United Way Grant Helps to Fund the New Earl & Mary Watts After-school Program at Janie’s Garden

Program provides academic support for 6- to 12-year-old children living in Janie’s Garden, which is named for well-loved community members

Sarasota, FL (October 1, 2019) The Earl & Mary Watts After-school Program at Janie’s Garden opened yesterday to a packed crowd. The program provides academic support to families with 6- to 12-year-old children living at Janie’s Garden, a mixed-income housing community in North Sarasota. Programming centers on homework support, study skills, reading achievement, social and emotional skills learning and character building. 

Click HERE for photos of the event.

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. Attendees included various members of the United Way Suncoast Sarasota Area Board including United Way Suncoast Chair Dan Vigne, Sarasota County Schools Superintendent Todd Bowden, Director of Education for USF Sarasota-Manatee Dr. Marie Byrd and President and CEO of the Sarasota County Housing Authority, William Russell. 

The Earl & Mary Watts After-school Program at Janie’s Garden was made possible through a gift to United Way from Dave and Debbie Walker, social service coordination from Better Tomorrows and USF Sarasota-Manatee, who is providing six students to serve as tutors/mentors at the center. 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.

In addition to the after-school program, United Way Suncoast and Better Tomorrows are also supporting families by offering financial coaching and volunteer income-tax preparation. 

Providing opportunities for the entire family where they live removes barriers so children and their families can focus on learning. Along with access to learning opportunities, family financial stability is a key contributing factor to a child’s success.