ABOUT | Our History

“The long-term investments made by Earn to Learn FL to address access to education and training for income challenged students will have a significant and measurable impact over time. The joy and privilege of engaging with other like-minded leaders and the students we serve is a great bonus.”

– Brenda Tate, Earn to Learn FL founder

Founder Story: Brenda Tate

Brenda Tate is a long-time community leader who has served in support of causes ranging from education and conservation to human trafficking and transportation. Brenda routinely works behind the scenes to create strategic alliances and strong partnerships by fostering effective collaboration to get the jobs done, including raising money, securing legislation, and negotiating deals to fulfill the missions of worthy causes. Besides founding Earn to Learn FL, she was the founder of the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation. Academic research commissioned by the foundation revealed three key facts that have guided collaborative relationships and investments:

The percentage of woman-owned businesses is lower than the state or national average. The nonprofit became Florida’s first Kiva Trustee to beta test micro-lending in the United States by establishing a micro-loan fund to support small business start-ups or expansions. It also developed Business Building Blocks (B3) for Women to train entrepreneurs in starting or expanding a small business. B3 was licensed to Women’s Funding Network in 2017 for national distribution.

Accurate, regional-level data on human trafficking is unavailable across the state of Florida. A partnership was formed with the Southwest Florida Human Trafficking Task Force to increase public awareness and develop a data driven tool to quantify the problem of human trafficking. The data collection project was tested and proven with the participation of Task Force members. The human trafficking data collection project was transferred to the State Attorney’s Office of the 20th Circuit and the SWFL Human Trafficking Task Force for long-term growth and geographic expansion.

Both men and women over the age of 25 have lower than average education attainment rates. Seed funds from a federal grant launched Earn to Learn FL™, and the initiative has grown from an initial $100,000 grant to over $1 million invested in educational attainment for hard-working but income-challenged students. Earn to Learn FL™ has become a revolutionary “savings to financial assistance” program that empowers low to moderate income students in Florida to successfully complete higher education through matched-savings, personal finance training, and success coaching. The goal is for Earn to Learn FL™ students to graduate on time, student debt free, and career ready.

Earn to Learn FL Today

By leveraging student savings, government funding, corporate support, and community support, the Earn to Learn FL approach shows promising trends. Since 2016 inception, hundreds students have been served, hundreds of hours of personal finance training completed, earning deposited by students to their Earn to Learn FL savings accounts, and hundred of thousands of dollars paid to student accounts at academic institutions.