POLK COUNTY – Around a year ago the Polk County School Board voted to start a pilot program to transform Crystal Lake Elementary in Lakeland from a traditional school into a hub of education, health and social services that would serve residents in the surrounding area.
United Way of Central Florida Chief Impact Officer Penny Borgia said it was and is a great concept but initially there was no money to implement the plan.
“So the United Way of Central Florida approached the George Jenkins Foundation and $100K was provided for the director’s salary, benefits, training and all related expenses to her job responsibility,” said Borgia to the Polk County School Board Aug. 21.
Borgia went on to announce that members of the Clark Family Foundation out of Naples recently donated another $200K to help the plan become a reality. With the latest donation, Borgia said that she and other local leaders have now scheduled a ribbon cutting to open a health clinic at the school October 26.
Borgia said she is hoping this would be one of many local schools that would be transformed from traditional schools to schools that would serve their communities as hubs of physical, mental and emotional holistic support.
Elizabeth Clark-Taylor is daughter to the late David M Clark, whose legacy is honored by the Clark Family Foundation. Clark-Taylor said her father started the foundation to help children and that “It takes a village” to create a happy community.
“How can you be happy, and happy with the community if others are not happy along with you,” Clark-Taylor said. “So the Clark Family Foundation wants to help others and help children to keep my dad’s legacy alive. So thank you all and thank you for you are doing also.”
The Crystal Lake Elementary project is not just a creation of the United Way of Central Florida and two foundations.
“At this time, the Clark Family Foundation would prefer for the focus to remain on the community partnership school and the five core partners, Heartland for Children, Southeastern University, Central Florida Health Care, Polk County Schools and the United Way of Central Florida,” Borgia said.
Polk County Schools spokesperson Jason Geary said that members of Polk Vision were also instrumental in making this plan a reality and that similar programs in Hillsborough and Orange Counties have been successful. Members of the Polk County School Board and Superintendent expressed thanks for the generosity of the two foundations and leadership from many other local leaders.
“We are grateful for this generous donation, which will be crucial toward further establishing the first community partnership school program in Polk County,” said Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd. “We truly thank the Clark Family Foundation for helping us make this ambitious dream a reality. Crystal Lake Elementary will bring together available resources to better serve the needs of students, their families, and the surrounding neighborhood.”