Helping Others Help Themselves: Achieving Student Success
How a pioneer in the citrus industry turned groves and commercial real estate into opportunities
Summary: It’s a rare organization that can begin in humble origins, carve out an identity as a major economic and philanthropic presence, and, for more than sixty years, faithfully embody the entrepreneurship, industriousness, and compassion of its namesake. And yet that’s exactly what Central Florida’s Dr. Phillips Charities has been able to do. This installment of the Doing Good series shows just a small portion of the impact one family’s legacy has made on a community for generations.
Helping Students Work Towards Their Future
Throughout his life, Doc Phillips was committed to education, and his foundation has maintained that focus throughout its lifespan. When challenged by the well-known skills gap facing the Central Florida workforce, Dr. Phillips Charities decided to partner with OCPS Career & Technical Education. The program they developed—the Dr. Phillips Charities Certified Schools Grant Program—helps change students’ lives through innovative, hands-on educational programs. By encouraging high-school-age students to complete career and technical training programs, students have opportunities to earn industry certifications and licensure in essential fields like agriculture, information technology, engineering, and more.
The OCPS career training programs funded through grants from Dr. Phillips Charities help students benefit from the “best of both worlds” when it comes to their studies. Through technical college dual enrollment, students can take their core academic classes at their home high school, and take Career & Technical Education (CTE) courses in their chosen career field at one of five technical college campuses—or in many cases, right on their home high school campus. Students can leave high school prepared for both career and college through industry-based training programs like those that the Dr. Phillips Charities program helped create.
One such student was Anthony Thomas, who decided to enroll in the program because he wanted a better job when leaving high school. Through the program, he was able to intern at East Orlando Florida Hospital, an opportunity which first led to a volunteer position and then full-time employment at the pharmacy at Winter Park Memorial Hospital. According to Anthony, “If I didn’t do the program at the tech center, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. The training and the tests fully prepare students to be over-ready to pass the certification test.”
Dr. Michael Armbruster, Associate Superintendent of CTE, has been particularly proud of the accomplishments of students coming out of the programs at all levels. “We have incredible, passionate students who share their skills at state competitions, industry functions, trade shows or simply in the classroom every day. What makes me so proud is that we in CTE, have somehow shaped their career journey, and have given them the confidence to succeed in life, no matter where that road may take them.”
What makes me so proud is that we in CTE, have somehow shaped their career journey, and have given them the confidence to succeed in life, no matter where that road may take them.
What’s particularly unique about this program is the interaction between the program and Dr. Phillips Charities. Dr. Phillips Charities Board of Directors have helped CTE acquire the technology and equipment that meets industry standards and prepares students for the industry certifications they need. But Dr. Phillips Charities avoids a common pitfall in grant making; according to the CTE administrators, they don’t micromanage the grants. While the charity leaders are clear on what they want to see from the grant programs, the Board at Dr. Phillips allow CTE professionals the autonomy to act in making those initiatives happen.
“Dr. Phillips Charities makes it clear what they would like to see from the grant program,” says Dr. Armbruster, “but have trusted us with a collaborative process in making those plans come to life.”
Like the inspired real estate development spearheaded by the organization’s namesake, Dr. Phillips Charities Certified Schools grants have helped create new learning spaces like the greenhouse at Dr. Phillips High School, established new programs like Building Construction at East River High School, and provided essential tools to many programs across the school district.
Through its innovative grant making, Dr. Phillips Charities has worked with OCPS to bring together the involvement of students, families, and instructors with educational programs. This model is embraced and enhanced by the imaginative and functional learning happening in these classrooms.
In the next installment of “Helping Others Help Themselves” we examine the power of collaboration between the business community and charities.