‘Funding Our Future’ When funding gets cut, education foundation takes up slack

Serving our community as the executive director of the Citrus County Education Foundation, I am honored to continue the work started by past directors. It is a privilege to report on our many achievements and newer programs, while reflecting on our long-term mission. As a parent of a county high school graduate with another still in school, combined with working in the district for eight years, I have firsthand knowledge of the true needs of our public schools and have experienced how the CCEF impacts our students.

The CCEF is the only 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose sole mission is to support public education, pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, in Citrus County. For almost three decades, we’ve been funding success in the classroom. We focus on touching as many students — and teachers — as possible. Times change however, and we must step out of the background. The current situations of decreasing county and state-allocated funds have demanded we make our presence more known.

Possibly best known for hosting “Galaxy of Stars,” the annual celebration of our county Teachers and School-Related Employees of the Year, we lend our helping hands to numerous other programs. Programs, that students will tell you have greatly impacted them, such as Math Field Day, the Regional Science Fair, Environmental Jeopardy, the Inverness Art Festival’s Student Zone, and the county Academic Team. Did you know that we have funded a portion of the second-grade Swim Program for 1,200 kids, along with college field trips for over 700 middle and high schoolers in the AVID programs? We continue to support district technology purchases in these times of unfunded state mandates and shrinking budgets.

Quietly through the decades, the CCEF has distributed over $2 million, with half of that in the last five years. We’ve been able to do this through our own fundraising combined with partnerships from other organizations, such as matching grants from the State Consortium of Education Foundations. But our story is more than just a big donation.

For instance, our recent Mini Grant programs in 2016-17, benefited 265 teachers and will impact over 12,000 students!

Now in its fourth year, our “First Library” program recently added 1,100 kindergarteners. Altrusa and the county Library System have been invaluable in the continuation of this volunteer Read-In effort. By the end of May, we’ll have distributed 8,600 curriculum-centered books to over 2,100 students in all 11 elementary schools in the district, giving every student in every PreK and kindergarten class their very own “First Library.”

We so appreciate the local businesses and organizations who have supported us over the decades, such as the Black Diamond Foundation, Crystal Automotive Group, Duke Energy and the Suncoast Credit Union Foundation. Recently, we’ve spent time expanding our community outreach, forming alliances with new businesses and partners.

In the past year, we have partnered with Wells Fargo and employees at Lowe’s Home Improvement to support our high school mentoring program, while Technology Conservation Group is working with certain CREST School students. The Young Professionals of the Chamber of Commerce have taken on the high school “Golden Citrus Scholars” awards night with our local YMCA working closely with us since its inception. We have just recently partnered with the Young Leaders Alliance and the Rotary Club of Inverness, to launch our “College and Career Camp.”

Our spring fundraising season kicks off April 1 with the fourth annual Suncoast Credit Union Foundation Schoolhouse Hustle 5K/10K/1-Mile Walk (with Health Expo, YMCA Kids Zone and Spirit Competitions at the Lecanto Complex). Next up, on April 22, is the 19th annual Superintendent’s Golf Classic at Sugarmill Woods Country Club.

“Funding Our Future” is hardly just our newest tagline. Diminishing budgets and the times we live in have called for greater grassroots support and more extensive community involvement. We must advocate, and provide, for children in our public schools!

We truly appreciate the vast amounts of volunteer time and financial support so many in the county have given us over the years. But our mission stays the same. Our programs expand due to circumstances and demonstrated need in the school district. We humbly ask for more.

DO YOU KNOW

For information on our many programs and events, visit our website at www.citruseducation.org or find us on Facebook under Citrus Education.

Shaunda Burdette is executive director of the Citrus County Education Foundation. She can be reached at 352-726-1931, ext. 2240, or BurdetteS@citrus.k12.fl.us.

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