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FL Coalition Wins National Grant to Improve Rural Higher Ed

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022   

Some national funding is headed toward Southwest Florida to help boost rural learning and workforce systems.

CivicLab, a national nonprofit promoting civic collaboration, announced today five rural partnerships will get to divvy up a $750,000 grant to help facilitate training, provide technical assistance and direct financial support to benefit low-income learners, including adults entering or reentering workforce training programs.

Tessa LeSage, director of the FutureMakers Coalition, which plans to use the grant funds to improve education outcomes in Hendry County.

"We're very excited," LeSage remarked. "We're at the very beginning stages of this. Nothing like this has really been done in Hendry before, so we're happy to have such amazing partners including Florida Gulf Coast University, The Joseph Project, the Hendry County EDC (Economic Development Council)."

LeSage's coalition includes more than 300 different stakeholders, including people from the business and education community coming together to help solve the complete challenges in workforce and education in rural counties. Other states receiving grants include Texas, Indiana, New Mexico and California.

Dakota Pawlicki, director of Talent Hubs for CivicLab, said the application process for the grant was very competitive. However, they felt the FutureMakers Coalition demonstrated they had the relationships, capacity and capability to make real change.

"They have a great opportunity to work with their local school system," Pawlicki explained. "Their superintendent is on board and there to make sure that people have the kind of education skills they need, particularly as new business start coming into southwest Florida."

With funding support from Ascendium Education Group, partnerships will now work together to accomplish a system- and program-level plan to improve education and workforce outcomes for their residents, including helping with job placements, credential completion and social mobility. Each partnership will receive support during a two-year cycle of the initiative.


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