Project ELEVATE is a Jacob K. Javits U.S. Department of Education collaborative grant between UCF and Seminole County Public Schools. The $2.4 million grant award was approved for 5 years (2015-2020).

Objectives of Project ELEVATE (English Learner Excellence Evolving through Advanced Teacher Education) include the identification of underserved, economically disadvantaged and English Learners, in 12 schools selected from Title I contexts in Seminole County.

The UCF Project ELEVATE team, under the direction of UCF PI Dr. Gillian Eriksson includes UCF CO-PI Research Dr. Haiyan Bai and graduate assistant Jennifer Sanguiliano. Content area specialists include: Dr. Vicky Zygouris Coe (Language and Literacy, Year 1-3), Dr. Selcuk Haciomeroglu (Mathematics, Year 1-2), Dr. Debra McGann (STEAM and Arts Integration, Year 3), Dr. Malcolm Butler (Science, Year 1), Dr. Megan Nickles (STEM, Year 2 -3) Dr. Joyce Nutta (ELL, Year 1), Dr. Kerry Purmensky (ELL, Year 2), Dr. Donita Grissom (ELL, Year 3)

UCF Project ELEVATE included the professional development of Teacher Leaders selected from an initial five Title I schools in Seminole County. Each of the five schools chosen had high percentages of economically disadvantaged (ED) and English language leaner (ELL) students, and very few students identified for gifted services. UCF Faculty presented intensive Professional Development in sessions to the Teacher Leaders addressing stereotypes and misconceptions regarding the nature and identification of giftedness, and introducing content specific strategies for acceleration and enrichment. In order to fuse these core objectives into these schools, UCF PI Dr. Eriksson and GRA Ms. Sanguiliano presented grade level workshops, ensuring that every teacher in the project schools had exposure to gifted education training and talent development. Both the Professional development and school based sessions include the simulated Gifted classroom developed within Project ELEVATE, using TeachLivE, with students scripted from real case studies within SCPS. These case studies include five students who vary in levels and types of giftedness, and include English language learners from five different countries or cultures around the world.

Research on Project ELEVATE in 2017 has shown an impacted the climate of the treatment schools and has led to an increase in referrals for Talent Development, and to students being identified and served in Gifted Classrooms (36% growth in the five schools, 120% growth for ELL Gifted, and 126% growth for ED Gifted). SCPS Project Director, Jeanette Lukens, continues to monitor the implementation in these schools in 2017-2018, as the Project continues with a new set of five schools for the years 2017-2019.  Middle schools will be added to the project in the fifth year (2019-2020).

Project ELEVATE has also increased outreach to students including an after-school enrichment program at each school site – Project ASSIST – which recruits UCF service learning students to work with the elementary school gifted students. A two-week summer camp, UCF ADAGE (Academic Discoveries and Adventures for Gifted Enrichment) enables gifted elementary school students to spend a week on the UCF campus learning from faculty and UCF graduate students. Week two is hosted at a SCPS school, and includes a variety of special interest courses for students taught by SCPS gifted teachers.

Every April, Project ELEVATE hosts a UCF ADAGE (Advocates for Advanced and Gifted Education) Conference, with over 30 presentations. The next conference will be April 21, 2019, and is fully sponsored by the grant. More information coming soon.

The results of Project ELEVATE have been demonstrated and presented at the World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children, the National Association for Gifted Children, the Comparative and the International Education Society, and the Florida Association for the Gifted. PROJECT ELEVATE has received national recognition with the selection of the SCPS Project Director, Jeanette Lukens, as a Leader to Learn From, with Superintendent Dr. Walt Griffin by Education Week.

International Projects


Cyberspace Pals provides opportunities for people in educational and community institutions to share their experiences, ideas and knowledge in a variety of collaborative learning environments to enhance global understanding.

The Teacher mentoring project links Teachers of the Year and other Faculty with students who are completing study abroad programs or who are teaching in other countries.

Student to Student – links students in focused discussions around core themes. Currently there are teams of students from Australia, Mexico and Haiti participating.

CPAW – COMMUNICATING PRODUCTIVELY with AUTHORS for WRITING – International Writer’s Celebration

The International Writer’s Week Celebration has been operating for the past 15 years in collaboration with Queanbeyan High School, in Canberra, Australia. In this project, students are paired with leading authors for a week or more during which the student’s produce writing on a contemporary theme. The entries from around the world are collected and posted online at the school website, and a local celebration is held to display the productivity of these authors in training.

Haiti – UCF College of Community Innovation and Education Advocacy Projects
After the devastating hurricane in Haiti, two service learning advocacy projects were developed by undergraduate students in EDF2085 Diversity in Education by Dr Gillian Eriksson in the Spring 2011 semester.

Haiti – EFL Learning Project
Dr Edwidge Crevecoeur-Bryant and Donita Grissom developed collaborative partnerships with universities in Haiti and developed online learning modules for learning English. Students in Haiti are completing these modules and then transitioning to UCF.