Booker Middle School Principal Dr. LaShawn Frost is dedicated to ensuring that every one of her 800 students is on track to be college and career ready. The addition of an innovative new course to the school’s award-winning CFES Brilliant Pathways program has gone a long way in bringing that goal closer to reality.

The course, launched in 2018 by CFES liaison Haley Shaffer, expands on a school-wide CFES program with an increased emphasis on Essential Skills and college and career readiness. The majority of students in the course, which includes sixth, seventh and eighth-graders, will be first-generation college students.

“Dr. Frost said to me last year, ‘can you imagine if we had a class dedicated entirely to CFES?’” said Shaffer, a key player in helping Booker become a 2018 CFES School of Distinction. “Dr. Frost believes in college and career readiness so much that she did whatever it took to make this class happen. It is amazing to see how much it has helped students realize that they are leaders and that they can go to college.”

Taking students to college campuses and exposing them to career opportunities has been a major component of the course. Shaffer coordinates trips with a “career of the month” theme such as healthcare or engineering. She is taking 22 female students to the Florida Engineering Experiment Station (FLEX Station) – an arm of the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida dedicated to driving economic and workforce development – to show them possible careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

“I have had so many wonderful experiences this year through my CFES class,” said seventh-grade CFES Scholar Alanis Cruz. “I have been chosen to attend the West Point STEM camp this summer, and this is an opportunity I never imagined I would receive.”

Other trips have helped highlight many of the opportunities in the Sarasota/Manatee area such as local colleges, technical schools, and businesses and industries.

The following partnerships continue to develop as part of the CFES program and new course: Microsoft; Pathfinder Outdoor Education; Sketches, etc; Sarasota Sheriff’s Department; Sarasota Police Department; Flying Carrs Circus; Ashely Najjar with Kurvin Realty; Department of Children and Families; Home Depot; Suncoast Technical College; University of South Florida at Tampa and Sarasota; State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota; University of Florida (Flex Station); Ringling College; and Manatee Technical College.

“The Booker Middle CFES program and class inspires young students,” said Amy Thomas, a sixth-grade science teacher at Booker. “It allows them to be forward thinking in understanding what the future may hold and encourages them to take steps in preparation. The CFES class is so much more than ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ It takes a look at the realities of being a successful adult and helps students answer the question: How can I achieve my dreams and goals in the real world?”

The course has a special focus on the Essential Skill of leadership. Scholars worked alongside high school students in the Booker High CFES program to collect over 200 pairs of pajamas for needy children through the Florida Department of Children and Families. They also helped facilitate workshops at Booker High at a historically black college day alongside representatives from Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta, Florida A&M, Tuskegee, Grambling and other institutions.

“I believe every person on the planet was born to lead,” says Frost, the 2019 Sarasota County Schools Principal of the Year. “Some students may be shy or don’t see themselves as leaders. I see our role through CFES as cultivating that leadership talent so that students’ inner talent becomes an outer strength. It has been incredible to see how this new course has shifted their mindset.”

Frost, who recently became the first principal from the district to be named to the board of the Arts Schools Network – a non-profit comprised of national leaders in art schools, expects students to use their new-found leadership skills by challenging themselves in the classroom, ideally in advanced honors courses, and in other areas that prepare them for college and beyond.

“The CFES class has opened up my eyes to the future and has taught me how to be a leader and a successful man,” said eighth-grade CFES Scholar Andrew Edwards.