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SCI’s Efforts And Impact Reached New Heights In 2023

Building Brains, Building Jobs, and Building Community reached new heights in 2023. Studer Community Institute intensified efforts on their most effective programs in making our community a better place to live.


More children have the chance to be the best they can be thanks to SCI’s Building Brains Program. Strengthening partnerships with every Pensacola area hospital, almost 90 percent of all new parents learned about the pivotal importance of early brain development. Watching the Build A Brain video and receiving a Brain Bag filled with resources informs and equips parents on why it’s so vital and what they can do to make a difference in their child’s life. “It’s really reassuring how easy it is for the brain development, just talk and be proactive with the baby,” said first time dad Craig Johnson, “It’s nice to know that that’s developing the brain. That video helped a lot for me.” “They helped me learn some things that I didn’t know with my two other kids, especially about their brain development and actually how it kicks in basically while they’re in your stomach pretty much,” said Dee Dee Malone, a mom of three, “I’ve been telling with Wiz (her youngest son), he’s just been growing and growing so fast. And I have noticed, a difference between him and my other two children with me interacting more with him.”

SCI also stepped-up support for parents through the Basics Insights text messaging service. It’s a free resource developed at Harvard that delivers twice a week texts throughout the first three years of life. Simple, science-based tips, activities, and reminders help parents incorporate early childhood learning into everyday routines. SCI signed up over 15 hundred parents in 2023, a nearly 40 percent jump from the year before. “One of the best tips was about communication, to always, constantly communicate with my daughter. She’s so young, I didn’t think that she would even comprehend. But little did I know, she’s learning, so you have to keep communicating with her,” said new dad Ivory McDonald, “I think that was so instrumental because I did not know those things.”

In yet another layer of Building Brains, SCI enhanced the Sibling Brain Builders program. Through partnerships with area elementary schools SCI is empowering 4th and 5th graders to read to younger siblings at home, producing a win for everyone. “It’s kind of fun to read and help your brothers and siblings out,” said Alania Hill, a student at Weis Elementary School. Joshua Matthews, a student at Dixon School of Arts & Sciences has been reading to his little sister, “She has been learning how to talk a lot quicker now because I kept on reading to her.” Dr. Kevin Kovacs, Dixon School Principal, is grateful for the program, “That these fourth and fifth graders are helping to develop that foundation. It’s just amazing, and very, very helpful. We’re just inspired by what the Studer Community Institute has brought to us.”

Weis Elementary student receives gift for participating in SCI's Sibling Brain Builders program
Weis Elementary student receives gift for participating in SCI’s Sibling Brain Builders program

Positivity and inspiration were overflowing in September at Light Up Learning, SCI’s annual celebration of Building Brains efforts. The buy-in for making a difference keeps elevating. “I believed in it so much that your group was the first group that I met once they appointed me interim superintendent because I just think it’s pivotal,” said Escambia County School District Superintendent Keith Leonard, “We know that from birth to age three is the most important years for student. Why wouldn’t we be involved in it?”.  It’s also a no-brainer for Will Condon, Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital President, “At Studer Family Children’s Hospital, we invest in children in the Northwest Florida, and that’s exactly what this program does as well. The sooner we can educate our children and families on the importance of brain development, especially at an early age, the better. What Studer Community Institute does for us is amazing.” SCI also has an important partner in Pensacola Mayor D.C. Reeves, “I know how much time and effort and blood, sweat, and tears has gone into this program, this initiative,” said Reeves, “I know that it’s making an impact here in our community.”

SCI’s work on Building Jobs also produced substantial dividends in 2023. So many entrepreneurs, business leaders and owners are now better equipped to succeed and thrive.

The Venture Mentoring Service, a stunningly impactful program, expanded its reach. Started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and brought to Pensacola by SCI, VMS is a free program that pairs selected entrepreneurs with a team of mentors for ongoing guidance and advice. More volunteer experts joined an impressive stable of over 40 mentors allowing for the addition of nine new mentees. “The SCI VMS program has been life changing,” exclaimed Geo Zelaya, owner of Tacos El Fluffy restaurant, who became a mentee in 2023. “The fact that people spent countless hours and make sacrifices to pour to another soul, to see them succeed and be as great as they are, it is just unbelievable.”

Geo Zelaya meets with SCI VMS mentors
Geo Zelaya meets with SCI VMS mentors

EntreCon Extra presentations brought a variety of skills training opportunities. Julie Burch, a dynamic leadership coach from Texas, opened eyes on Time Management, talent optimization guru Traci Scherck from Wisconsin brought innovative wisdom on Talent Pathways, and the man himself, SCI Founder Quint Studer shared some of his latest genius for running successful organizations with a presentation on Investing in Human Capital. A lot of difference making insights for the taking. “This is a very helpful resource for me as a growing leader, relatively new in my role,” shared Marie Mott, Florida Department of Health, Escambia Administrator, “Trying to develop our organization and our team and be a thriving part of our community. It’s been a great thing to lean on Studer Community Institute.”

SCI’s Custom Training options were impactful for various organizations, highlighted by sessions on Management By Strengths, a team building program designed to improve and maximize communication. Chris Klotz, Stevenson Klotz Law Firm Partner/Owner, could not have been happier, “On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a ten a value, because really the communication in the office is so important and being able to realize that you have a way or a method or a path to have better communication with your with your coworkers and your team members is is just priceless,” said Klotz.

A year of professional development opportunities culminated at the 9th annual EntreCon in November. SCI’s world-class business, leadership, and entrepreneurship conference provided a bonanza of learning and networking. “The idea of this conference being so accessible for the business leaders in this community, entrepreneurs and students coming together for this level of education, it truthfully is a step experience,”  said Keynote Speaker April Hansen, a highly acclaimed national speaker, “I mean, this is something that I don’t often see in other communities. And so being part of this here today, a game changing experience, I love it.” EntreCon attendee Claire Duran gushed, “I love that it’s local that we’ve got so much talent here that we can draw upon and just take everything back to where we’re working and living and teach those lessons to our group. It’s a blessing to be here. I love it, said the Senior Tax Manager at Warren Averett LLC.

EntreCon keynote speaker April Hansen delivers presentation on Hypergrowth
EntreCon keynote speaker April Hansen delivers presentation on Hypergrowth

SCI is focused on making a greater impact in 2024. You can be a big part of it. Participate, support, advocate. Visit studeri.org to learn more. All of it is so appreciated and instrumental in making our community a better place to live for all.

Steve Nissim is Chief Storyteller for Studer Community Institute, a non-profit 501c(3) organization in the Pensacola, Florida area whose mission is improving the quality of life for all people in the diverse communities we serve. Learn more atwww.studeri.org