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 flgraduates.org.