Help Local Teachers by Funding Programs Designed by them for our Students

August 22, 2017

The Alachua County Education Foundation’s Find It Fund It Campaign kicked off on August 7th, and we are delighted to partner with them to spread the word about Find it Fund It. This interactive online portal for the Alachua County Public Schools allows teachers to post classroom needs, up to $1,500. When requests have been submitted and approved by the Education Foundation, teachers from our elementary, middle and high schools do their part by promoting their projects on social media and other outlets. Projects range from providing supplies for STEM projects to helping fund trips to competitions to purchasing curriculum materials for innovative classroom experiences—all the things that enrich our students’ learning.
Starting August 7 th and continuing through September 30 th (or until funds run out) any project that receives 50% of its funding from an outside source will receive matching funds from the Education Foundation.
Let’s help our teachers reach their goal to help our kids. Visit to see a list of projects by school, teacher and need. No donation is too small to make a difference. And when you make a donation, let us know so we can share it on our channels. Together we can help make this year one of the best for our students!
For more information about the Alachua County Education Foundation and Find It Fund it, visit:
The Gainesville Chamber is committed to engaging our business community to help provide the best possible education and training opportunities for our most precious asset—our children. With initiatives like The Alachua County Education Compact (ACEC), the community is mobilizing around education to better prepare students for higher education and sustainable careers.
The Alachua County Education Foundation’s primary mission is to invest in the future of Alachua County students. This not-for-profit philanthropic organization was founded in 1986 and is comprised of community leaders devoted to helping our kids succeed.

Alachua County Students and School District Win Top Awards

July 25, 2017

The Alachua County Public School District is one of just eight school districts across Florida to be named a winner of the 2017-2019 Florida Healthy School Gold Award by a coalition of state organizations focused on promoting healthy learning environments.

Those eight districts now join six others that currently have the coveted Gold level status. The designation lasts for two years and is based on an extensive list of criteria that cover health and physical education, health services, nutrition, counseling, school environment and family involvement, among others.

Alachua County students provided a strong showing at the national Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA)  National Leadership Conference in Anaheim California. Caroline Chu, Ben Gao, Steven Li, William Lui and Stephen Rout from Buchholz High School received national recognition at the FBLA Awards of Excellence Program on earlier this month.

These awards were part of a comprehensive national competitive events program sponsored by FBLA-PBL that recognizes and rewards excellence in a broad range of business and career-related areas. For many students, the competitive events are the capstone activity of their academic careers. In addition to competitions, students immersed themselves in interactive workshops, visited an information-packed exhibit hall, and heard from motivational speakers on a broad range of business topics.

Alachua Among Counties with 12.5% Higher FAFSA Completion Rates

July 18, 2017

Counties supported by Local College Access Networks saw FAFSA (Federal Application for Free Student Aid) completion rates increase 12.5% higher than counties not supported by Local College Access Networks (LCAN).

The Alachua County Education Compact–which serves as the LCAN for Alachua County–last fall issued a local FAFSA Challenge as part of a larger nationwide effort. In response to the call, Jennifer Taylor, Supervisor of Guidance and Student Services led the efforts of guidance counselors at seven Alachua County Public High Schools to meet the goal of achieving a 5 percent increase. The counselors’ collective work paid off, increasing the number of completed applications by 9.6 percent, nearly twice the goal of the challenge.

Florida fared well overall in its response to the challenge, with the third-highest year-to-year increase of any state in the number of total Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) filings during the 2016-17 school year, according to the National College Access Network.

The state’s 19% improvement trailed only Utah (33%) and Wyoming (22%).  Florida is the third most-populous state in the country, compared to Utah (30th) and Wyoming (51st, after D.C.). Read more here…



Santa Fe College Shores Up Plumbing Technology Talent

July 11, 2017

The Accelerated Plumbing Certificate Technology program at Santa Fe College is doing its part to provide the plumbing industry with able workers to meet the tremendous need for skilled plumbers in North Central Florida, the rest of the state and the nation.

The 11-month program trains students in the fundamentals of plumbing, beginning with lessons about the history of plumbing, said Robert Brown, the professor who teaches the class, which is held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday in the Charles R. Perry Construction Institute at SF College.

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

“They first learn the technical, science and math part of the industry before moving on to the hands-on part of the industry,” said Brown, who has been involved in the plumbing industry for almost 50 years.

Brown has been the instructor of the plumbing apprenticeship program at SF College for 17 years and has been the instructor of the accelerated program since it was established several years ago.

According to Brown, plumbing industry experts say hundreds of qualified plumbers are needed in North Central Florida, at least 8,000 in Florida and approximately 80,000 nationwide.

The program costs about $3,300. Registration is ongoing for the next class that begins in August, Brown said. Those interested in enrolling in the program must have a high school diploma or GED.

Tom Mason, the program’s academic advisor, said local plumbing contractors involved with the Celebration Pointe construction development in southwest Gainesville approached SF College several years ago about creating a program to help train people to become plumbers faster than normal.

The college has had a plumbing apprenticeship program for many years. It requires students to attend night classes twice a week during the fall and spring semesters for about four years, while also working with plumbing companies to get on-the-job training during the day.

The apprenticeship program is sponsored by the Builders Association of North Central Florida.

Click here to the Gainesville Sun article  

Changing Public Education through Partnership

June 27, 2017

Several key community organizations have partnered to improve the education and lives of students at Howard Bishop Middle School, which just completed its first year as a Community Partnership School. The Community Partnership School model utilizes the collective impact of four major partners– the Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS), Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS), the University of Florida (UF), Santa Fe College (SF), and the Alachua County Health Department (ACHD). These entities have joined together in a 25-year Memorandum of Understanding to become one effective agent of change to provide services and opportunities for Howard Bishop Middle School  The pooled resources of these partners will be utilized to meet the needs of Howard Bishop Middle School students, families, faculty/staff, and community members, including extended services, hours, and relationships.

According to Howard Bishop Principal Mike Gamble, teachers at the school would previously dip into their own pockets or closets to graciously support students’ unmet basic needs. Now, the Community Partnership School provides these services for free including snack and meal assistance, mental health counseling, academic enrichment opportunities, clothing assistance and emergency support.

Through a detailed community needs assessment and input from Howard Bishop administration, the Community Partnership School has outlined two current goals. The primary goal remains to provide academic assistance allowing for growth amongst the lowest quartile of students, especially in the areas of reading and math, as well as allow students who have been retained catch up with their cohort. The second goal is to deliver mental health counseling and social support to assist students, teachers, and families in managing their behaviors and demonstrating appropriate behavioral responses.

Faculty members see evidence of positive change in students’ behavior and performance.

“I have 3 students who I know are getting counseling through The Nest,” said Dr. Chloe Winant, Science Teacher. “I can see a difference in their attitudes and I can see a difference in their learning. And that is really awesome.  They might not have gotten that if they hadn’t gotten consistent therapy on a regular basis.”

The Community (Partnership) School will help us reach more people. In my position as the Dean, I am sometimes seen in only one role, discipline. Some of my initial interaction with parents is based on that type of situation. There have been times where I can see a mom that is struggling in other areas so it is good to be able to say “I know we are meeting about this, but let me give you a referral so you can go and talk to these people (The Nest) about that.” I like that a lot and it kind of makes my job easier. LaToya Lopez, School Dean

The Community Partnership School model is not new. Born out of Harlem, New York, during the 1970s the Community Partnership School model was first adopted in Florida by Evans High School in Orlando in 2012.  The results of this initiative at Evans are groundbreaking.  The school grade rose from an F to a B with graduation rates increasing from 64% to 80% in the span of four years.

Still, the process of implementing change through a Community Partnership School does not happen overnight. Both Mike Gamble and CHS Mid –Florida Executive Director, Jennifer Anchors, stress that the partnerships which will make the CPS successful require time and energy to cultivate.  And, like all long-term goals, the Community Partnership School requires time, patience and small steps to make a big difference.

Demonstrate your support of Howard Bishop Middle School, A Community Partnership School by serving as an in and out of school volunteer, mentor, after/out school provider, and/or providing a financial donation to provide tutoring/counseling.  Contact the Children’s Home Society of Mid-Florida today via email or at 352-334-0955.

Alachua County Education Compact Foundation Calls Community to Action

June 6, 2017

This week, the Alachua County Education Compact (ACEC) Foundation brought Compact Signers together to both summarize the initiative’s progress since its May 2015 launch and paint a picture of coming efforts to drive improved results for students. In its first two years, the Compact has continued to garner support and gain momentum, and has assisted or engaged more than 1,000 students, parents, teachers, guidance counselors and more through initiatives such as Career Discoveries Day, which provides a forum for students and parents to interact with businesses and educational institutions to identify career pathways, FAFSA Night at Eastside High, and more.

Under the guidance of Compact Leadership Council Chair Dug Jones, Associate Vice President of Economic Development of Santa Fe College the Compact will continue to move the needle by serving as a resource for students, parents, and educators while also growing its capacity for enhanced future impact. Initial steps in this direction include dividing the initiative into two phases, defining Phase I success by 21 separate measures, 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.

While meeting with Compact signers, Dr. Elio Chiarelli, Jr., Pension Consultant—who chairs the Foundation that will support the Compact—offered strong perspective on what he sees as a key element to achieving the Compact’s goals: helping students strengthen the relationships they need to succeed.

“To achieve these goals, we must address the root of the challenge of broken relationships,” said Dr. Chiarelli. “We must repair broken relationships with self, family, and community.”

Chair Chiarelli called meeting attendees to action to help meet this need by changing the narrative for every student in Alachua County by giving their time, talent and treasure to help students develop and sustain strong self-awareness and repair the relationships they need to succeed.

The Compact can connect you to opportunities to:

Give your Time

  • Volunteer for the Alachua County Education Compact Foundation board
  • Introduce people who share the vision of the Compact
  • Organize events and evaluate opportunities
  • Mentor students and families in our community

Give your Talent

  • Volunteer to help with marketing and fundraising
  • Become an asset to the broken relationships we are trying to repair
  • Help with grants or advocate for additional funds
  • Mentor students in our schools
  • Volunteer at a school

Give your Treasure

  • Donate to the ACEC Foundation, because you believe in the work that will benefit students in our community
  • Introduce us to your networks of others that may have an interest in giving

Our students—from preschool through post-secondary education—are among Greater Gainesville’s greatest assets and are key to the Chamber’s mission to facilitate economic prosperity, business success and community progress throughout our region. Ensuring we take every possible action to ensure their success benefits all of us.

Contact Vice President of Talent & Education Ian Fletcher at

Alachua County Public High Schools Increase Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Rate by 9.6%

May 31, 2017

The Community Foundation of North Central Florida, Alachua County Education Compact, and Business in Greater Gainesville are thrilled to announce the winners of the local 2017 Florida FAFSA Challenge.

Jennifer Taylor, Supervisor of Guidance and Student Services and the seven Alachua County Public high schools Guidance Counselors, had a goal to increase the number of seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by 5% through March 31, 2017. The Guidance Counselors reached their goal, having increased the number of seniors who completed the Federal Financial Aid form by 9.6% contributing to a statewide gain of 9.1%.

All seven high schools hosted a Financial Aid night, and the district hosted a community-wide Financial Aid night at Buchholz High Schools in late March.

“The credit for the increase in the FAFSA Completion rate this year was a result of the shared vision our community had for increasing the number of seniors that completed the Financial Aid application, said Ian Fletcher, Vice President of Education and Talent Alignment for the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The School Board, Superintendent, Schools, Guidance Counselors and Community Partners worked together to enhance the lives of these graduating seniors.”

Learn more about the challenge and which schools received “MVP” and “Most Improved”.

Alachua County School Board Voted to Appoint Karen Clarke New Superintendent

May 23, 2017

On Tuesday, May 16, the Alachua County School Board voted to appoint its Deputy Superintendent as the new Superintendent. The Gainesville Chamber congratulates Clarke on this

outstanding opportunity and looks forward to her continued involvement with the Alachua County Education Compact. Clarke served as the Chair of the Compact’s Strategy Development Committee and will represent the Alachua County Public Schools and Alachua County School Board signatories in her role as Superintendent.

You can read the full report by the Gainesville Sun here.

Mental Health Awareness Forum

May 16, 2017

The Parent Teacher Student Association, Student GovernmentAssociation, School Counselors, and Administrative Team and Eastside HighSchool, would like

to invite you to our Mental Health Awareness Forum. The event will be held on Wednesday, May 24th from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. and is open to the public. The conference is designed to reach 9th-12-grade students and families, including raising 9th graders (current 8th-grade students).

The focus of the Mental Health Awareness Forum will be on factors and stigmas associated with mental health, as well as discussion related to suicide prevention.

Mental Health Awareness Forum

6:00 – 6:10 PM – Introduction of Panelists
6:10 – 6:55 PM – Panel Discussion with Mental Health Professionals 6:55 – 7:00 PM – Break
7:00 – 7:45 PM – Break Out Sessions (Parents/Youth)
7:45 – 8:00 PM – Summary/Resources

For more on the Forum, please feel free to contact Dr.Anntwanique Edwards at (352) 955-6704, x388.

Saint Leo University to Host Commencement in Gainesville, May 13

May 9, 2017

Saint Leo University’s Gainesville Education Center will confer about 125 degrees during its commencement ceremony at 3 p.m., Saturday, May 13, at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The arts center is on the campus of the University of Florida, 3201 Hull Road, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Degrees to be awarded include master’s in accounting, business administration, education, criminal justice, and social work, as well as bachelors and associate degrees.

Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones will give the commencement address. Bo Cherie D. Derequito, who is graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education, will give the Class of 2017 farewell. An Li,  a member of the Class of 2016, will lead the students in the traditional turning of the tassels on their mortarboards and welcome them as new Saint Leo University alumni.

Guest speaker Jones is committed to the Gainesville community. Not only has he served the Gainesville Police Department since 1975, but he also is active in many local organizations including the Boys and Girls Club, Black on Black Crime Task Force, Corporate Volunteer Council, the Partnership for Strong Families, United Way, Habitat for Humanity, and the Boy Scouts of America North Florida Council. Jones became chief of the Gainesville Police Department in 2009.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever our students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. We welcome people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation and encourage learners of all generations. We are committed to providing educational opportunities to our nation’s armed forces, our veterans, and their families. We are regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and we guide all our students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

We remain the faithful stewards of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where our founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 15,000 students, we have expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintain a physical presence in seven states. We provide highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 82,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.