New nonprofit has goal to assist at-risk youth

Jon Heymann, executive director of ELEVATE Jacksonville, speaks to a room full of donors, program advocates, teacher mentors, Duval County School Board leadership and invited guests at the Florida Yacht Club in Ortega.
Jon Heymann, executive director of ELEVATE Jacksonville, speaks to a room full of donors, program advocates, teacher mentors, Duval County School Board leadership and invited guests at the Florida Yacht Club in Ortega.

Elevate Jacksonville, a nonprofit with a goal to equip and empower underserved high school youth, has drawn civic and community leaders together to provide students with an opportunity – and a concrete plan – to graduate with a future in mind.

Jon Heymann, executive director, along with Skip Allcorn and Frank Pearce as directors, established the Jacksonville affiliate of Elevate USA in October 2018. Heymann has a career in supporting at-risk youth, having served 14 years as CEO of Communities in Schools and five years as CEO of the Jacksonville Children’s Commission.

Jacksonville is one of 10 cities across the country which has embraced the program which was started in Denver, Colorado in 1982 to help urban youth find hope in hopeless circumstances. The approach relies on putting full-time staff who are part teacher, part mentor, part life coach into high schools where they are available to the Elevate students 24/7.

Heymann, Board Chair Allcorn and the nonprofit’s two teacher mentors, Leslie Joseph and Marc Dickerson, spoke to supporters and advocates Jan. 29 at the Florida Yacht Club about the need for this new nonprofit, which was supported from its inception by Board Members Will and Karla Newton, among other early donors.

Heymann said the program won’t duplicate or overlap other similar services, but “will be a partner in a very, very dynamic way.

“In the programs I’ve been blessed to run in years gone by, I have always challenged the staff and boards to say kids are able to bounce back higher than we’ve ever imagined, and that’s why we started Elevate,” said Heymann.

The program was initiated at Raines High School, with Jean Ribault High School as the next target, and deals with a number of barriers to graduation, including financial, intellectual, social, physical, spiritual, vocational and emotional. Elevate Jacksonville includes course work as an elective and extracurricular activities with the two teacher mentors.

Dr. Diana Greene, the new Duval County Public Schools superintendent as of July 1, 2018, was also part of the gathering and shared her desire to expand the program into other high schools.

Marc and Jerica Dickerson with Marilyn Johnson
Marc and Jerica Dickerson with Marilyn Johnson
Skip and Peggy Allcorn with Will and Karla Newton
Skip and Peggy Allcorn with Will and Karla Newton
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