| St. Augustine Record USA TODAY NETWORK
As a 501(c)(3) direct support organization, INK! (Investing in Kids) leads efforts to benefit educators and students of St. Johns County’s public school district. The nonprofit received $25,000 in 2019 for A Community Thrives, a grant-making and crowd-funding program from the USA Today Network and a part of the Gannett Foundation, to benefit its Five Learning Years (FLY) program. FLY is designed to improve children’s school readiness with the goal to increase graduation rates.
In 2020, the new grant request with a call for public donations is due Oct. 16 to continue support of FLY and to ensure all St. Johns County children, regardless of socio-economic circumstances are ready for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten. To donate, visit bit.ly/3l2OfXx.
INK!, located at 1 Christopher St. in St. Augustine, provides innovative programs and classroom resources to support academic success for all St. Johns County public schools. A Community Thrives supports nonprofit organizations with projects focused on community building and has helped to contribute more than $6.5 million since 2017. A Community Thrives has engaged participants in 46 states. INK! was one of 16 winners in education and early literacy last year.
“Children who start behind, tend to stay behind without the proper intervention, and the gap increases over time,” said Donna Lueders, INK! executive director. “It is crucial that children receive the support they need at the earliest age possible to close the literacy gap, improve confidence and increase graduation rates.”
According to Gannett, the sponsoring entity is proud of the work INK! has done to enhance St. Johns County’s early education and young students while following the mission to make a difference in many communities.
“I am deeply touched by the kindness our community builds each and every day,” said Lueders. “We are truly humbled by all generous donations, and need additional funding to provide continuing and exceptional programs and services.”
According to Lueders, INK! must win its funding category in education with donors who contribute a minimum of $5.
“If we have the most donors, we can receive a bonus of $5,000,” she said. “We have donations totaling $1,945 and need $4,055 to qualify by Oct. 16,” she said. “INK! must be a top fundraiser in its classification to win either $50,000 or $100,000. For this campaign, we have been targeting donations on social media, and now we ask the entire community for help.”
Lueders believes the organization can provide the tools to close the literacy gap, and the opportunity to support many youngsters in their academic journey to success.
“2020 has made a significant impact on St. Johns County student’s lives,” she said. “With extended school closures due to the pandemic, the summer slide has become evident. The FLY program has proven successful year after year, with students improving by 100% on literacy screenings after program intervention.”
Lueders said some students served by INK! are on the younger side and can be developmentally challenged, especially with tactile and auditory skills. Approximately 65% of students in the program are minorities and many of students are living with extended family, are in foster care, qualify for free lunch, or have a learning disability. An estimated 30% have had little exposure to reading, but thrive as soon as they receive the small group intervention, and the attention they need.
“We seek the additional funding from A Community Thrives for programs and services in all Title I elementary schools and borderline Title I which means additional resources are required for schools with economically disadvantaged students,” Lueders said. “The resources will provide additional teachers, professional development, extra time for teaching, parent involvement activities, and other activities designed to raise student achievement.”
For information, contact Lueders at 904-547-7120 or email [email protected]. Visit the website at ink-stjohns.org.