By Dr. Barbara Shirley, Principal
Alta Vista Elementary School
Sarasota, Florida
2013-14 Florida Principal of the Year

As families struggle to work toward educational success and economic security, it is becoming even more crucial for schools to expand their scope in meeting the vast needs of their school community. Alta Vista Elementary in Sarasota is a Title I school where 94 percent of students are on the free and reduced-price lunch program.

Three years ago, we committed to becoming a community school by creating two generational programs that would meet the needs of both students and parents together. Our Eagle Academy, a seven-week academic/enrichment summer learning program, was originally developed for students entering kindergarten to better prepare them for school.

During the past three years, our program has grown from 62 students who are now entering second grade to 250 kindergarten, first and second grade children. Achievement data has shown that the students who attend the Eagle Academy are better prepared academically for the next grade level and do not experience summer learning loss.

During the Eagle Academy summer program, our parents attend adult classes one evening a week, while their children are in arts integrated/enrichment classes. This Parent University provides classes that promote successful student achievement through parent involvement.

Classes also focus on strengthening life and parenting skills while fostering career and vocational training. Approximately 300 parents attend classes each week focused on Parents as Readers, Tips for School Success, Managing Behavior at Home, Health and Nutrition, Finance and Budgeting, Job Connection and Employability Skills, English as a Second Language, Technology, and GED classes. Many of these classes are also offered during the school year.

These high quality training and educational opportunities emphasize skills and knowledge required for a job or trade. Parents have told us, “our skills were enhanced by the sessions with caring and knowledgeable instructors in the Parent University” and “we are more connected to the school.”

Alta Vista is committed to supporting the educational success and financial security of our parents and children together. Our Two Generations…One Future programs provide intergenerational opportunities for students and their parents together. Our goal is to build education, economic supports, and social capital to create financial security that passes from one generation to the next.

During the Eagle Academy and school year, single mothers are provided free educational programs in vocational occupations to increase their job opportunities and financial potential. Through the generosity of donors, these programs educate and train parents in specific careers or trades. These high quality training and education opportunities emphasize the skills and knowledge required for a job or trade.

Our Two Generations…One Future programs are offered based on economic development indicators of job opportunities in Sarasota and parent interest. Some of the vocational programs include Certified Nursing Assistant, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Administrative Assistant, and Technology. Parents go through a stringent application and interview process before acceptance into the program.

Alta Vista Elementary also partnered with the Community Foundation of Sarasota and American Red Cross to provide full scholarships to 37 parents interested in a certified nursing assistant (CNA) training program and two parents interested in cosmetology. All of these parents have passed state certification exams and are currently working in their field.

The CNA program has been held at the school during the past two summer Eagle Academy programs and throughout the school year on our campus. At the end of each seven week program, a job fair and graduation ceremony is held at the school, celebrating our parents’ successful completion of the program and their opportunities for employment. During this ceremony, since most of our parents were high school drop-outs, they are walking across the stage for the first time in their lives. It is quite a celebration for our parent graduates and their families!!

Through our Eagle Academy, Parent University, and Two Generations…One Future Programs, we are creating a community school dedicated to educating children and their parents together!


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