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News & Updates


News, Updates, and Future Developments of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Ralph Smith Inspires All at the 22nd Annual Legacy Society Luncheon
By / January 28, 2015
Ralph Smith Inspires All at the 22nd Annual Legacy Society Luncheon

On Friday, January 23rd, 2015, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County was privileged to have Ralph Smith, Managing Director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, as the keynote speaker for the 22nd Annual Legacy Society Luncheon. As Senior Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Smith has concentrated on strategies to improve outcomes for children, especially those from low-income families, by supporting families and communities through education.  Part of these efforts included the creation of a collaborative national initiative called the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

Launched in 2010, the campaign works to ensure that students are reading on grade-level by the end of the 3rdgrade, an early predictor that defines a student’s likelihood of reaching success during their academic career. The initiative targets a few key areas that obstruct reading proficiency: school readiness, chronic absence, parental engagement, and summer learning loss. Now in over 160 communities, representing 39 states across the nation, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading has helped numerous civic leaders and organizations build and manage Community Solutions Action Plans to address the challenges hindering grade-level literacy. Sarasota County joined the Campaign in 2013, and is one of only 10 CGLR communities in Florida.

During the celebration of individuals and families who entrust the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with their estates to carry on their charitable passions, Smith stressed the importance of addressing issues that impede early literacy and inspired the idea that we as a community must ensure that the torch of education is passed down to the next generation. Smith honored individuals who use philanthropy to make a positive difference in the world and recognized Sarasota for its ability to tackle vital problems. Smith ended his address with: "If it can't be done in Sarasota, then where else?"

Guests of the Legacy Society Luncheon also saw a spotlight on Sarasota’s own Campaign for Grade-Level Reading efforts by Dr. Barbara Shirley, Principal of Alta Vista Elementary and Florida Principal of the Year for 2014. Joined by Dr. Shirley were four young students from Alta Vista Elementary’s “Eagle Academy,” a fully-funded program in partnership with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County which addresses the school readiness gap of children entering kindergarten and summer learning loss.  The students were proud to address the room and express how reading will make them smarter.

The Community Foundation of Sarasota County was also thrilled to partner with The Patterson Foundation to extend Smith’s visit to Sarasota f three days, which included a multitude of discussions and meetings with local foundations, charitable organizations, and various educators.

During this time, Smith addressed a reception of board members and executive directors from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Manatee Community Foundation, Longboat Key Foundation, Lakewood Ranch Community Fund, and the DeSoto Community Foundation. Smith also spoke at a special breakfast focused around the Campaign, hosted by The Patterson Foundation, visited both Alta Vista Elementary School and the Visible Men Academy, and was interviewed by Tom Tryon during a Herald-Tribune Hot Topics session on literacy and education. Smith commended Sarasota as a special place where so many foundations, organizations, civic leaders, and citizens come together in order to solve problems.

For more information on the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and Ralph Smith’s visit to Sarasota, please view the following links:

Herald-Tribune columns on the Grade-Level Reading campaign written by Opinion Editor Tom Tryon:

The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading web site:

About Ralph Smith:

 Community Foundation of Sarasota County grade-level reading initiatives:

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