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.

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?

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.


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.”


Sequestration 2013: Are We Abandoning Military Children, Our Littlest Heroes?

The Global War On Terrorism has surpassed the conflicts of the 20th century to now rank as our nation’s second longest war. Yet, we sequester. Repeated deployments with insufficient “dwell time” between have created stress on service members, their families, and their larger support systems including theDepartment of Veterans’ Affairs. Yet, still, we sequester.


8,000 Kids Drop Out Of School Every Day – And We’re Ignoring It

America is speeding toward an economic tsunami the likes of which we won’t easily recover from. Three million young Americans drop out of high school every year, over 8,000 per day. The class of 2012 marks the first time that all schools are actually calculating data on children who drop out of high school with uniformity. Now in America, if you enter 9th grade and don’t leave 12th grade with a diploma or its equivalent, you are formally considered a high school dropout.

It’s a start. A weak start, but a start nonetheless.


2013 Immigration Reform: This is the Only Question We Need to Ask About Foreign Labor in America

Almost every day there is talk about immigration reform. We know that businesses provide the carrot — the jobs — that attracts people from all over the world to come to the United States. We can also, as Americans, understand that there aren’t many places one would want to return to after having lived here. But when was the last time we, as a nation, really considered who we are hiring through our foreign labor certification process and at what cost?