manatee community foundation

Manatee Community Foundation Strives To Help UnidosNow Move Forward: Strengthening and Enhancing Our Community

By Sandy Chase

The UnidosNow of 2010 was much different from what it is today.  The philanthropy of such organizations as Manatee Community Foundation (MCF) has enabled the nonprofit to define its mission—refocusing on the future of Latino in this community.

A grant from the Knight Donor Advised Fund of the MCF supported the Future Leaders Academy—helping to create the current robust educational program for adolescents and their parents.

Beholden to MCF, Luz Corcuera says, “Over the years—thanks to their leadership and generous support, we have been able to work closely on several initiatives—striving to make a difference for those who need it most.”  

Some of those programs to which Luz is referring reflects how the MCF-UnidosNow partnership has:

  • Strengthened the signature FLA—helping college-bound participants realize their educational goals. 
  • Established the first FLAG (Future Leaders Academy for elementary-school Girls) in Manatee County.
  • Introduced FLAM ((Future Leaders Academy for Middle School). 
  • Supported the local college access network (REACH Manatee), which bridges gaps to help low-income students achieve their highest potential, educate parents about the value of college and the trades, and improve FAFSA completion rates.
  • Helped create an emergency fund in collaboration with local foundations and donors.
A REACH Manatee event at MCF’s Community Room.

MCF Executive Director Susie Bowie says, “UnidosNow is well-known as a valuable catalyst of change in Southwest Florida.  

During her interview, Susie stressed how UnidosNow is a role model for other nonprofits.

As one of the first foundations that supported UnidosNow, why did your organization choose to assist the new nonprofit and its executive director?

Manatee Community Foundation’s Knight Fund awarded early multi-year grants to UnidosNow, attracted by its unique focus on shifting educational opportunity and changing the story of generational poverty for participating Hispanic/Latino students. 

From the beginning, UnidosNow’s approach of working in partnership with churches, nonprofits, colleges, universities, and the school districts was an appealing way to utilize existing resources, while adding elements of advocacy, cultural competency, and multigenerational connections.  We feel proud of the distinction to be an early partner. 

What did that support look like?

Manatee Community Foundation’s support enabled UnidosNow to boost Youth Collaborative on College Preparation (YCCP), a then new and unparalleled collaborative community effort in which UnidosNow partnered with Take Stock in Children, USF Sarasota-Manatee, and Sarasota and Manatee County school boards to pool resources for college guidance and scholarship dollars to increase college success and graduation rate of 500 first-generation, low-income students (majority Hispanic). 

At that time, there was no other outreach program of this kind building our community’s and schools’ ability to prepare this student population for college and ensure that families understood it was within reach of their students.  That distinction remains today. 

Susie Bowie, MCF Executive Director.

By educating students, parents, and guardians on the critical issues of college preparation and financial literacy, the goal of UnidosNow was to change the system—one student and family at a time.

How is it different from current collaboration?

MCF currently partners with UnidosNow on similar education initiatives—now with an extensive history of success and expanded programs that reach students as early as elementary school.  The proof of its success is in the faces and stories of the many dedicated students who have participated in UnidosNow programs who are now pursuing their dreams.

In recent years, UnidosNow’s leadership of REACH Manatee, our local college access network, has led to a greater focus on a central community goal to prepare both traditional students and adults for college and workforce readiness, meeting the demands of tomorrow for Manatee County. 

UnidosNow approached partners to start the formal partnerships four years ago and has grown participation and buy-in from leaders of local colleges and universities, nonprofits, foundations, and the School District of Manatee County. 

How does UnidosNow continue to contribute to our community?

While UnidosNow continues in its specific mission to build postsecondary attainment for Hispanic/Latino youth, it has become a voice for the Hispanic/Latino community in many ways. 

Through trusted leadership and its long-standing relationships with families, UnidosNow is frequently called upon for insights that can make grant making in Manatee and Sarasota counties more effective. 

Its work throughout the pandemic has provided key insights that have helped grant makers reach individuals with basic needs—and some of these delivery methods have rested specifically with UnidosNow—proven as a flexible and highly responsive organization. 

I remember many people asking, “Who/what is UnidosNow?” after it climbed to the top of the leaderboard in the first Giving Challenge years ago. Now the nonprofit is well known among those who support education and opportunity in Southwest Florida.

An Unprecedented FAFSA Challenge Success

Since the Manatee College Access Network (MCAN) formally organized last fall to improve student access and entry into post-secondary education, its member agencies jumped into the FAFSA challenge in late 2016.  This resulted in a significant accomplishment for the community: $658, 625 additional Pell grant dollars to Manatee students over the prior year.

With a capacity-building grant from the Florida College Access Network, the MCAN will begin its strategic planning process this summer, using a collective impact model. UnidosNow will serve as the MCAN’s backbone organization over the next year to help facilitate this process for the community.

Participating MCAN organizations include: Manatee Technical College, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida, Boys and Girls Club, Manatee Chamber of Commerce, Goodwill, Career Edge Funders, Career Source, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Sun Coast, Education Foundation, Manatee Technical College, Manatee County Library, Manatee County Government, Manatee Community Foundation, United Way of Manatee, School District of Manatee County, and Bradenton Area Economic Development.

UnidosNow’s presence in the schools, working with students to complete their FAFSA application, also made a difference in Sarasota county, which won “MVP for Large Districts” from the Florida College Access Network. We are proud to be part of the Talent4Tomorrow Partnership that helped to get 45.5% of Sarasota County high school seniors to complete their FAFSA, resulting in an estimated increase of $513,000 of Pell Grants being accessed by Sarasota County students.





UnidosNow Continues Celebrating Giving Challenge Successes!

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UnidosNow is proud to be one of nine selected winners of the Manatee Millennial Challenge, which was one of the competitions of the 2016 Giving Challenge in September. We are honored and grateful to have been chosen from a pool of 25 great local nonprofits that participated in this new contest. Thanks to the support of the Manatee Community Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and to the dedicated efforts of our Millennial Volunteer Committee – spearheaded by Juan Arcila – UnidosNow will receive a $5,000 grant.

In addition, we’re thrilled and grateful to have been selected – from among hundreds of applications – as the awardee for Best Social Media Campaign in the category for “Medium Sized Organization.”  Thanks to the generous support of the foundations involved in the Giving Challenge, UnidosNow will receive a $1,500 award for this special recognition.

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Be The One To Inspire a Student

Our talented scholars of the Future Leaders Academy inspire us to continue working from them -and for the generations to come- and guide them to dream big and reach high.

Our tremendous mentors inspire our students to find their passion, and to believe in themselves to accomplish their goals.

Our committed parents inspire all of us in the pursue of their American Dream.

During the Future Leaders Summer Academy, our students were asked to create a personal statement, a presentation of who they are, and what they want to achieve. METV joined UnidosNow during the closing ceremonies of our Rising Juniors and Rising Seniors classes, giving us the possibility of sharing with all of you their powerful stories and outstanding talents. With them, we wish to also inspire you.

Future Leaders Academy – Rising Juniors Closing Ceremony

Future Leaders Academy – Rising Seniors Closing Ceremony

But now it’s your turn to inspire a student. We are counting on you –our friends and supporters– to help expand and enhance our programs through the 24-hour online giving event, from noon to noon on September 20 and 21, the Giving Challenge 2016. Learn how simple will be to donate here.

It only takes one to inspire a student. Be The One.

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We Are Almost There

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We are sure you have heard it from all the other great non profits in the area you are involved with. And we know that all of them deserve your attention, because there are so many great causes that our extremely amazing philanthropic community takes on to improve the lives of Manatee and Sarasota counties’ peoples, environment and animals.

We know you already know about the Giving Challenge 2016, and how we all want you to Be The One to take on all these different causes and make a difference.

And we also know that you are here reading this email because you care about UnidosNow, because you are aware of our impactful work with low-income students who are looking for an opportunity to continue their post-secondary studies, because you already are The One who has made a difference in their lives.

But once again we want to ask you to continue supporting our young leaders, because this is the strong impact you have already had on them. So imagine how many more students’ lives you can touch by simply supporting UnidosNow during the Giving Challenge 2016 that will happen online, from September 20th at 12pm to September 21st at 12pm.

24 hours that could mean more students served.

24 hours that could mean more high-schools reached.

24 hours that could mean more 2-gen workshops provided.

Because:

  • $25 sponsors materials for one scholar for college prep workshops
  • $50 sponsors refreshments for 1 scholar during year-long college prep activities
  • $100 sponsors a college tour for 1 scholar or a parent
  • $250 sponsors all college prep workshops for 1 scholar or a parent for one year
  • $500 supports UnidosNow’s transformational change to expand programming into elementary, middle, and additional high schools

Imagine the possibilities. Be The One to inspire a student.

New Furniture at our Office

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UnidosNow offices at the Glasser/Schoenbaum Human Resource Center is now looking like a million dollar place, all thanks to Suzi Atherton of the Manatee Community Foundation.

Atherton connected us to Caitlyn Durfee of TechHouse, who donated the beautiful conference table you see in the picture. It fits perfectly in our office! TechHouse also gifted our organization a beautiful desk and very much needed filing cabinets. We are tremendously grateful for their support.

But the furniture wouldn’t have arrived to UnidosNow if it wasn’t for our team member Wendy Barroso and her entire family, who picked up the furniture and rearrange our office.

Thank you, Suzi. Thank you, Caitlyn. Thank you, Barroso family. It’s this kind of collective effort what makes us stronger.