Spotlight on North Business Council: Meet Donna Lueders of INK!
Donna Lueders serves as the vice chair of the North Business Council of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. She is also the executive director of INK! (Investing In Kids), which provides innovative programs and classroom resources to promote the academic success of St. Johns County public school students. She has been with INK! for 13 years, following a career in public administration and criminal justice; she worked as a victim’s advocate for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office as well as the State Attorney’s Office, 7th Circuit.
Q: What programs does INK! offer?
A: We have an early literacy program to get children ready for kindergarten called Five Learning Years (FLY). Take Stock in Children offers scholarship opportunities for students beginning in middle school and follows them through high school. What makes this program so successful is we have volunteer mentors who meet with the students throughout this time and form a tight knit bond. Our goal is to have children succeed, whatever that looks like for each individual child.
We also offer school supplies directly to teachers that they can disseminate to their students. We are trying to alleviate teachers having to pay for these themselves. We rely on donations of school supplies and our Tools 4 Schools drive was just completed.
THE PLAYERS’ Make a Mark started as a pilot program in January. The community can nominate a teacher who goes above and beyond and we recognize three teachers (one elementary, one middle and one high school) each month to let them know they are appreciated.
Finally, we sponsor the Teacher of the Year celebration for the county.
Q: What is your biggest challenge?
A: As the county’s population grows, it is INK! being able to sustain or increase our support. We always need volunteers and donations and we pride ourselves on ensuring a return on investment for each individual or business sponsor.
Q:What is the best thing about being a part of the North Business Council?
A: You can connect with people and also connect people to others. Most people in the Northwest live in St. Johns County, but work in Duval and sometimes their focus is there. We try to be a voice for the needs of St. Johns County Schools. At any of our schools, there are pockets of need.
Q: What would you say to others about joining the North Business Council?
A: It is a unique opportunity to get engaged with like-minded individuals who want others to succeed. You can learn best business practices at the same time as connect with others who can support your business.
The North Business Council meets the third Tuesday of each month at 8 a.m. at Westminster Woods on Julington Creek. Visit www.sjcchamber.com for more information.
Photo courtesy Donna Lueders