Elevating the future of education
Gary Chartrand isn’t one to sit idle.
For more than a decade, he has been intensely focused on enhancing education in Florida, committing time, energy and resources to broaden learning opportunities for children. His impact has been profound, and his recent gifts to UNF’s College of Education and Human Services go even further to support that mission.
Chartrand, chairman of Acosta, a leading sales and marketing company, served for eight years on Florida’s State Board of Education including two years as chair. He was the founding chair of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, instrumental in bringing the KIPP nonprofit charter school to Jacksonville, and led the effort to establish Teach for America on the First Coast.
In 2015, Chartrand created the STEM2 Hub with area businesses to accelerate local learning in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. “Gary cares deeply about the youth in our community,” said Kathleen Schofield, executive director of the STEM2 Hub. “He values the role that teachers play, not only in being a caring and stable force in children’s lives, but also as the people who set them on the path toward their future.”
The family’s foundation, started in 2006, also has given generously to area public schools, particularly those in lower-income neighborhoods. This summer, Chartrand pledged significant support to the Urban Initiative Scholarship Fund at UNF, an effort to develop a diverse teaching force in urban public schools. “Our teacher pipeline is really important to make sure we have quality teachers in front of our students,” Chartrand said. “The single biggest component to student achievement is the teacher, and to be effective, it is vital that we have representation from everyone in our community.” The Urban Initiative also aims to meet the critical shortage of teachers in Duval County.
“Gary knows the issues facing Northeast Florida,” said Diane Yendol-Hoppey, Dean of UNF’s College of Education and Human Services, commenting that nearly 80% of UNF’s education graduates stay in the area to teach. “He recognizes the critical role that our College plays in the future of local education,” she said. “We are grateful to have him as a partner.”
Chartrand believes the rapid pace of changes in technology and science requires immediate and far reaching changes in the classroom. He also has lent his support to help fund the associate director of research programs and services for UNF’s STEP Lab, where regional preK-12 students and teachers, University faculty and students, and community partners can gain hands-on experience in STEM learning.
“Our schools must prepare students for the 21st century with 21st century skills,” Chartrand said. “Exposure is critical.”
With so many of UNF’s education graduates staying local, Chartrand said he and his family are proud to lend support where he knows it will make a difference. “UNF has a robust College of Education that is critical to our community,” he said. “We are just doing what we can to support that.”