During a recent visit to Orlando, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spotlighted the Interfaith School Turnaround Project (IFSTP) as a terrific example of how nonprofit organizations, such as United Way, can partner with other community groups to improve education.
Duncan was in Orlando February 24 to launch Together for Tomorrow, a federal initiative promoting IFSTP and similar community-engagement models that are rallying public, private and nonprofit sector support for schools across the U.S.
Also attending the meeting were United Way Worldwide President and CEO Brian Gallagher, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, U.S. Representative Corrine Brown, Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) President and CEO Robert H. Brown, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other local and national leaders.
Transforming Our Schools
“Community and family involvement can be the make-or-break factor in successfully turning around low-performing schools,” Duncan said during a town hall meeting held at Memorial Middle School, one of four Orange County public schools where IFSTP is being implemented. “Together for Tomorrow will provide real-life examples of how to effectively transform our schools and build a community-to-community support system that can help take this critical work to scale.”
Duncan also announced that the Orlando IFSTP project, one of six operating in leading U.S. cities, had become a full “demonstration site,” which other communities can now emulate in creating their own programs.
United Way Lead Agency
Based on HFUW’s efforts to improve education, it was chosen to lead the launch of IFSTP, which began last September. To date, more than 100 volunteers have been recruited to serve as tutors and mentors for at-risk students. Also assisting with the program are six VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) who are coordinating volunteers and serving as school liaisons.
Designed by the White House Committee on Neighborhood and Faith-Based Partnerships, the U.S. Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service, IFSTP aims to improve students’ attendance, behavior and academic achievement. IFSTP is also a program of Orlando Cares, the City of Orlando’s Cities of Service initiative. In addition to the city, other local partners include Orange County Public Schools and numerous faith-based groups.
Greater Success Ahead
Following the meeting, HFUW President and CEO Robert H. Brown predicted even greater success as IFSTP is fully implemented over the next few years. “Together, through the passionate commitment of volunteers and others, we can help ensure that every student receives the quality education they deserve,” Brown said. “Heart of Florida United Way is extremely proud to support IFSTP. It’s an important part of our focus on education and helping children thrive from cradle-to-career and beyond.”
To learn how you can volunteer and help support IFSTP, click here.