Grand Opening of the SCTI Newtown Campus!
Pictured: Newtown Front Porch President Mary Mack, with scissors, and Community Redevelopment Agency Board Chairman Wade Harvin, center, cut the ribbon to mark the Grand Opening of a new branch of the Sarasota County Technical Institute in Newtown on Nov. 9 with city, county and school board elected officials and senor staff members. Others in the photo are, from left, County Commissioner Nora Patterson, Booker High School student Justin Dortch, County Commissioner Carolyn Mason, Booker High Principal Constance White-Davis, City Commissioner Richard Clapp, School Board Chair Shirley Brown, City Commissioner Terry Turner, Harvin, County Commissioner Joe Barbetta, Mack, School board member Frank Kovach, Superintendent of Schools Lori White, County Commissioner Jon Thaxton, Mayor Kelly Kirschner and City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell.
SARASOTA – About 20 commissioners, board members and senior staff from the City of Sarasota, the Sarasota County School District and Sarasota County gathered with Newtown community leaders on Nov. 9 to celebrate the opening of a Newtown Campus of the Sarasota County Technical Institute. The event was heralded by the speakers as a milestone of collaboration among agencies, one that will offer real opportunities for Newtown residents to gain marketable skills.
The new facility is called the SCTI Newtown Campus. It is housed in a former YMCA facility at Osprey (Ave.) Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.
The 3,500 square-foot building contains six classrooms and office space to serve about 80 students at a time. It will offer career and technical education courses for students pursuing career paths in construction, security, medical, clerical and technical fields as well as General Educational Development (GED) classes.
SCTI Director Todd Bowden said the new branch campus will be a gateway to further education for its students. He said that once students experience some academic success at an educational facility near their home, they are much more likely to pursue additional classes at a more comprehensive facility such as the SCTI main campus.
The SCTI Newtown project developed from the effort of the school district, community leaders and the city to ensure that residents of Newtown would share in the economic benefits of more than $100 million in public funding being invested in three major construction projects in progress or scheduled for the Newtown area: The Janie’s Garden residential development, the rebuild of Booker High School and the construction of a new Robert L. Taylor Community Complex.
To enhance the employability of construction workers and trades people in Newtown, a community group working with the school district proposed that classes in basic construction skills should be offered to Newtown residents.
In the search for a facility to teach the construction class, district and city staff looked at the YMCA facility. They determined that for a relatively small cost for renovation, the facility could be developed to house several other classes in addition to the construction program.
The new campus will offer classes qualifying students for entry-level jobs as construction workers, administrative assistants, emergency medical technicians, nursing assistants, patient-care technicians and phlebotomists. In many cases, completing the course work will lead to industry certification.
School district Facilities Department staff and local vendors provided the skilled workers to renovate the building and to install the computer and security systems. The city provided about $60,000 for materials through its Community Redevelopment Agency.
Sarasota County School board Chairwoman Shirley Brown said the facility will offer students in Newtown a “seamless” way to get an education. She said it is particularly gratifying that students who complete the construction course may find work immediately on school district construction projects such as the rebuild of Booker High School.
Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner said the project is an important step in the revitalization of the Newtown area. “We hope to see in years to come that (Martin Luther King Jr. Way) is a vibrant commercial corridor,” he said.
County Commissioner Carolyn Mason said the new facility will contribute to the prosperity of both Newtown and Sarasota County. She acknowledged that much work remains to be done, but locating an SCTI campus in the neighborhood is an important step forward. “This is exciting; this is progress,” she said. “This is truly a new beginning.”
Superintendent of Schools Lori White said district staff first met with community members two years ago to discuss how Newtown residents would find work on the rebuild of Booker High School. “It was clear from the beginning that training had to be a part of it,” she said. “Many people had the desire to work but not the credentials.”
White said the project had brought people with diverse interests together to solve a common problem in the midst of an economic crisis. “Today we are celebrating seeing the best of people in the worst of times,” she said.
Sarasota City Manager Robert Bartolotta said coordinating the application process for jobs at all of the public projects in Newtown through a one-stop shopping process at Jobs Etc. was vast improvement over the hit-and-miss process that previously was the norm. “We had tremendous success because we were working together,” he said.
Wade Harvin, the chairman of the Community Redevelopment Agency Board, said having a job training facility within walking distance is an important step in redevelopment. “I want to see us rise to the level that our children will want to come back and give back to the community,” he said.
Harvin said all Americans are bound together; that no one can become what he or she ought to be until everyone else becomes what they ought to be. “We came over to this country on different ships,” He said, “but we’re all in the same boat now.”
Mary Mack, who represented both the Newtown Front Porch and Amaryllis Park neighborhood associations, thanked SCTI Director Todd Bowden for making good on his promise to do whatever was necessary to put a training center in Newtown. She said now the responsibility lies with the community to use it to its greatest advantage. “I expect this place to grow,” she said. “Get a marketable skill. This opportunity should not pass for anyone.”
Center manager Nick DiLorenzo said the community already is responding well to the programs being offered. “That’s our success, if the community embraces it,” he said. “So far they have.”
For more information
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the programs at the new campus or how to apply can contact Nick DiLorenzo at 941-358-3175