Foundation officially opens new Madison Street facility

A new center for educational opportunity is now open on Palatka’s Northside. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon for the new Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates at 1100 Madison St.

“The first day I started here, I knew it was going to be a blessing,” said Kamarre Anders, a student in the center’s first graduating class.

Anders joined fellow his classmates Shon’Tavia Cooper, Antwan Johnson-Tobler, Lucious Jackson, Donell Johnson and Azurnisha Ulysse in helping state Rep. Travis Hutson cut the ceremonial ribbon at the center Tuesday.

“I know you all are used to being introduced as the dignitaries,” said Heather Beaven, CEO of Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates, as she spoke to a crowd of local officials. “These six students are the dignitaries today.”

Beaven said the Palatka center is the only stand-alone facility for the foundation, which was shaped in 2003. She said a group of students from the foundation’s Jobs for Florida Graduates program at Palatka High School sought out the property at the corner of 11th and Madison streets six years ago.

“Those students tracked down the owner of the property through the property appraiser’s website and asked the owner if they would be interested in donating it,” she said. “The students did all of that.”

Last year, construction began at the site as Mobile Modulars donated the two modular buildings that would be used as classrooms for each of the foundation’s four programs.

The six students in the first class of Jobs for Florida Graduates at the center are expected to earn their Facility Maintenance Certification in March, as they helped build the deck and ramp and place furniture.

The group plans to also place all of the landscaping and fencing on the property under the instruction of James Bontempo, Facilities Maintenance Instructor for HBI.

“I haven’t done anything like this before,” Anders said. “I feel accomplished.”

Hutson, R-Elkton, who grew up in Elkton, said he supported programs like Jobs for Florida Graduates because a lot of people find that they can excel in postsecondary education.

“High school and college only gets you so far and some people just aren’t made for it,” he said. “That’s why I believe in these programs.”

Tobler said he thinks the new center was placed in the perfect location to draw interest from Palatka residents who are looking to expand their educations. “They come by and see us working out here,” he said. “I think it will really help the community.”

Johnson said he’s already seen an impact since he’s been a part of the 11-week program. “There will be a lot of people in the next class,” he said. The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates in Palatka offers the Jobs for Florida Graduates 11-week program to applicants ages 18-21.

Programs available for middle school and high school-age students include a “Girls get IT” STEM program, “Superb” anti-bullying program and “VOiCE” art and technology program. Applications are available at the center. For more information about the foundation, visit

This article originally appeared on the Palatka Daily News.


Realizing You Were a Cool Kid All Along

Next month, I will travel to Clemson University, home to the National Drop Out Prevention Center. It is a moment in time in which professionals from all over the country will gather to discuss why students disengage from school and what can be done to reinvigorate our learning environments.

My remarks will be focused the idea that exclusion, isolation and bullying are not just safety concerns, they are bad for our economy. Generally, people think of anti-bullying initiatives as separate and apart from stay-in-school and school-to-work initiatives. I argue that they are an essential component to keeping students in school and helping them move successfully into early adulthood.

Workforce development and education expert Heather Beaven illustrates how bullying affects future economy.

Heather Beaven to speak at Clemson about bullying issues

Flagler Beach, FL, 01/28/2015 –  Clemson University has invited Heather Beaven, CEO of The Florida Endowment Foundation for Florida’s Graduates (The Foundation), to present at the annual At-Risk Youth National Forum. Beaven’s presentation is entitled “Isolation, Exclusion and Bullying in Schools is a Workforce Development Concern.”

The At-Risk Youth National Forum is an annual event designed to enhance the leadership skills of all adults who are seeking to strengthen interventions among school, community, and families, especially to assist those in at-risk situations. The forum will be held Sunday, February 15, 2015, through Wednesday, February 18, 2015, at the Kingston Plantation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.



When You Stay in Hot Water, Self-Protection is the Name of the Game

When I tell people what I do for a living, I get one of two reactions. Some react with a blend of “that must be rewarding,” and “I am glad people like you exist, but I would never want to do that,” while others take a firm stance that people should just “pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop acting like (insert descriptive word of your choice here).”

I suppose your reaction depends on your life experience. But take a minute and look behind the curtain with me. For these students, life experience has shown them repeatedly that just staying alive – free and fed – is, in fact, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

Imagine for one minute that you grew up in a place where success is defined by staying alive, free and fed? Would you have set your sights on the life you have now and if, by some chance, you were the one true believer in your neighborhood, could you have built your current life surrounded by people who didn’t know how to help you?

blog-high school

What One High School Dropout Can Teach Florida Leaders About Learning

The Foundation raises funds and competes for government grants for one reason; to enhance what schools are doing, thereby enriching the core academic understanding of our students.

As our funds move from our organization to the classroom, we negotiate the finer points of what is expected by us and what can be expected from us. One non-negotiable is field trips. For us experiential learning is a necessary component to the full absorption of academic learning.


Ricardo: The Disconnect Between Education and Business

There is a disconnect between what the American school system deems a success and what Main Street, let alone Wall Street, finds successful. That disconnect centers on one question; what is the purpose of education?

In 1973, my Kindergarten teacher gave me a “satisfactory” for my interpersonal skills because, as she wrote, I was a “social butterfly.” It was her diplomatic way of saying that my constant chattering was exhausting her and distracting my my classmates. I, with an archetype of the People’s Champion, naturally took that as a compliment.


The 99-Year-Old Problem You Won’t Believe America Still Hasn’t Solved

“The rapid increase in adult illiteracy not only is costing an economic loss of $500,000,000 a year in the United States, but has become a menace to representative governments.” 

In 1914 — yes, you read that year correctly — P.P. Claxton, the commissioner of education, said this. And it’s still true. If you have children, grandchildren, or a little sibling anywhere in the world that you even remotely care about, it is time to demand more. If you are a business owner who might ever hire someone who was educated in America, it is time to demand more. If you are a taxpayer who wants your fellow citizens to pay their fair share through productive work, it is time to demand more. If you defended or are defending America from danger and are worried about our future safety, it is time to demand more.


Be the CEO of You, Inc.

America needs to start talking about cold hard facts. We have been in the throes of a recession; our economy is broken. We lost upwards of 20% of our economy in the last decade. Credit, mortgages, securities, banking, real estate, construction, manufacturing and every business and service in between were devastated. Some are gone forever and the people who map out their academic and professional success will have the best chance of navigating this transformation to their financial benefit.


How Entrepreneurs Are Going to Kickstart America’s Employment Rate

Summer is coming to a close. Back to school sales are springing up everywhere. BBQ briquettes are smoldering, lemons are being squeezed, and beer is on ice. Boats. Bikes. Tents. No matter how you celebrate, take a minute to remember American workers, past, present and future. Take a minute to remember the “99ers” whose lifeblood is threatened by members of Congress who earn more than five times the average American.


Do We Work Just Because God Says So?

Human beings build, or dream of building, a life that benefits them.

A worldwide survey of entrepreneurs found that Americans cite independence as the main reason for starting a business. Brazilians overwhelmingly start businesses to provide jobs in their communities, and over half of Chinese entrepreneurs are driven by building a business they can pass on to their heirs.

But what if work is more than just a need for independence and security? What if it is essential to the soul because there has never been nor will there ever be another person made up of the same gifts, talents, interests, abilities, and purpose?


15 Steps America Can Take to Create Jobs Now

America has struggled with how we create jobs, how we prepare people for jobs, and how we keep jobs here since the Industrial Revolution when we moved from small business owners to employees of large companies. We can’t afford to put these decisions off for one more minute or we risk being swamped under by countries who took their economic health seriously.


The GED is An Epic Fail, But Not For the Reason You Think

As young Americans marched off to fight the Nazi’s in World War II, millions traded their diploma for a draft card. It soon became clear that if a warrior was smart enough to liberate Europe, he was smart enough to graduate from high school.

The GED was developed to give warriors and veterans an opportunity to test out of courses as an alternative to returning from war and taking your seat, for example, in eleventh grade civics class. So the military commissioned the American Council on Education to develop a battery of tests covering including English, math, science and social studies. Within five years, many states had began administering the GED test to other non-traditional students including disabled students and students who needed to get into the workforce faster for personal economical reasons.


How an “At Risk” Teenager Taught Me That Words Do Matter

Teenagers don’t see themselves at-risk. We should support them by never, ever using the adjective “at-risk” when describing a human being again. I learned this lesson in a very public way six years ago.

I was on a community college campus that was home to a charter high school for re-covered high school dropouts. I had come to give a “you-can-do-it speech.” You can be what you want to be. Your past doesn’t define your future. We believe in you. Somewhere in the middle of my remarks, I referred to the students as “at-risk.”