After-school Program Blooms at Janie’s Garden

Ribbon cutting for Earl & Mary Watts After-school program
Edwin Watts prepares to cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening ceremony for the Earl & Mary Watts After-school program at Janie’s Garden.

There are hundreds of apartment complexes scattered across our community, many filled with hard-working families and individuals. Located in the Newtown community is one such complex. Janie’s Garden Apartments is home to mostly low- to moderate-income renters – the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) population. Many of these households include children who are eager to learn and whose parents want the best for them, but due to a variety of circumstances, do not have the same educational opportunities as their more affluent classmates.

Thanks to the new Earl & Mary Watts After-school program, these children now have the help they need to reach their full potential.

The new program is named for two well-loved and influential members of the community, Earl and Mary Watts. These notable community members were well-known Sarasota County educators and among Sarasota County’s first black school administrators. The big reveal of the program’s name was announced during the grand opening on Monday, September 30. The couple’s son, Edwin Watts, was at the event to speak on behalf of his family. More than 80 guests packed Janie’s Garden Clubhouse to celebrate the grand opening.

Little girl with book

Supported by United Way Suncoast, the program was made possible through a gift from Tocqueville Society members Dave and Debbie Walker; along with social service coordination from Better Tomorrows and USF Sarasota-Manatee, who is providing six students to serve as tutors/mentors at the center. The program offers multi-faceted academic support during the school year for 6-12-year-olds living in the apartment complex with programming centered on homework support, study skills, reading achievement, social and emotional skills, and character building. Additionally, the program supports families by offering financial coaching and volunteer income tax preparation.

By providing opportunities for the entire family right where they live, we remove barriers, so children can focus on learning and their parents can focus on building a more financially stable future. Along with access to learning opportunities, family financial stability is a key contributing factor to a child’s success. Children who are reading at grade level by the end of third grade are FOUR TIMES more likely to graduate high school. High-school graduates have greater career opportunities and the potential to earn 75% more over a lifetime than those who do not graduate.

Room at Janie's Garden

With the support of local businesses, volunteers, families and individuals, United Way Suncoast continues to fight for the education and financial stability of every person in our community. With your help, our garden will continue to grow.