SARASOTA, July 18, 2016 – Last
summer, something awoke inside Michael Byrd. The single father of three dropped
his three children off at elementary school and noticed information about the General
Equivalency Degree program for adults offered on the same campus. Although it
had been years since he’d stepped into a classroom, the idea appealed to him.
opportunity presented itself and I made the commitment to earn my GED,” says
the proud dad. He wanted a better life: one in which he wasn’t always
struggling to get ahead and that would show his kids there’s a better way.
found the help he needed at Alta Vista Elementary, a federally designated Title
I school with a large number of students from financially challenged families. With
the establishment in 2013 of the Eagle Academy, Alta Vista became the first school
in the Sarasota County School District to adopt an innovative and comprehensive
model of approaching education, shifting from a student-focused to a
two-generation focus. The new model was the result of a strong partnership among
several generous community partners, which include Suncoast Technical College
and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
programs, like those at Alta Vista Elementary, provide opportunities and meet
the needs of vulnerable parents and children together. While they were already
adept at meeting the needs of children at the school, the school’s adult education
program focuses on enriching the lives of parents.
it was Byrd’s drive and dedication that ultimately made him successful, he had
a supportive team working with him along the way. With the guidance of Carole
Clarke, the adult education career coach at Suncoast Technical College, Byrd
returned to school last summer, completing the GED program in a few short
months. He has the proud distinction of being the first graduate of the program
in December 2015.
is the first time in a while someone has believed in me,” Byrd said, referring
to Clarke. But Byrd’s journey didn’t end with earning his GED. During the
school year he drops off his children Malik, Makiyla and Myron at Alta Vista every morning, then hurries south to the
main campus of Suncoast Technical College in Sarasota, where he takes marine services
technology classes. Clarke continues to play a pivotal part in Byrd’s academic
life as he works toward achieving his ultimate goal: owning his own business.
like Byrd’s are becoming more common at Alta Vista Elementary, as parents take
advantage of the opportunities offered on campus. In fact, the school’s two-generation
approach has been so successful that many of its components are being
replicated in three additional Title I elementary schools this summer: Tuttle,
Gocio and Emma E. Booker, all in Sarasota.
result of increased interest and inspiring successes like Byrd’s, Alta Vista
Elementary and Suncoast Technical College have expanded their partnership.
Additional opportunities for further education will be offered, including such
diverse programs as certified nursing assistant, Microsoft
Office specialist, forklift operator
and others offered year-round as the program grows. Parents of Alta Vista
students are invited to attend classes taught by Suncoast Technical College
instructors, held on the Alta Vista Elementary campus and guided by a
arrangement helps makes the transition to higher education and a career — often
a daunting challenge for parents — less of an overwhelming endeavor and is sure
to lead to more success stories like Byrd’s.
more information about Alta Vista Elementary’s growing program, please contact Principal
Barbara Shirley at 941-361-6400. Parents of Alta Vista Elementary students who
are interested in enrolling may contact Jackie Ekstrom, school social worker,
at 941-361-6400, ext. 51520, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vista Elementary is located at 1050 S. Euclid Ave., Sarasota.