Florida Educator Honored as NCAN’s 2015 Champion

September 28, 2015
By Elizabeth Morgan, Director of External Relations

At its national conference in Orlando today, the National College Access Network presented Donald Pemberton, Ph.D., of the University of Florida with its 2015 Bob Craves Champion of College Access Award. NCAN gives the award to individuals, organizations, or corporations that have made remarkable, long-term contributions to increasing college access and success for underrepresented students. It honors Bob Craves, a founding officer of Costco and co-founder of the College Success Foundation, who died in 2014 and was a longtime advocate for students who have been historically underserved in higher education.

Over the past 20 years, Dr. Pemberton has founded and led three of Florida’s most innovative education improvement initiatives. In 1995, Dr. Pemberton founded Take Stock in Children (TSIC), Florida’s largest college access and mentoring program, which provides college scholarships, adult mentors, and social services to 10,000 children in 67 counties in Florida annually. TSIC is a model public-private partnership with strong engagement of state and local government representatives, private-sector volunteers, and corporate support and a $10 million annual budget.  Dr. Pemberton served as president and chairman of TSIC and continues to sit on its board of directors.

Earlier in his career, Dr. Pemberton founded the Pinellas Education Foundation, a model school-community partnership to improve student achievement and teacher practice. In that capacity he forged powerful working relationships with the region’s leading educational, corporate, civic and labor leaders.  The innovative programs and collaborations they developed enabled tens of thousands of public school students to advance their educational, artistic and cultural development.

Dr. Pemberton now leads The Lastinger Center for Learning at the University of Florida’s College of Education, an educational innovation incubator dedicated to developing, field-testing and scaling new models to improve the quality of teaching and learning. Through his work with educators, parents, students, researchers, philanthropies, educational organizations and community leaders, he is developing a series of national prototypes, including: Early Learning Florida, a professional learning system for the state’s 55,000 early childhood educators; the Master Teacher Initiative, recognized as one of the most promising educational initiatives in the country by the U.S. Department of Education; and Algebra Nation, a blended, online learning resource that is used by more than 250,000 students in Florida. 

Dr. Pemberton is a former teacher and counselor in the Pinellas County School District. He was raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and returned to the U.S. to continue his education, earning a bachelor’s degree from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in counselor education from the University of South Florida. For a decade, he taught and counseled children of all ages, many of whom faced serious challenges.  He came to understand that in order to address the issues in his students’ lives more comprehensively, he had to assume a new set of leadership roles.  Since then, he has dedicated his life to the development of institutions and innovations that advance the success of our most vulnerable children, while providing society’s most powerful leaders and institutions with effective means to participate collaboratively in this endeavor. 

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