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This commentary was featured in the Venice Gondolier on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

Congratulations Chamber Business Members!

Kathy Lehner, President and CEO

Kathy Lehner

President & CEO
Venice Area Chamber of Commerce

We are happy, humbled, and honored to receive the Outstanding Business Partner of the Year Award from Venice High School and Sarasota County Schools.

We were recognized for helping with the career and job fairs, Construction Academy and Real World Wednesday.

We have held several career and job fairs that have been very successful for both the students and our business members in the past two years. Additionally, we work alongside the school's Construction Academy, which connects needed supplies from our businesses to the students so that they can build something.

An example of their work is a wooden American Flag proudly placed front and center in our lobby that was given to the Chamber as a token of appreciation.

Let me explain Real World Wednesday. It started from a conversation with Dr. Danielle Tanaka talking about the future of our students. We realize the high school is blessed to have Rotary Futures, a program that does an amazing job of connecting our students with scholarships.

The question was what about those who don’t take the college path. How do we let them know that there are opportunities right here, right now in our community? And so it began – Real World Wednesday.

This is a program that tells the story of the "real world." We bring over 60 businesses into Venice High School twice a month during the school year to share their story of how they arrived where they are today. This includes the good, the bad, and the craziest detours that they traveled, along with the great opportunities that there are in their field.

One thing is for sure, and that is our local business owners care about our kids. If you go by any school, you will see banners with business names and logos circling the buildings in support of every sport and activity involving our students.

There was no difference of response when the Venice Area Chamber of Commerce started Real World Wednesday. Our businesses stepped up instantly.

Success stories include a young man who just turned 18 and wants to go for his general contractors license. He reached out to the two contractors that spoke at Real World Wednesday for the past two years. He heard them say that you must be 18 to start. Well, he turned 18 and is ready to start so he could get his general contractors license, and they are helping him on his way.

On Senior Day, students were lining up for photos with the school they want to go to. A senior said to a friend she was going to become a real estate agent but when she heard our speaker, who is a real estate attorney, she decided she would like to change direction to be a real estate attorney.

Receiving both awards is a true reflection of our amazing businesses. This award is really theirs for giving of their time and talent to help make a difference in a student’s life.

Congratulations and Thank You.