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.

Alachua County Education Compact Strengthens Leadership and Streamlines Approach

May 2, 2017

In support of advancing under a “Collective Impact” model, the Alachua County Education Compact (ACEC) has combined the initiative’s two, former leadership groups—the ACEC Stewardship Council and the Chamber’s Talent Alignment and Education Committee—into one body. Under the leadership of Chair Dug Jones, Santa Fe College’s Vice President of Economic Development, the Leadership Council will govern the initiative going forward. Combining the two groups, which were formerly and separately responsible for strategy and resources is a first step toward increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of the Compact.

As a “Collective Impact” model, the Compact represents the 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. The Collective Impact model also calls for a shared measurement system, mutually reinforcing activities and a single organization or entity to function as a “backbone organization,” to staff and manage the initiative’s activities. The Chamber undertook the role of serving as the backbone organization when the Compact was signed and has spent nearly two years facilitating a process that has resulted in the signers’ agreement on a common agenda to achieve six goals that would ensure that all students graduate from high school, are prepared for college and/or career success, have access to pathways to sustainable jobs and careers, and develop healthy lifestyle habits, appreciation for the arts and a sense of social responsibility.

Moving forward, the Council will approach the Compact’s work in two phases. For phase I, the Compact will focus on the first three goals: ensuring all students graduate from high school; have access to and are prepared for college and/or career success, and have access to pathways to sustainable jobs and careers. Phase I success will be defined by twenty-one separate measures—including rates of graduation, promotion, attendance, and kindergarten readiness; advanced course enrollment and exam passage rates; college readiness, acceptance, and enrollment rates; career-technical education certifications and credits; and more. Additionally, the Compact will be implementing a consultant’s recent recommendations to prioritize the development and implementation 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.

The Chamber has also formed the Human Capital Foundation, which raised more than $15,000 in 2016 and will continue to lead fundraising efforts to ensure the Compact’s activities can be properly resourced.

Look for upcoming future updates on the Compact and its progress over the last two years.

Alachua County Schools Finish FAFSA Challenge on a High Note

April 4, 2017

A final group of high school seniors and their parents attended the last night of the 2017 FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) Challenge on March 28 at Buchholz High School.

The Florida College Access Network— represented in Alachua County by the Alachua County Education Compact— issued the Florida FAFSA Challenge statewide in September 2016 with a goal of

boosting the proportion of public high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by at least five percent over the last school year. The challenge was issued locally by the Alachua County Education Compact–which serves as the official chapter for the Florida College Access Network in Alachua County and is staffed by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Santa Fe College Associate Vice President of Economic Development Dug Jones

attended to represent the Compact’s Leadership Council, which he serves as Chair. Two of the six goals of the Alachua County Education Compact focus on ensuring all students are prepared for college and/or career success and have access to pathways to sustainable jobs and careers. A metric that contributes to our measurement of our progress in these areas is the “college-going” rate.

“The assistance that will be provided to students and parents tonight directly impacts that measure by removing a financial barrier to college attendance for students who have been accepted to a college or are eligible for acceptance, but are unable to afford to pay tuition,” Jones said.

This event provided a final boost to an extremely successful effort executed by guidance counselors at seven Alachua County Public High Schools. The schools have held multiple FASFA night events since the Florida College Access Network—represented in Alachua County by the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce—issued a September 2016 challenge to schools to increase FAFSA completions by five percent. Alachua County’s seven participating schools have exceeded that goal, increasing the number of completed applications by eight percent as of March 10, 2017. FAFSA forms completed after March 10—including those completed at the March 28 event—will further elevate the percentage by which Alachua County schools have exceeded last year’s FAFSA Completion Rate.

Florida high school graduates leave behind over $100 million each year in Pell Grants. Increasing the number of FAFSA forms completed by Alachua County students is a strong indicator that the number of those students who attend college will also increase.

View the CBS 4 Story here.

Seven Alachua County Public High Schools Exceed Goal to Make College Affordable for High School Seniors

March 7, 2017

Guidance counselors at seven Alachua County public high schools have risen to a challenge issued via the Florida College Access Network’s Florida FAFSA Challenge in September. The FAFSA Challenge strives to boost the proportion of public high school seniors completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by at least 5% over last school year. Together, the seven Alachua County high schools have increased the number of completed applications by six percent, exceeding the goal nearly a month ahead of the challenge’s March 31 end.

“Over the last three years we’ve seen a growing number of schools, districts and communities working together to help their students make college more affordable,” said Troy Miller, Florida CAN’s associate director for research and policy. “It’s great to see that all their hard work is making a difference for students across the state.” Florida’s collective efforts to boost FAFSA completion are having an impact: Completing the FAFSA is one of the most important steps students need to take to access college or career school. Students

must complete the form to qualify for federal financial aid programs to pay for their college expenses. Yet according to Florida CAN’s research, each year Florida’s high school graduates leave behind more than $100 million in Pell Grants alone because they do not fill out the form.

In early April, the Florida College Access Network will announce and celebrate the top-performing schools and districts in the state. To see which schools and districts are currently leading this year’s Florida FAFSA Challenge, including the schools with the highest and most improved rates, check out the Florida FAFSA Challenge leaderboard.

Education Foundation Mentor Recruitment

February 7, 2017

The Education Foundation of Alachua County’s Take Stock in Children program is looking for volunteer mentors!

Take Stock in Children provides support to low-income, at-risk students in our community by providing them with case management, academic support, and a volunteer mentor. If the students maintain academic standards, stay drug-and crime-free and meet with their mentor regularly, then upon graduation from high school, they receive a college scholarship. Over the past few years, this program has grown to include over 330 students. Students enrolled in Take Stock in Children have a 96% high school graduation rate!

One of the biggest and most important components of Take Stock in Children is our mentors. We ask our mentors to visit their students on school property (typically during the student’s lunch or sometimes before school if it works for the student and mentor’s schedule) once per week or at least 3 times per month. Meetings typically last 30 minutes.

We try to maintain a balance between letting the mentors develop their own personal relationship with their student and providing materials to support the mentor/student relationship. For instance, mentors are provided with training, tool kits and activities they can to do with their students, but they aren’t required to do those specific activities. Take Stock in Children mentors aren’t tutors (although we do provide them with their student’s report card each 9 weeks) but we do want them to support their student in academics, since this program results in a college scholarship. At the core, mentors are there to be a stable adult in the student’s life. To let that student know that they are there for them, help them navigate middle and high school, both socially and academically.

If this is something you are interested in, staff members from The Education Foundation are tabling on Wednesday, February 1st, from 4 – 7 pm. at Patticakes downtown and would love to talk to you! The first 10 people to stop by and sign up to mentor will receive a $10 gift card to Patticakes! For more information, email