Opinion Columns & Blogs

Gratitude: Thanks to a very generous community

Grads watch a commemorative video at the Lakewood Ranch High School graduation held at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto Wednesday night.
Grads watch a commemorative video at the Lakewood Ranch High School graduation held at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto Wednesday night. ttompkins@bradenton.com

This week marks the end of 12 years of formal schooling for more than 2,000 high schoolers in Manatee County as they graduate. Their commencement marks the beginning of their college, career, or life explorations.

So what might they and their parents grateful for? A lot! For some it is finishing on time, getting accepted to college, earning an industry certification useful for careers, or enlisting in the armed services — all giant steps into the future. Parents, students and board members are grateful to teachers, school staff, bus drivers, the cafeteria workers, all who worked daily and diligently to guide the graduates to success.

What else can we be grateful for? There is much more that comes from beyond the walls of the schools. Here in Manatee County, many different kinds of community support and supporters have offered a plethora of assistance, from mentoring, to career shadowing, to cash, that all-around useful commodity to help with post graduation expenses. While not every high school senior is like Southeast’s Caleb Francois, receiving a four-year college scholarship to George Washington University from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, hundreds of our students are benefiting from community-based scholarships and awards from the local Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, Palm Aire Women’s Club, Take Stock in Children/Manatee, businesses, churches, fraternities and sororities, book awards from colleges like Smith, Yale and Harvard, from the AAUW, and many others all directed at helping young people be successful in a world where the currency for success requires currency. Gratitude is due to each and every one of all these Manatee County citizens for their role in ensuring student success and in providing support for bright futures.

At recent pre-graduation award ceremonies held by each high school, the lists were seemingly endless, not only from organized groups but from individuals, like Mac and Phyllis Carraway and the Harllee family, who were moved to honor migrant graduates who struggle to overcome obstacles most of us do not face.

In addition to cash support, companies have named awards for a beloved coworker, and families create ways to honor and remember a loved one, so that the legacy of the values and spirit are recognized and respected. The spirit of Manatee protects the future of young people, by remembering, recognizing and rewarding: for that spirit, much gratitude is earned and deserved.

This is how we can pay it forward: The Manatee Education Foundation has a wonderfully easy charitable mechanism, called Legacy Funds. All it takes is a call to Executive Director Mary Glass: 941-251-4937. she will tell you of funds for retirees, for former school board members Barbara Harvey and Marjorie Kinnan, and others, easily established with a check. It doesn’t take $1 million to establish a fund; the gift earns a charitable donation, and is passed to the recipient annually.

So what’s in your wallet?

And what’s in your heart? A Legacy Fund? The opportunities are endless: perhaps someone who has experienced success in business wants to establish and organize with his colleagues a special Science Teacher Incentive Fund, annually honoring teachers who “go above and beyond.” And what teachers don’t?

Or a fund for young people to conduct environmental research on the impacts (or not) of global warming? Or a fund to pay for a field trip bus, to take students to a special performance of the Sarasota circus?

The generous spirit of the community deserves much gratitude and praise: Thanks to this community, our students are better equipped for success.

Karen Carpenter is Chair of the Manatee County School Board. Email her at Carpenter2k@manateeschools.net