Reflecting on 2019, I can proudly write that the Central Florida Urban League made an incredible impact on our community. Throughout the past twelve months, we have focused on empowering Central Floridians through education, employment and entrepreneurship. As the year draws to a close, I am both humbled and grateful by our incredible success.
In early 2019, we welcomed Governor Ron DeSantis, who addressed the Urban League’s Policy Breakfast only weeks into the beginning of his administration. Governor DeSantis took this opportunity to outline his vision for a true partnership between his administration and our community. His speech followed decisive action, coming days after the historic and long-overdue pardon of the Groveland Four.
Working alongside Orange County Public Schools, the Florida Department of Education, and Step Up for Students, we embarked on a concerted effort of ending the school-to-prison pipeline by bringing our Top of the Class Reading Program to local schools. This program was created in direct response to the staggering statistic that 75 percent of children who do not read at grade level by the third grade do not graduate from high school. In order to bring about change, we began to offer a literacy program to public school students in Grades 3, 4 or 5 in dire need of assistance. With continued support from the State of Florida, we are proud of the fact that this program will expand to include public school students in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Duval and Miami-Dade counties in 2020.
As the promotion of entrepreneurship is critical to our overall goal of ending generational poverty, in 2019, we were proud to launch the CFUL Empowerment Zone. This unique initiative will provide support and resources to help entrepreneurs and business owners develop, enhance and grow their business. Ultimately, with support from the CFUL and community partners, these businesses will also gain access to much needed support and mentoring to further enhance their growth. This program was made possible due to a $75,000 grant from Wells Fargo.
As the Urban League continues to work with entrepreneurs to grow their ideas into businesses, our organization is also working with local partners to bolster the talent pipeline. In conjunction with Mayor Dyer, Commissioner Regina Hill, the City of Orlando and CareerSource of Central Florida as well as local institutions such as Valencia College, the CFUL launched Blueprint 2.0, a job-training program that connects residents with more than 100 vocational training opportunities. Individuals enrolled in Blueprint 2.0 receive the short-term training they need to prepare for long-term careers in a high-demand, higher-wage industry.
As we tackle generational poverty through entrepreneurship and employment, the CFUL has also continued to address financial illiteracy. This year, we were fortunate to partner with Fifth Third Bank, FAIRWINDS Credit Union and Regions Bank. These three financial institutions contributed both funds and volunteers to support our Meet the Bankers initiative, a critical program which promotes financial literacy, ensuring that Central Floridians avoid major financial pitfalls.
Our organization closed out 2019 by laying the foundation for 2020. In October, we welcomed Ashley D. Bell, the White House Policy Advisor for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Mr. Bell signed a historic partnership between the White House, the Small Business Administration and the CFUL which will help bring new and exciting prospects for local entrepreneurs through the federal government’s Opportunity Zone Tax Incentive. I can proudly say that this partnership was the first of its kind for any Urban League affiliate in the country.
Countless Central Floridians have benefitted from CFUL programming and initiatives in 2019. I am blessed to be surrounded by an incredible staff as well as a Board of Directors, volunteers and community partners all of whom share in our vision for the betterment of our region.
Thank you for your ongoing support and I look forward to continuing this success in 2020,
Glenton Gilzean Jr.
President and CEO