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Press Releases

FAFSA first! announces #IFiledFAFSAfirst social media contest winners

By | News, Press Releases

FAFSA first!, a FutureMakers Coalition campaign aimed at informing Southwest Florida high school seniors and their parents about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, announced five winners of the #IFiledFAFSAfirst social media contest.

One high school senior each from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties who entered the contest has been randomly selected to receive $500 to use toward college or career school expenses. The contest winners are:

  • Anthony Vigliotti, Florida SouthWestern Collegiate High School, Charlotte County
  • Jason Mirabal, Gulf Coast High School, Collier County
  • Blanca Aranda, Moore Haven Middle High School, Glades County
  • Thalia Esquivel, LaBelle High School, Hendry County
  • Maria Estrada, Dunbar High School, Lee County

The contest was launched to drive social media awareness and encourage conversation about FAFSA amongst high school seniors. To participate in the contest, students created a unique post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, tagged five friends and FAFSA first!, and used the hashtag #IFiledFAFSAfirst.

The most recent data from Florida College Access Network shows that as of March 31, 33.34 percent of Southwest Florida seniors have completed their FAFSA. The campaign’s goal is to achieve 40 percent FAFSA completion in the region by the end of the school year, a 5 percent increase over the 2015-16 school year.

The federal deadline for filing FAFSA is June 30, although colleges and universities have varying priority and filing deadlines.

Research shows FAFSA completion rates correlate with the percentage of workforce who hold degrees, certificates and high-quality credentials. FutureMakers Coalition partners throughout the region are working to educate high school seniors and their parents about the importance of filing FAFSA.

Visit www.FAFSAfirst.org to learn more about the campaign, and for information and resources about FAFSA.

 

About the FutureMakers Coalition

Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by 2025. The Coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners. Southwest Florida was one of 75 metropolitan areas selected as part of Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide by increasing the number of working age adults with degrees and certifications.

Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold earns Image Award for FAFSA first! campaign

By | News, Press Releases

The Southwest Florida chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association presented Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold Marketing and Public Relations an Image Award for the firm’s work on FAFSA first!, a FutureMakers Coalition public service campaign.

Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold developed the campaign for the FutureMakers Coalition to help inform Southwest Florida high school seniors and their parents about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and to help educate them on the importance of filing the application to be eligible for financial aid and scholarship consideration.

Research shows FAFSA completion rates correlate with the percentage of workforce who hold degrees, certificates and high-quality credentials. The FAFSA first! campaign goal is to achieve 40 percent FAFSA completion in the region by the end of the school year, representing a 5 percent increase over the 2015-16 school year. As of March 31, 33.34 percent of Southwest Florida seniors have completed their FAFSA. Visit www.FAFSAfirst.org to learn more about the campaign.

Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by 2025. The Coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners.

Gravina, Smith, Matte & Arnold Marketing and Public Relations was founded in 1983 and specializes in developing long-term, results-oriented marketing and public relations programs for Southwest Florida’s leading businesses and organizations. For more information, call 239-275-5758 or visit www.GSMA.pro.

FutureMakers Wins Chrysalis Award

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Coalition working to increase post-secondary certification completion in Southwest Florida wins education category

The FutureMakers Coalition was recently presented a Chrysalis Award in the education category at the eighth annual Celebration of Business & Tourism Awards.

More than 360 people attended the event at the Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Myers. The FutureMakers Coalition was one of six laureates chosen from 23 nominees.

The winners by category were:

Business Development: Fleamasters Fleamarket
Cultural Achievement: River District Alliance
Eco-Innovation: Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm
Education: FutureMakers Coalition
Sports: Perfect Game Baseball, Inc.
Sales & Marketing: Florida Everblades

A panel of judges evaluated nominees, looking at innovation in their respective fields, how they’ve distinguished themselves in the community and the results of their efforts to promote the area to visitors.

“It is extremely gratifying to see how far the FutureMakers Coalition has come in such a short period of time,” said Dr. John Meyer, executive vice president of academic affairs at Hodges University.

“Being nominated for, never mind actually winning, the Chrysalis Award provides reinforcement for the value the community places on the need for this work. As a Workforce Now researcher, I am happy to play a part in meeting our shared goal by helping to identify areas of skills gap in the regional workforce and help bring educational initiatives to market to assist in filling those gaps.”

“On behalf of the more than 200 FutureMakers throughout Southwest Florida, we are thrilled with this recognition from the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce,” said Tessa LeSage, who as director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation oversees the FutureMakers Coalition. “We know the region has to lead collectively to develop the skilled workforce needed now and into the future and create a place where people will always choose to live, learn, work and play.”

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau and the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce hosted the awards program and trade show.

The FutureMakers’ Chrysalis video can be viewed by visiting www.youtu.be/VQQQBVhBGUU.

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025.  In 2016, Southwest Florida was one of 75 metropolitan areas selected as part of Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide by increasing the number of working-age adults with degrees and certifications.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the FutureMakers Coalition. The Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. It is looking for partners from all sectors to invest resources, including time, expertise, funding and more. For more information, visit www.futuremakerscoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected].

FutureMakers receives $50,000 challenge grant

By | Press Releases

The FutureMakers Coalition was recently awarded a $50,000 challenge grant from Florida Philanthropic Network as part of its College Access & Success Initiative (CASI). A $10,000 grant was also awarded for administration costs and backbone support.

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025. The Coalition plans to use the challenge grant funding to continue to advance regional outcomes and efforts that support the Florida Higher Education Coordination Council’s statewide goal of 55 percent higher education attainment.

The grant will be awarded after the Coalition raises $50,000 in additional private donations by Jan. 31, 2018. Anyone interested in learning more about the grant or investing in the FutureMakers Coalition may visit www.futuremakerscoalition.com/partners/fund.

The College Access and Success Initiative is an initiative of Florida Philanthropic Network made possible through funding from the Helios Education Foundation and The Kresge Foundation. CASI builds on the success of the Florida College Access Network (FCAN) and its mission to create and strengthen a statewide network that catalyzes and supports communities to improve college and career preparation, and access and completion for all students. The purpose of the challenge grant is to leverage local private investment, through Florida community foundations, to engage and sustain college access coalitions, thereby increasing the college-going and post­ secondary completion rates of students traditionally underrepresented in higher education and building a college going culture throughout the state.

“This challenge grant allows the FutureMakers Coalition to create an endowment to fund the collective work aimed at transforming Southwest Florida’s workforce in perpetuity,” said Tessa LeSage, who is the director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation and oversees the FutureMakers Coalition. “Fueled by the College Access & Success Challenge Grant and matched by regional partners and others who care deeply about education and workforce development, the endowment will supply funding to keep these issues and the need to work together to achieve our goals at the forefront of our priorities. Further, the opportunity to participate in the statewide learning community will be invaluable to current and future projects underway and ultimately to the success of the FutureMakers Coalition.”

In 2016, Southwest Florida was one of 75 metropolitan areas selected as part of Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide by increasing the number of working age adults with degrees and certifications.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit www.futuremakerscoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected].

FutureMakers Partners Moving the Needle on Perception

By | News, Press Releases

Technical Colleges working toward positive perception and enrollment goals
As part of its overall goal to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025, the FutureMakers Coalition is piloting a project to determine if coordinated exposure and collaboration could increase the positive perception of technical education in Lee County. The project also aims to make progress toward technical education enrollment goals throughout Southwest Florida.

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FutureMakers Partner Reports Program Success

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Lumina grant supports first-year program in Glades County

gladesThe Glades Education Foundation, a FutureMakers partner, recently reported a successful inaugural year of the AVID About Success program in Glades County.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is an international kindergarten through college program whose mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society. AVID was implemented in Glades County to target students in the middle of the academic spectrum in grades six through nine, who are at risk for not graduating from high school. AVID teaches skills that are necessary to be successful in school, college and career.

According to Laura M. Perry, executive director of the Glades Education Foundation, the first year of the program ushered in training of Glades County teachers at the AVID Summer Institute in Orlando and Tampa in June 2016. Teachers were trained in research-based AVID methodology, incorporating the WICOR (writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and reading strategies) method of teaching as well as Socratic tutoring sessions facilitated by AVID tutors. These teachers were matched with students as their mentors to provide encouragement and support, which is particularly important for students who will be the first in their families to pursue post-secondary education.

“We are looking forward to this spring when students will visit college campuses and learn more about applying to college and financial aid via FAFSA completion and scholarship searches,” said Perry.

In its first year, eight high school students and 201 middle school students (grades six through nine) were enrolled in the program. Fifty-five of these students are considered first generation (their parents did not attend college or a post-secondary school) to be matched with mentors.

“The Glades Education Foundation is deeply appreciative of the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s $15,000 grant to the program via the Lumina Foundation and the FutureMakers Coalition,” added Perry. “Over time, we expect AVID About Success to have a tremendous positive effect on Glades County students through increased graduation rates, increased FAFSA completion, and increased entry and completion of post-secondary education, which will help Glades County grow and prosper.”

AVID About Success in Glades County plans to continue to expand its reach to include additional grade levels each year. In the 2017-2018 school year, AVID About Success will expand to include AVID Elementary in grades four and five, AVID Middle in grades six through eight and high school AVID in grades nine and10. Each additional year of AVID beyond 2018 will see AVID continue to expand in high school until students in grades nine through 12 are served. As students continue to learn AVID strategies, the Glades Education Foundation expects to see more FAFSA forms completed, more students matched with mentors and an increasing graduation rate in Glades County.

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials by the year 2025.

In 2016, Southwest Florida was one of 75 metropolitan areas selected as part of Lumina Foundation’s Community Partnership for Attainment to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide by increasing the number of working-age adults with degrees and certifications.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit www.futuremakerscoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected]

Contact: Melinda Isley, APR, m.creativepr, 239-274-7736, cell: 239-565-1630, [email protected]

FutureMakers partners with FGCU to establish Student African American Brotherhood chapter

By | Press Releases

The FutureMakers Coalition has partnered with Florida Gulf Coast University to establish a local Student African American Brotherhood chapter.

More than a dozen advisory committee members and students recently attended a steering committee meeting held at FGCU.

futuremakers-11-1-2016-2The SAAB is a national organization founded by Dr. Tyrone Bledsoe in 1990 to address academic and social challenges of African-American male college students. The post-secondary program works with young men and boys to get them enrolled and graduated from college. Today, SAAB has grown to more than 300 student-run chapters in 28 states. Each chapter includes academic advising and mentorship to assist members in excelling academically, socially, culturally and professionally in the community.

“FGCU recognizes the challenges faced by first generation and low-income minority students,” said J. Webb Horton, assistant director of community outreach at FGCU and SAAB advisor. “As a region, we are working together with the FutureMakers Coalition to eliminate barriers to attainment because we know we need a better trained workforce to meet present and future employment demands, improve quality of life and support a more sustainable economy in Southwest Florida.”

The partnership was coordinated through the FutureMakers Coalition by Lumina Foundation, along with SAAB and FGCU. Southwest Florida is one of 75 Community Partnership for Attainment areas working alongside Lumina Foundation to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide while increasing the number of working-age adults with degrees and certifications. Lumina is providing free technical assistance in starting the SAAB chapter.

“We are looking at ways to enhance best practices across the region through collective impact efforts to address these challenges and promote equity in post-secondary access and attainment,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the backbone organization for FutureMakers Coalition. “SAAB is a best practice because it focuses on increasing the number of African American and Latino men who graduate from college by creating a positive peer community based on a spirit of caring.”

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials to 40 percent by the year 2025.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit www.FutureMakersCoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected]

 

Regional campaign launches to educate high school seniors about FAFSA and financial aid

By | Press Releases

Important new changes to FAFSA process makes filing earlier easier

FutureMakers Coalition partners, including educators, workforce developers, business leaders, economic development professionals, government officials, residents and students across Southwest Florida have joined together to launch a new educational campaign, called “FAFSA first!,” aimed at informing high school seniors and their parents in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties about FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Spearheaded by the Access & Entry team of the FutureMakers Coalition, the goal of the campaign is to increase the FAFSA completion rate among Southwest Florida high school seniors by 5 percent this school year.

FAF$A_first_logoTo supplement schools’ current FAFSA outreach efforts, a campaign marketing toolkit has been created to provide informational handouts and materials about the FAFSA and why it is important for students and parents to file. In addition, schools will be sharing campaign information via websites, e-newsletters, text messages and other communication channels. The campaign will also be rolled out through a robust social media presence, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Geo-targeted online advertising via Google and Facebook will further boost the campaign’s reach with students and parents.

Each year, the federal government provides more than $150 billion in financial aid (grants, work-study and loans) for college and career school. To apply for this aid, every high school senior who plans to attend college or career school must complete the FAFSA. State governments and many colleges, career schools and private organizations also use FAFSA information to determine additional financial aid awards.

“In order to accomplish the goal of transforming Southwest Florida’s workforce, FutureMakers Coalition partners are collaborating to improve access to post-secondary education by increasing the number of students filling out the FAFSA,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, which is serving as the backbone organization for the FutureMakers Coalition. “Research shows FAFSA completion rates correlate with the percentage of workforce who holds degrees, certificates and high-quality credentials.”

According to Florida College Access Network, the Southwest Florida FAFSA completion rate is currently 35.3 percent. As a result, millions of dollars in financial aid are unclaimed by eligible Southwest Florida high school seniors each year. In 2013, FCAN estimated graduating high school seniors in this region left behind more than $9 million in Pell Grant funds that they were eligible to receive. FCAN’s research has also shown that students who were accepted into four-year colleges were much more likely to enroll if they had completed the FAFSA.

There are two new changes to the FAFSA process that affect the 2017-2018 school year: the FAFSA is now available to be filed on Oct. 1, three months earlier than in past years, and last year’s filed income tax information should be used to complete the form.

Previously, FAFSA was not available until Jan. 1 for filing and it required income tax information for the most recent tax year, even though that often meant students’ and parents’ actual tax returns hadn’t yet been filed with the IRS. By filing the FAFSA earlier and using accurate income tax information that is already available, students and parents will benefit by receiving financial aid award offers from schools sooner and can make informed decisions about college or career school affordability.

“Ultimately, we want to create a culture of awareness and completion for FAFSA in our region, where students and parents know that the first step they need to take toward earning a degree or certificate is completing the FAFSA,” said LeSage. “For many students, receiving financial aid can be the deciding factor of where, or even if, they attend college or career school. We want to help them take advantage of the resources that are available to them to pursue postsecondary education.”

Visit www.FAFSAfirst.org to learn more about the campaign, and for information and resources about FAFSA.

About the FutureMakers Coalition
Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the FutureMakers Coalition has a goal to transform the workforce by increasing the number of college degrees, certificates and high-quality credentials from 27 to 40 percent by 2025 throughout Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. The Coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners. The FutureMakers Coalition is one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment.

FutureMakers opens RFP for foundational skills curriculum for post-secondary institutions

By | Press Releases

Goal to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce

The Persistence and Progress Regional Action Team of the FutureMakers Coalition is working to develop a foundational skill development curriculum to pilot with post-secondary students and will open a request for proposals on Oct. 3, 2016.

The foundational skills project is requesting proposals for the development of a foundational skills curriculum with the goal to increase active listening, critical thinking/problem solving, interpersonal skills, teamwork and work ethic, and to build education and business partnerships. The project is seeking to increase these skills and employability of Southwest Florida’s high-school and post-secondary students and existing workforce while simultaneously encouraging employers to value students through an improved assessment of employment candidate foundational skills.

“Once a proper curriculum has been developed, it will initially be implemented by existing staff at Florida Southwestern State College and later expanded to other partners,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the backbone organization for FutureMakers Coalition. “In addition to the classroom instruction on foundational skills, an employer pool will be created. The employer pool will participate in interview workshops to ensure that post-secondary institutions and employers are aligned around foundational skills for employment candidates.”

According to LeSage, the curriculum content should prepare students for employment and career advancement through development of vital foundational skills identified as deficient among Southwest Florida’s workforce. The curriculum should also include a curriculum-based professional development component with turnkey training resources that will allow implementing organizations to build professional capacity.

Proposals will be evaluated by the FutureMakers Coalition Persistence and Progress Team consisting of fair and impartial Southwest Florida Community Foundation staff and consultants, and coalition partners.

Applicants may be either nonprofit or for-profit organizations. The full RFP is available at www.futuremakerscoalition.com/proposals. The deadline for materials is Nov. 1, 2016. For more information, contact Ashley Skalecki, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional initiatives and partnerships coordinator at [email protected].

The goal of the FutureMakers Coalition is to transform the workforce by increasing the number of Southwest Florida residents with degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials to 40 percent by the year 2025.

Southwest Florida is one of 75 metropolitan areas working alongside Lumina Foundation to increase post-secondary attainment nationwide while increasing the number of working age adults with degrees and certifications.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation serves as the anchor organization for the Coalition. The FutureMakers Coalition encourages residents to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit www.futuremakerscoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected]

Collier schools’ internship program provides on-the-job training for 16 high-school seniors

By | Press Releases

Mireya2While many of their peers enjoyed a more leisurely summer break, 16 incoming Collier County high-school seniors designed a trophy case, waded along the coast to survey beach erosion and worked toward earning their pilot’s licenses.

As participants in the school district’s internship program, the students earned a paycheck and hands-on experience in potential careers.

A $24,150 grant from the FutureMakers Coalition through the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation allowed Collier County Public Schools to expand the internship program from its inaugural five students in 2015 and ensure every student was paid for the minimum 120 required hours.

“One of the struggles we face throughout the region is the heavy concentration of small businesses that are willing to offer internships but can’t pay the students,” said Courtney Stahlman, who as the manager for the school district’s High School Career Academies also oversees its internship program. “The Schulze Foundation and FutureMakers are invested in developing Southwest Florida’s workforce, and this grant gave more students the opportunity to work at local companies. The sooner we can give students job experience, the better. We’re developing these future workers with the goal of keeping them here in Southwest Florida for careers.”

Participating companies included Thomas Riley Artisans Guild, Coastal Engineering Consultants, Structural Medical, the communications department of Collier County Public Schools, Arthrex, Trebilcock Consulting and Career Flight Training, and Aircraft Rental at the Naples Airport.

Eleven students were paid directly by the companies; the remaining five were covered by the grant.

“Most government entities, medical facilities and nonprofit organizations are unable to pay their interns,” added Stahlman. “This is where the grant came in handy. For many students, this was the first paycheck they’ve ever received.”

The internship program is a spinoff of the school district’s affiliation with the National Academic Foundation, which introduced five career-specific academies at various high schools four years ago. The academies allow students to explore engineering, information technology, hospitality, health sciences and finance careers while teaching them the fundamentals of securing a job.

The mission of the NAF, an educational nonprofit organization, is to solve challenges facing education and the economy by bringing education, business and community leaders together to transform the high-school experience.

Many of the Collier County companies offering internships were recommended by local NAF advisory board members and through word of mouth with some offering several summer positions for two or three students to work together.

“During the last year, the FutureMakers Coalition has identified early career exposure as one of the most effective strategies we can enhance, expand and replicate throughout the region to help students identify their passion and align their education to meet career goals,” said Tessa LeSage, director of social innovation and sustainability for the Southwest Florida Community Foundation which is serving as the anchor organization for the FutureMakers Coalition. “We’ve also discovered these experiences are better suited for students when it’s an opportunity outside of school.”

Through the Community Foundation, the Schulze Family Foundation earmarked $300,000 to fund projects emerging from FutureMakers’ work throughout the region.

The Artisans Guild, an upscale interior woodwork and finishes shop, hired two student interns, immersing them in the engineering and design skills they’re also learning in the district’s engineering academy.

“They designed projects that will ultimately be built,” said Danielle Poff, community liaison for the guild which also hired a summer intern in 2015. “There’s nothing better than creating something and seeing it built. Each student prepared design drawings then swapped projects. They learn to create their own design and read someone else’s drawings. We give our interns a broad overview. We know they’ve done a lot of work on computers, so we want to get them in the shop.”

Coastal Engineering’s intern worked out in the field with the company’s land and water survey crews monitoring erosion trends, shoreline changes, tidal shoals and analyzing the results using the company’s proprietary computer programs.

“Because so much of our work is in the water, one of our first interview questions is asking a potential intern if he or she is comfortable in the water and on a boat,” said Michael Poff, vice president of engineering. “We also look for maturity level, and because of the academy, it’s already there. Good communications skills and being able to think and solve problems are also important.”

Coastal Engineering was able to retain its intern longer than the 120 hours to cover employee vacations.

“Companies realize our students are not the typical high-school students,” Stahlman said. “They’re prepared to work and want to do it to improve their qualifications.”

Three interns from the IT Academy worked for the school district in digital design and video production, and a non-themed program allowed aviation students at Lely High School to work on planes, work in the control tower and clock flying time toward a private pilot license at Naples Airport.

Danielle and Michael Poff, who are married, said both of their companies have a history of hiring high-school and college interns, and have involvement in education. Thomas Riley of the Artisans Guild helped establish the woodworking program at Palmetto Ridge High School in Naples. Coastal Engineering also offers an externship for teachers; the Education Foundation of Collier County pays half of the salary for participants.

“The school district’s internship program is fantastic,” Michael Poff said. “We need more companies offering internships and business leaders in Collier to step up. There are hundreds of students who would benefit from an internship.”

“We enjoy having students,” said Danielle Poff. “It’s part of our philosophy of giving back to the community and helping to educate our future workforce. The academies are a great opportunity for students to take a broad range of classes and decide which field of engineering they like or if it’s something they really want to do before they commit to four to six years of college.”

Students enrolled in Collier County’s NAF academies have the opportunity to earn industry recognized certifications in Adobe and Microsoft programs, AutoCAD, Autodesk and animation. Increasing certifications is part of the FutureMakers Coalition’s goal of transforming Southwest Florida’s workforce.

“The internships provide a really good experience,” said Adam Peterson, the teacher of record who worked with the students and businesses during the summer. “They’re definitely learning different things than they do in the classroom. All of the students I interviewed were glad they took time out of their summer break to participate, and the employers enjoyed having the students.”

According the Stahlman, the remaining grant funding will provide internships during the school year for five to 10 students.

LeSage said the Collier program could become a model for other school districts in Southwest Florida and help entice students to seek employment in the region upon completion of post-secondary education.

“Giving students this experience impacts the perception and employability of our future workforce,” she addded. “It makes them more valuable as future employees.”

The Schulze Family Foundation was created in 2004 by Best Buy founder Dick Schulze, a Southwest Florida resident. It supports education, human services, health and medical research, and transformational entrepreneurship.

Formed in 2015 around existing regional collaborations, the FutureMakers Coalition has a goal to increase the number of college degrees, post-secondary certifications and high-quality credentials from 27 to 40 percent by 2025 throughout Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties. The Coalition is committed to creating a cradle-to-career pathway to ensure success for traditional students and adult learners.

The FutureMakers Coalition is one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment. Residents are encouraged to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit www.FutureMakersCoalition.com, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected].