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Family Learning Center in NE Gainesville Seeking Volunteers From the Community

Mar 25, 2024

Read an article from The Gainesville Sun about volunteering at GEZFLC

Families and staff of the Gainesville Empowerment Zone Family Learning Center hosted a community event to celebrate its grand opening.

Held Saturday at the center on the campus of Metcalf Elementary School at 1250 NE 18th Ave. in Gainesville, the theme of the event was “We're Growing Greatness Spring Celebration.”

Families of the children who attend the center and others enjoyed food and games and dozens of vendors representing local non-profits and agencies spoke to attendees about resources available in the community.

Though none of the families wanted to be quoted on the record, all of those who spoke with The Sun praised the center for being a valuable resource in the neighborhood.

James Lawrence, president and CEO of Gainesville For All, the local nonprofit that spearheaded the project, thanked the community for its help in bringing the vision to fruition.

“It was the community who helped us to where we are today,” Lawrence said. “We want to celebrate what we’re doing.”

The center was created to combat the achievement gap between Black and white students in Alachua County with financial and other support from the Alachua County School Board, Alachua County and the city of Gainesville, Children’s Trust of Alachua County, as well as private donors, Lawrence said.

Children attending the center are taught necessary skills to succeed early in life and the center also helps parents by connecting them to services in the community with the help of Trish White, the community engagement specialist at the center, Lawrence said.

“We are preparing them for a lifetime of learning,” Lawrence said. “Our immediate goal is to make them ready for kindergarten. Our center is not limited to children, it is about families as much as it is about the child. The family component is so important because we ask the schools to do way too much. The community needs to get more involved.”

The center is starting with kids as young as 6 weeks old to 4 years old and is asking community members to volunteer at the center, Lawrence said.

“We need them to be active and supportive,” Lawrence said. “It’s a real joy to see the growth of these kids. We are redesigning public education and showing how early learning should be a part of public education, especially in low economic communities to get a head start. Too often people think it is hopeless. We don’t believe that.”

Schuran Cartwright, the center’s interim director, said she loves early childhood education and helping the next generation of leaders through education.

Neighborhood survey: GNV4ALL surveying Gainesville Empowerment Zone neighborhoods on needs, connecting to help

“I love being able to pass on the education I was taught when I was growing up,” said Cartwright, who has several degrees and certificates in early childhood education. “I want to provide more stability and structure in the students’ lives. We want to give them a foundation to do things with an open mind, become good listeners, and put them in the right direction in life.”

Cartwright said the center, which is open 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, currently has 38 students enrolled and is looking to have at least 50 enrolled by August.

The center is also offering a summer VPK program with 12 slots available that will run for 12 weeks, Cartwright said.

“We want to make sure they go to kindergarten ready,” Cartwright said. “We want to let people know that the center is not a daycare, it’s a school.”

The center will stay connected with students and parents once students graduate from the center to ensure students are on grade level in elementary school, Cartwright said.

Several volunteers from the University of Florida chapter of GNV4ALL helped out at the grand opening.

“It is important for people to get involved because that is what makes a difference…,” said Alayna Dean, chapter president. “I volunteer two days a week with a total of 10 hours a week. There’s so much you can do to help. I know that whatever I do, it will make an impact.”

Those interested in volunteering should email

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