, which provides a forum for students and parents to interact with businesses and education institutions to identify career pathways.
- FAFSA Night at Eastside High, which assists students and parents in filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to connect them to financial resources that mitigate-or sometimes eliminate-costs associated with attending college.
- Collaboration with the Santa Fe College Blount Center Advisory Council to help low-income students navigate classes at Santa Fe College.
- Support and enhancement of high-quality teaching and learning through the provision of training to guidance counselors in the Alachua County Public School District.
- Support for community and policy initiatives that advance school programs, such as the One Mill for Alachua County Public Schools, as well as school infrastructure, such as i3 (The Chamber’s Putting Children First Infrastructure Investment Initiative).
- Support for SWAG’s (South West Advocacy Group) efforts to establish a Children’s Service Advisory Committee in Alachua County.
This year, the Compact has focused on prioritizing the development and use of a community asset map, a system and process for metrics and data collection, an evolved structure to support its mission and goals, and an action plan to keep signers engaged in advancing Phase I goals.