It’s not uncommon for Steve and Carolyn Roskamp to arrive at Bradenton’s Sea Breeze Elementary with an arm full of supplies and a heart full of love for the students. The Roskamps volunteer so often at the school, the teachers and administrators know them by name. The Sea Breeze visits illustrate the couple’s earnest efforts to improve literacy and education in Manatee county. They’ve done so much more than write a check. They have lived the mission.
Now, that commitment has netted the Roskamps a prestigious honor. On March 30, the Manatee Community Foundation will present the dynamic couple with one of its Spirit of Manatee Awards. The event was created years ago by Manatee Community Foundation to celebrate people who make Manatee County a better place for everyone through their philanthropy.
That certainly describes the Roskamps, who are proud members of United Way Suncoast’s Tocqueville Society.
Using their leadership skills, strategic acumen and their own dollars as seed money, the Roskamps have worked with the school district and area nonprofits to ignite not one but two successful programs. They’ve played a critical role in helping Manatee students go from learning to read to reading to learn.
The School District of Manatee County’s Soar in 4 program focuses on 4-year-olds, helping to ensure more students walk into Kindergarten on that first day ready to learn. United Way Suncoast’s The Big Plan Initiative is boosting reading scores at 10 targeted elementary schools in Bradenton. Both have served hundreds of kids since their inception.
By elevating education, the Roskamps have worked to create a healthy and financially stable Manatee workforce for our area. And their motivation comes from a can-do attitude and a take-charge approach. When Steve and Carolyn learned that 50 percent of Manatee County’s students don’t read on grade level, they didn’t shrug their shoulders, they didn’t decry the school system, they didn’t blame teachers or parents. They went to work.
The Roskamps started researching the causes of the reading deficit. As they learned more, they organized community leaders to form an Early Learning Task Force. It’s not easy to get a meeting with the superintendent of schools, the sheriff, county commissioners, city council members and local CEOs. The Roskamps, however, devoted countless hours serving on committees, calls and presentations to local leaders, organizing, traveling, and research all in support of our children’s future. Turning those leaders into a coalition of the willing always proves challenging. It takes time, patience, trust and vision, but the Roskamps made it their mission and took the lead.
The results? Soar in 4 has delivered thousands of Family Literacy Kits to parents, helping them embrace their role as their child’s first teacher. The kits contain VPK developmental books and instructional materials for parents to read with their children.
Meanwhile, The Big Plan has enabled 3,557 volunteers to give 5,806 hours of support to young learners at 10 Bradenton elementary schools. With the help of United Way Suncoast, the school district has launched a pilot paraprofessional program at five of the elementary schools to boost learning.
We look forward to honoring the Roskamps at the Manatee Community Foundation Spirit of Manatee Luncheon on March 30.