More than 30 students glided across the stage with glee in proclamation of their post-secondary plans at the inaugural Gainesville College Signing Day. Parents, family members, school administrators, friends and members of the Greater Gainesville community gathered to celebrate these students for their scholastic achievements and praise them for pursuing post-secondary education, whether a 4-year university, 2-year college, vocational training or the military. The Greater Gainesville Chamber and its foundation, the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Inc., d.b.a. the Alachua County Education Compact (ACEC) piloted this event at Celebration Pointe to celebrate graduating seniors. Celebration Pointe served as one of seven sponsors of the event.

“This community believes in celebrating graduates as they close one chapter of their lives and prepare to transition into their post-secondary careers,” said Chamber President and CEO Eric Godet.

Upon arrival, students checked in at the registration desk and were greeted with a raffle ticket and a green-and-blue Campus USA Credit Union bag, which contained a nametag that identified the student’s post-secondary choice, a matching felt pennant, a 2019 college signing day pennant, a Jones Edmunds & Associates, Inc. pen and miscellaneous goodies. Students then joined their family and friends, some dressed in matching college/university attire in solidarity, for pizza provided by Midici and desserts provided by Decadent A Coffee and Dessert Bar. They continued to enjoy the fun-filled atmosphere with music provided by Genius Entertainment, in anticipation of their special moment.

Each student walked across the stage to receive his/her certificate of commitment and shake hands with Godet, who offered words of wisdom and encouragement. Before exiting the stage, each student signed his/her name on a placard filled with logos of universities, colleges, industry-recognized training programs and the varied branches of military. School administrators and parents were also acknowledged.

Godet continued, “As Nelson Mandela previously stated, ‘Education is the most powerful [tool] which you can use to change the world.’ So it was exciting to see the difference that education has made in the lives of these students and their parents and I eagerly await the positive changes that these young adults will make on the world around them.”

Additionally, three students won a duffle bag filled with Bass Pro Shops swag. Group and individual photos marked the end of the high-spirited program, with students, family, friends and even school administrators socializing and dancing into the night. More than 150 people attended the event, in total.

Each principal of Alachua County’s public and private high schools was asked to identify five to 10 graduating seniors to participate in the pilot. “Because of the success of this year’s program, an invitation to participate in next year’s College Signing Day will be extended to all Alachua County graduating high school seniors who plan to transition into a post-secondary career,” said Chamber Vice President of Education and Talent Alignment Ian Fletcher, who is also credited with developing and leading the ACEC. Fletcher decided to bring College Signing Day to Gainesville after attending a College Signing Day program at the White House in July of 2016. “I thought it was essential for our community to host such a program to give our students, their family and school administrators a chance to celebrate our graduates.” Championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama and hosted by schools, organizations, community leaders and influencers, College Signing Day is a chance to rally around students who have committed to higher education. This event is a way to help young people see college as an option, whether at a traditional 4-year college, a 2-year community college or through an industry-recognized training program or with the military. This national campaign was first launched five years ago. For more photos from College Signing Day or more information about the Gainesville Chamber’s Alachua County Education Compact and its events, visit

Eastside High School Laptop Donation

GRU and CH2M Partner through ACEC to Buy New Laptops for EHS Students

On January 18, 2018, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) and CH2M (now Jacobs) presented six new laptop computers to Eastside High School for student use. The partnership was brought about through the Alachua County Education Compact (ACEC), formed by the Chamber after meeting with educators and chamber leaders from Los Angeles to learn about their education compact.
The partnership between the three organizations will help bridge the digital divide and provide positive reinforcement for academic excellence in students who may not have access to technology at home.
Funding is provided through CH2M’s Bikes-n-Bytes, an employee-sponsored program started in 2001 to provide positive reinforcement for good behavior and academics. To date, the program has donated 676 bikes and 147 computers, laptops and tablets to deserving youth at various schools, churches, and youth centers in north Florida.
CH2M has worked with GRU since 1973, helping plan, design, and oversee construction of their water and wastewater facilities.
“Education and employment opportunities go hand-in hand in any community,” said Susan Davenport, President/CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. “We formed the Alachua County Education Compact to build a bridge between area businesses and our educators — and to make these opportunities possible. We’re proud to have helped bring CH2M and GRU together to help these East Side High School students have more access to the tools and resources they need to succeed in business and life.”

The Compact To Rethink Education

As the new year approaches, the Chamber’s Alachua County Education Compact continues to work collectively with our educational partners to build a bridge between the business community and our schools.  We celebrate our 2017 accomplishments in partnering with businesses in our community.

In 2017, the Alachua County Education Compact

  1. Worked with the Reggae Shack, to sponsor East Side High School’s At-Risk Student/Parent dinner. This initiative is supported by Compact Strategy Six.
  2. Worked with Karen Clarke, who served as Deputy Superintendent at the time, to identify local businesses that would support student participation in the 2017 VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky. We identified sponsors for more than 30 Alachua County Public School students. Eight teams, from J.J. Finley and Norton Elementary School and Lincoln Middle School, participated in the world championship. This initiative is supported by Compact Strategy One.
  3. Sponsored a luncheon at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce for the five superintendent finalists. Also, 21 of 28 Compact Signers or member(s) of their organizations spent a half-day interviewing the superintendent finalists. These initiatives are supported by Compact Strategy Three.
  4. Worked with the Community Foundation of North Central Florida and Gift Certificates & More (GCM) to provide funding in support of the Early Learning Development and The Parent Academy training 112 staff members and gifting each staff member with a year’s subscription to GCM Plus. This initiative is supported by Compact Strategy Two.
  5. Participated in drafting the Director of Educational Equity’s position and participated on the interview panel. The Alachua County Public Schools invited ACEC to participate. This initiative is supported by Compact Strategy Two.
  6. Worked with Community Foundation of North Central Florida donated funds to reward our District Guidance Counselors achievement of a 12.1% increase in graduating seniors completing the Free Application Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This initiative is supported by Compact Strategy Five.
  7. Worked with 4 Rivers Smokehouse provided meals for Eastside High Schools At Promise/ Risk dinners for students and their parents. Worked with Santa Fe College provided four-Asus Tablets for Guidance Counselors for Eastside High School. This initiative is supported by Compact Strategy Six.
  8. Worked with the United Way of North Central Florida to arrange over $22,000 in school supply donations (from Publix Supermarket) to the Compact, who gave it to over 700 students in the Alachua County Public Schools 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This initiative is supported by Compact Strategy Six.
  9. Hosted the 2017 Career Discoveries Day which over 300-students and parents from middle/high school in attendance with over 40-vendors and breakout sessions leaders. This initiative is supported by Compact Strategy Five.

We look to rethink education in Alachua County in 2018 by introducing new programs like Youth Apprenticeship, Parental Workshop, Young Adult training, and Ed-U-Chat to our community. We ask our business community to continue to donate either their time, talent or treasure to a local school and help our teachers help our students towards the foundation skills they need to progress in this world.

In 2018, we will be working with our Compact Leadership Council to develop the Youth Apprenticeship program.  The Youth Apprenticeship program modeled after the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce where students involved in the Youth Apprentice Program take their normal high school programs and also travel to Trident Technical College two to three days per week where they enrolled in dual credit classes in a specific area. The Parental Workshop modeled after Orange County California Business Council.  Teaches parents how to navigate the education system, empowering parents to support their child from cradle to career, leading parents to become an advocate for their students, and engage parents in career pathway preparation. The young adult training program developed by local advocates, the business community, and our educational institutions will identify students who are in need of pathway opportunities to the career of their future.  Ed-U-Chat is a new community forum to lead discussions about education in our community.

2018, like any other year requires us to continue the progress of the Compact and working to ensure all students have an opportunity for upward mobility in life.  The long-term sustainability of our business community is currently residing in one of the three institutions in our community.  It is vital for the business community to get involved and join us as we work to ensure our students achieve success in the classroom and life.

Alachua County Education Compact Donates $22,000 to Local Public Schools

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.

Thank you for making it possible for our students to receive the wonderful supplies. Irby’s students are in Kindergarten through Second Grade and they love to color and draw. They have been very excited about the big boxes of crayons. The other supplies will be very helpful during homework time. We really appreciate your generosity and kindness.

Joan Imler
Media Aide | Site Tech
21st Century Co-Coordinator
Irby Elementary

“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.

I would like to take a minute to say thank you. The supplies are greatly appreciated and needed. The supplies were needed and will be used. The students will have to supplies to complete homework and other projects.

Sylenia Browning
21st Coordinator
Lake Forest Elementary

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 the 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.

On behalf of the students and staff of 21st CCLC at Idylwild Elementary, we would like to send a huge HUG of THANKS to you for donating these much-needed supplies to our program.  We are so grateful and cannot wait to put the supplies to great use for our students.  Thank you very much! 😉

Lilliemarie A. Gore
4th Grade Teacher
Idylwild Elementary

“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.”

I just received the shipment of supplies that you were kind enough to donate to the 21st Century program at Alachua Elementary School. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity. Our students will benefit so much from having access to a wealth of supplies this year. It’s people like you who give our most vulnerable students one more reason to be successful. We are truly appreciative.

Renee Long
4th Grade Teacher/21st Century Site Coordinator
Alachua Elementary School

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.

It is around this time of year that people start to talk about things that they are thankful for.

Today I am thankful for you, Mr. Fletcher.

Thank you so much for the generous donation of supplies. Metcalfe is considered one of the “high needs” schools in Alachua County. Your support and donations make such a HUGE difference in programs like 21st Century. These supplies will be used throughout the school year and will be given to the students who are in need.

Thank you for thinking of Metcalfe Elementary!
Thank you for making a difference!

Brandy Bradshaw
21st Century Director
Metcalfe Elementary