By Vivian Patterson
“Freedom isn’t free. Education is the key.”
“A community is only as strong as its public school system.”
These were the key points made by Vincent Keeys, president of the Collier County NAACP, and Erick Carter, Collier County School Board member.
Carter presented Collier County schools’ gains in student success rates over the last decade. The system has been an “A” district for the past three years. Only 36 out of the 67 districts in Florida earned an A. Collier County now has a 91.9 percent graduation rate in 2018, a 19.4 percent increase since 2011! In 2018, 91percent of migrant students graduated, the largest in the state and a 41% increase since 2010. Students with disabilities had a 91 percent graduation rate, 43 percent more than in 2010. This is in spite of the demographic shift in student population; in 2008, there were 43 percent white, 11 percent black students, and 42 percent Hispanic students. However, in 2018, the numbers changed to 33 percent white (down 10 percent), 11 percent black (no change), and 52 percent Hispanic (up 10 percent). In addition the percentage of students in non-English speaking homes went from 42 percent to 55 percent in the same decade.
Keeys talked about NAACP’s role in the Collier County schools.The NAACP promotes and supports the “Raising the Bar” program which is a five year college prep program, the ACT-SO program (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics), and the Premier Program which partners with the National Flight Academy in Pensacola.
ACT-SO includes 32 competitions in STEM, humanities, business, and performing, visual and culinary arts. It is a year-long achievement program designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievements among high school students. For over 40 years, the mission of ACT-SO has been to prepare, recognize and reward young people who exemplify scholastic and artistic excellence.
Keeys mostly spoke about the Premier Program. He is a pilot himself and loves flying. This program’s aim is to prepare students to consider persuing a career in some aspect of aviation – pilot, mechanic, flight attendant, any career related to flying planes. It is open to all students, girls and boys alike. In fact, NAACP recently sponsored eight Collier County female students to attend the National Flight Academy in Pensacola.
To be able to attend this program, students need to write an essay and come from aviation programs at schools that offer them – Lely High School and Immokalee High School. NAACP keeps track of these students. Many, when they graduate from high school, already have earned their pilot’s license.
“A community is only as strong as its Public School system. Collier County is one of the strongest.”