Southwest Florida enjoys such an enviable array of lifestyle amenities that many of us call it “paradise.” And with good reason.
Among many other honors bestowed on the region by the national media, ours is routinely named one of the best places in America to retire, is oft-cited for having the country’s best beach; and is regularly praised for a visual and performing arts scene that simply astounds those who don’t expect to find so many first-rate cultural options in a community this size. In truth, these accolades are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to garnering international recognition for our way of life.
Last week we were again reminded of the quality of our surroundings when Sarasota’s Pine View School for the Gifted was named the sixth best public high school in the nation by U.S News & World Report. It was also ranked the number one public high school in Florida.
While people often move here to enjoy the good life after their proverbial nests empty out, that Sarasota County’s public school system includes schools with such superior academic credentials proves that younger families needn’t sacrifice first-rate educational opportunities to take full-time advantage of the Florida lifestyle. Moreover, the region is home to several private and charter schools, thus adding an additional layer of choices for children with special talents or needs.
Meanwhile, Bradenton is home to IMG Academies, easily one of the best schools of its type in the world. Here gifted young athletes from all over the world come to pair college preparatory studies with world-class athletic training. The school is often mentioned in the same breath as some of its more illustrious tennis alumni—including Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova and Venus and Serena Williams—but star athletes from every sport regularly come to IMG for training and conditioning. For non-students—including children, teens and adults—there are regularly-scheduled training camps in tennis, golf, soccer, baseball and other sports.
Even if you move here without school-aged children, the region offers an outstanding assortment of educational opportunities for the lifelong adult learner. These include such noteworthy institutions of higher learning as The Ringling Collage of Art & Design; The University of South Florida—Sarasota/Manatee and New College of Florida.
Just days after the announcement of Pine View’s academic achievement, we learned that six students from New College had been awarded Fulbright Scholarships, bringing to 75 the total number of recipients of the prestigious grants in the school’s relatively short history. There have been 43 winners since 2007 alone. As such, the Chronicle of Higher Education now ranks New College of Florida as one of the top producers of Fulbright scholars in the country; and the college claims more recipients per student than almost any other college.
While some call our area “paradise” thanks to Mother Nature’s generosity in endowing the region with an extraordinary climate and a magical environment in which to live, work and play, it could just as easily be dubbed “edu-topia” for the exceptional quality and diversity of the academic choices available here.