Philanthropists establish College Scholarship Program for youngsters at nonprofit Children First

Already, 20 families have applied for assistance for 25 children

Photo contributed by Children First

It is never too early to plan for college, as leaders of the nonprofit Children First note in a news release this week.

“While the mission of Children First is to strengthen children and families in our community” by providing a strong foundation for youngsters from birth to age 5, the release says, “our work does not stop there.”

The CFC College Fund recently was established by two of the nonprofit’s “very dedicated donors to give Children First’s young students a ‘Head Start’ as their families begin planning for their college educations,” the release adds. “Already, 20 families have applied for 25 children who would benefit from this fund,” the release notes.

“As one parent wrote, ‘I would like to participate in the College Scholarship Program because I am a young mother and would like to give my children the best education there is … I want them to know that the sky is the limit and they can do anything they put their minds to!’” the release says.

“The founding donors of the fund, a couple who wishes to remain anonymous, explained why they felt the CFC College Fund was important for them to support,” the release continues.

“ ‘Our intention is to provide a college fund for as many young people as possible,’” they said. “ ‘Children First CEO Philip Tavill suggested that by starting at a young age, the individual will have approximately $5,000 of principal in their fund as they enter the public school system. The hope for the outcome can best be expressed by a quotation from Frederick Douglass, who said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” We believe in early intervention and want to encourage others to give,’” they added in the release.

“ ‘We selected Children First because it is a highly efficient organization, similar to the Early Learning Coalition, where a donor can see the effect of his or her contribution now and as a child moves forward through high school and beyond,’” they pointed out.

The initial goal was to fund 20 children to start — “a goal which has been quickly met,” the release says. The funds have been set up as 529 College Savings Plans, as part of a three-year pilot program, with each child accruing $25 per week, the release explains.

“Moving forward, the hope is that through private philanthropic support, additional donors will enable the creation of even more 529 College Savings Plans for Children First students,” the release notes.

To be considered for one of the savings plans, a family must have been engaged for a minimum of one academic year with Children First, with the children in the family between ages 6 months and 2 years, the release says. Parents are encouraged to contribute what they can to the fund, though that is not required.

Anyone interested in learning more about the CFC College Fund may contact Jessica Rogers, vice president of philanthropy, at 941- 953-3877 or at

Founded in 1961 and ranked in the top 1% out of more than 1,800 Head Starts nationwide, “Children First strengthens children and families by improving the quality of their lives through a comprehensive approach to development, education, health, and well being,” the release explains. “At 15 sites throughout Sarasota County, Children First offers full-day preschool, infant and toddler care, and nutrition and health care assistance to children” from birth to age 5 who are in low-income families. For more information, call 941-953-3877 or go to