Thankful for our inspirations

Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, President


It’s Thanksgiving 2022 - a time to pause and reflect on what we’re most grateful for. For JPEF, it’s the things that inspire us to continue in the relentless pursuit of our mission. Here’s a few that top the list:

The Resilience of our Students: As a mother and a mentor to young people who were in school during the pandemic, I had a front row seat to the lessened social connectivity, and the challenges they experienced staying healthy and well while pursuing their learning goals. And though it’s not 2020, let’s be honest, we are just starting to contend with the full impact of what it’s been like for our students learn during a global health crisis. Yet, when I think about the unique talents and passions waiting to be unlocked from today’s children and youth, I am reminded of one of my favorite poems by the late Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise.” This chapter of so many lives, young and old, will go down in history as one of the most difficult – however, their futures still burn bright.

The Commitment of our Partners: Decades of research show that networks of strong and supportive relationships are essential to the development of young people. At JPEF, we are fortunate to work closely with individuals ranging from educators to parents to donors and advocates; and organizations including but not limited to governmental agencies, businesses, and nonprofits. Diverse in many beautiful ways, these partners stand united in the belief in the potential of our students and our future. Their unwavering commitment to playing a meaningful role in the lives of young people and in our collective work to ensure every child can attain an excellent education in Jacksonville is something that fills my heart with gratitude every day.

Our collective resolve to meet the challenge of this moment: I often say that nothing happens by happenstance as I firmly believe we are all called to our moments. The challenges of today are ours to solve and though it is never lost on me how great they are, I am also reminded that when we work together there is nothing we can’t do. I am constantly inspired by how willing the Jacksonville community is to come together to tackle the challenges of this moment. Our collective resolve is demonstrated by partners locking arms through our recently launched READ JAX campaign and our 1,000 by 2025 initiative to build a diverse teacher pipeline for Jacksonville’s future. When we work in silos, we get very little done, but together we can ensure a much brighter future. For this I am thankful.

The people who paved the way: This moment calls for our leadership, but we stand on the shoulders of giants who paved the way for us. It is a gift to draw inspiration from many leaders whose example show us the way. Recently JPEF honored our Founders, including the Honorable Brian J. Davis, who completed 12 years of leadership and service on the JPEF Board of Directors as an exemplary education advocate, and Nina Waters, whose leadership at the Community Foundation for Northeast Florida is directly responsible for JPEF’s existence in our community. I think often of people like them and the late Bryant Rollins whose commitment to equity and opportunity for all provide a guiding compass for our own work to make our community a better place.

In this season of gratitude, we have so much to be thankful for. 

Rachael Tutwiler Fortune, President




of public schools in Duval County earned an "A," "B," or "C" in 2021-2022.