Creating Student Centers Focused on Optimizing Student Success Beyond High School
- 28th October 2020
- Anthony Bowie
Focused on supporting Sarasota County Schools’ students, teachers, and schools, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County is a non-profit that works in partnership with the district that it supports. The organization works to ensure that all students graduate with a purpose and prepared for life beyond high school.
As part of its mission, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County began establishing and managing independent “student success centers” at area high schools. These centers provide students with personal guidance, advising and resources to help them prepare for life beyond high school.
“That way, when students graduate, they’re better positioned for post-secondary pursuits, active career entry, or military service,” says Jennifer Vigne, president and CEO. “We help them understand all of their options to maximize their full potential.”
With three operational student success centers and an independent community resource center, “LaunchPad4U,” the Education Foundation of Sarasota County continues to expand to provide support for all students who attend any of the seven different comprehensive public high schools in Sarasota County. It plans to open another center for the upcoming academic year in an effort to continue serving each and every student.
“The current ratio of students to a school counselor in Florida is 475:1,” Vigne points out. “The odds of students getting any level of personalized advising—unless they invest in independent, private party, fee-for-service support is low especially when considering all the other demands the traditional school counselors face on a daily basis.”
At the same time, Vigne and her team recognized that this was a chance to expand those services to the students who need it the most and who are less likely be able to afford private counseling options. “Providing each and every student with equitable opportunities leads to a purposeful, successful life.” she said.
Introduced to MiEN by a local architectural firm that was able to design the vision for what its student success centers would look like, the Education Foundation of Sarasota County wanted a good balance of aesthetics and functionality. The environment had to serve as a conduit for creating an atmosphere of hope and optimism—all while leaning on the mindset that every student has his or her own strengths.
“Sometimes, students are indoctrinated into feeling like failures due to grading systems and other issues,” says Vigne. “We want them to walk into a center and feel a sense of, ‘I can do this. I have purpose and I can be successful in my life no matter where I am in my journey.’”
Vigne says the furniture design was especially important. Working with MiEN, the design of the space was able to create a feel and a function similar to a college campus’ student union. “That’s where the architects directed us to MiEN, knowing that this is an area where they have quite an array of expertise,” says Vigne. “As a result, I have become a believer in and supporter of MiEN.”
For the centers, MiEN provided the seating, tables, board conference room seating, teacher desks, large tabletops, and shelving. The Education Foundation of Sarasota County intentionally complimented its school colors, but also came up with its own, unique color scheme.
For this project, MiEN also created a design element that was on par with the organization’s programmatic element—something that Vigne saw as critical to the centers’ success. “We’re working with a teenage audience, so we have to spark curiosity in order to draw them in,” says Vigne. “Otherwise they’re just going to pass us by and not gravitate toward it.”
Each center was reconfigured from current construction. LaunchPad4U, for example, was most recently a web design firm. Today, it functions both as a student success center and a place where the Education Foundation of Sarasota County holds teacher leadership meetings and hosts community organizations.
Focused on helping students attend career fairs, apply for internships, explore different college options, or otherwise prepare for successful futures, the Education Foundation’s Student Success Centers are everything that its creators expected them to be.
Vigne credits MiEN with helping the Education Foundation of Sarasota County achieve its vision and continue the great non-profit work that it’s doing with Florida students. “The furniture and resources in our Student Success Centers met our expectations,” says Vigne, “and in some cases exceeded them.”