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Innovation : For Good

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For Good: Fast Pitch seeks entries from Tampa Bay Area nonprofits

It’s like Shark Tank, nonprofit style. And it’s coming to Tampa November 9. Ten nonprofit organizations will be competing for some $40,000 in an event inspired by the popular TV show for businesses seeking funding.

Tampa will be the first Fast Pitch event with an accelerator program through the Seattle-based Social Venture Partners. It also is the first Fast Pitch event for the Tampa chapter started in 2014; nonprofits will be vying for funding from SVP partners.

We really want to give them an opportunity in Tampa to amplify their impact,” says Jennifer Finney, a partner for SVP and member of the team spearheading the effort. “It’s zero cost to the nonprofit and to the attendees.”

The program seeks to better equip nonprofits to “execute their mission and their vision, as well as have access to all the tools and the resources that we can provide,” Finney explains. “We want a build a space for them to really collaborate.”

Nonprofits must apply by August 14; finalists will be announced August 21. The pitch competition is slated for November 9, although the location has not been finalized.

Participating nonprofits will be able to prepare for the competition with five different workshop nights and an assigned mentor, she says. Those who complete the two-month program will have a business plan.

SVP, a group of philanthropists looking to give back to their community, has been partnering with Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the University of Tampa, where Finney is the first female to graduate from the Sykes College of Business with a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship.

“They [Community Foundation members] have a lot of experience in the nonprofit space. They have been very helpful to us,” Finney says. “They’ve been very generous with their time and their resources.”

Finney, 23, transferred to UT when her family relocated from Chicago to Tampa about three years ago. “I fell in love with it, especially their entrepreneurship program. I liked it so much I went for my master’s degree,” she says.

She competed on UT’s HULT Prize competition two years in a row.

Now Finney plans to take a job as an employee benefits advisor with Tampa’s Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners in the fall. “We all live in Tampa. We all want to see great success here in Tampa,” she says. “It’s not Chicago or New York by size, but there’s a lot of really passionate and talented people here making Tampa one of the greatest places to live. You really can’t beat the weather.”


For Good: RCMA Wimauma Academy rejoices in top math scores

Mandy Johnson, third-grade teacher at Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) Wimauma Academy, says she got goosebumps when she received the news of her students not just passing, but excelling on the Florida Standards Assessment. The entire grade level, 36 students, achieved a passing score. 

“This is a great achievement,” says Johnson, who teaches math using a marching cadence. “My kids live in poverty and we still beat the rest of the schools in the county. That speaks volumes.’’ 

The students take the exam in the spring. Results released in June show that no other school in Hillsborough County, and only 11 others statewide, achieved a 100 percent passing rate for an entire grade level. The school’s fourth- and fifth-graders surpassed the state average for math and the averages of other elementary schools in the Wimauma area. In addition, students at RCMA Leadership Academy recorded higher math passing rates than the area’s neighboring middle schools. 

“I am elated with not only the third grade math results, but with our results overall,” says Mark Haggett, principal of the RCMA Academies in Wimauma. “In a time where so many negative things in general are being said politically, we have stressed to our scholars that the best way to combat that thinking is to show everyone their ability, which is just what they have done.’’ 
 

One of Johnson’s students, Diego Sanches, received a perfect score on the math portion of the exam. All 64 questions right, Johnson says with an air of pride. For the past four years, Johnson’s classes have achieved a 97, 95s, and now 100 percent proficiency on the math portion of the standardized test. 

“Strong leadership, effective instruction and parent partnerships contributed to our students’ success,” says Juana Brown, RCMA’s director of charter schools. “There was such fierce determination and focus on the part of everyone in our school community.” 

So, how is Johnson managing to help children who are disadvantaged by a language barrier achieve such high scores?
 
“I teach it, review it and drill it until my students get it,’’ she says. “Language is a barrier, but these kids are always ready to learn. They come everyday eager to learn because they know I will teach them something new. They work hard.” 

Johnson implements STANDOUT Math methods and strategies in her lessons. STANDOUT Math is a program that combines oral, visual and kinesthetic aspects to achieve a whole brain math approach. Johnson says that what she learned from the creator of STANDOUT Math was based on the Colorado state standards, so she adjusted it for her own students’ needs, creating chants and songs for the math concepts she teaches. 

So far, Johnson has written 50 chants associated with the math concepts she teaches, which her students memorize.
 
Johnson, who has a military background, says she also uses Fact Fluency, a multiplication and division program, in her classroom. 

For homework, Johnson assigns two pages front and back with a variety of assignments such as five multiplication, five area and five measurement problems. The idea is that they develop different skills, she says. By the end of the academic year, she has brought the homework load to five pages front and back. By then, the students can solve addition, subtraction, fraction and division problems. 

“I’m not mean, but I’m strict,” Johnson says. “My kids know what they do first, second, third and fourth. We sing, and we play review games. I show them I care for them. They know they have a teacher that will be there for them, that will support them.’’
 
In her teaching career, Johnson has taught in both all white and mixed schools, but RCMA is Johnson’s first experience working with all Hispanic children. 

“I love them. I tell them often, your parents brought you to this country because they don’t want you to work on the fields, they want you to do better,” Johnson says. 

Johnson has taught seven years at RCMA. She taught second grade for three years and third grade for four years. Next year, besides teaching two groups of third grade, Johnson will work reviewing math chants with fourth and fifth graders.
 
“We’ve known that with the right environment and good, passionate teachers who constantly strive to improve learning, students can succeed,” Brown said. “And they’re doing just that.” 

Para bien: RCMA Wimauma Academy se regocija por lograr las mejores puntuaciones en matemáticas

Mandy Johnson, maestra de tercer grado en la Academia de Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) en Wimauma, se sorprendió cuando recibió la noticia de que sus clases no solo lograron un puntaje alto, sino que el 100 por ciento de sus alumnos aprobaron el examen estatal de estándares Florida Standard Assessment (FSA). Ambos grupos de tercer grado, los 36 estudiantes, lograron puntaje aprobatorio.

 “Este es un gran logro”, dijo Johnson, quien enseña matemáticas usando cantos al ritmo y cadencia de marchas. “Mis alumnos viven en la pobreza y aún así les ganamos al resto de las escuelas del condado. Eso dice mucho”, agregó.

Los estudiantes tomaron el examen en primavera. Los resultados dados a conocer la semana pasada muestran que no hubo otra escuela en el condado de Hillsborough, y solo 11 otras en todo el Estado, lograron el 100 por ciento de porcentaje aprobatorio en todo el tercer grado. Los alumnos de cuarto y quinto grado de la escuela también sobrepasaron los promedios estatales en matemáticas y los promedios de otras escuelas elementales del área de Wimauma. Además, estudiantes de la academia de liderazgo RCMA Leadership Academy lograron porcentajes aprobatorios más altos que las escuelas medias de áreas vecinas.

"Estoy muy contento no solo con los resultados de matemáticas del tercer grado, sino con nuestros resultados en general", dijo Mark Haggett, director de las Academias RCMA en Wimauma. "En un tiempo en el que se dicen tantas cosas negativas en términos políticos, hemos subrayado a nuestros estudiantes que la mejor manera de combatir ese pensamiento es mostrando todas su habilidad, que es exactamente lo que han hecho", agregó.

Uno de los estudiantes de Johnson, Diego Sanches, logró una puntuación perfecta en la porción de matemáticas del examen. Contestó las 64 preguntas correctamente, dijo Johnson con un aire de orgullo.

Durante los últimos 4 años, los grupos de Johnson han logrado 97, 95 y 100 por ciento de puntajes aprobatorios en la porción de matemáticas en el examen estatal.

"Un liderazgo fuerte, instrucción eficaz y el apoyo de los padres de familia contribuyeron al éxito de nuestros estudiantes", dijo Juana Brown, directora de escuelas chárter de RCMA. "Había una determinación y enfoque feroz por parte de todos los miembros de nuestra comunidad escolar".

Pero, ¿cómo le hace Johnson para ayudar a niños desfavorecidos por la barrera del lenguaje a alcanzar tales puntuaciones?

"Enseño, repaso y practico”, enfatizó Johnson. “Hasta que mis estudiantes lo comprendan y lo asimilen. Cuando el lenguaje es una barrera, estos niños están siempre dispuestos a aprender. Todos los días vienen con ganas de aprender porque saben que les enseñaré algo nuevo. Trabajan duro”, añadió.

Johnson implementa métodos y estrategias como STANDOUT Math en sus lecciones. STANDOUT Math es un programa que  combina aspectos orales, visuales y de movimientos para lograr un mejor aprovechamiento de matemáticas. Johnson dijo que aprendió el programa de la creadora de STANDOUT Math con base en los estándares del estado de Colorado, por lo que ella hizo sus propios ajustes de acuerdo a las necesidades de sus estudiantes en Wimauma, creando cantos y canciones para los conceptos de matemáticas que ella enseña.

Hasta el momento, Johnson ha escrito 50 cantos asociados con los conceptos de matemáticas que enseña y sus estudiantes los han aprendido, dijo.

Johnson, quien trabajó en la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos, dijo que también utiliza como estrategia de enseñanza Fact Fluency, un programa de multiplicaciones y divisiones.

De tarea, Johnson asigna dos páginas de frente y reverse con una variedad de problemas de matemáticas, por ejemplo, cinco multiplicaciones, cinco problemas de área y cinco de medidas. La idea es que desarrollen diferentes habilidades, dijo. Para el final del año, la maestro aumenta la carga de tarea a 5 páginas, frente y reverso. Para entonces, los estudiantes pueden resolver problemas varios, por ejemplo sumas, restas, divisiones y fracciones.

"Yo no soy mala pero soy estricta", dijo Johnson. "Mis niños saben lo que tienen que hacer primero, segundo, tercero y cuarto. Cantamos y participamos en juegos de revisión y repaso. Les muestro que me importan. Ellos saben que tienen un profesora que estará allí para ellos cuando lo necesiten, que les apoyará”, dijo.

En su carrera como educadora, Johnson ha enseñado en escuelas de blancos y mixtas, pero RCMA es la primera experiencia en la que Johnson trabaja con la gran mayoría de niños hispanos.

 “Me encantan. Les digo con frecuencia, sus padres los trajeron aquí porque no quieren que ustedes trabajen en los campos de cultivo, ellos quieren algo mejor para ustedes”, comentó Johnson.

Johnson ha enseñado siete años en RCMA. Enseñó Segundo grado por 3 años, y tercer años por cuatro años. El año entrante, además de sus dos grupos de tercer año, Johnson trabajará con alumnos de cuarto y quinto año para ayudarlos a repasar sus cantos de matemáticas con el fin de que mantengan frescos los conceptos aprendidos.

"Sabemos que con el entorno adecuado y profesores buenos, apasionados, que se esfuerzan constantemente por mejorar el aprendizaje, los estudiantes pueden tener éxito", precisó Brown. -- “Y eso es precisamente lo que están haciendo.”


Head Start moving into Lee Davis Center

Head Start will re-open in a refurbished Lee Davis Community Resource Center in Tampa on May 30, becoming the first one-stop shop center for Head Start and Hillsborough County social services for all ages.

The innovative center will house two state-of-the-art Head Start classrooms with smart boards, or large boards used with reading software, and will accommodate 40 children ages 3 to 5, says Mimi Jefferson, Manager of Education Administration.

Its administrative staff also will be on site at 3402 N. 22 St. Kiosks in front will let visitors access social service and Head Start applications.

“It will be open to the public also to come in and do after-hours activities,” says Dr. Jacquelyn Jenkins, Head Start Department Director.

Parents can enroll eligible children for Head Start online. The program runs from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday year round.

Head Start is relocating to Lee Davis from the West Tampa Head Start Center at 1129 W. Main St., where it was inside the Tampa Housing Authority. About six staff members will be moving as well.

Audrey Ziegler, Director of Hillsborough County’s Social Services Department, says Lee Davis hopefully will serve as a model for multi-purpose uses “under one roof.”

“At Lee Davis, we will have Head Start, Aging Services, Social Services and Healthy Living. We will also be having a Public Library Computer Lab,” she says.

Flexible meeting space also is planned.

The new Healthy Living space will serve center clients and Hillsborough County HealthCare plan enrollees with exercise programs, exercise equipment, health education classes, nutrition consultation, mobile health screenings and more, says Gene Early Jr. Department Director for the county’s Health Care Services Department.

“The program will emphasize preventive health, disease management, weight loss, mental health early intervention, health education, nutrition and physical exercise and movement, offering these residents information and options to help them live healthier lives,” he adds.

Healthy Living program facilities, also anticipated for the South Shore and Plant City communities, are scheduled to open later in the summer.

A grand opening of the newly renovated Lee Davis center is anticipated in August, when all tenants were expected to be on site, Ziegler adds.

Renovations at Lee Davis, built in 1986, have been under way since 2016. The facility has remained open during the refurbishing, which cost nearly $2.9 million.

While Lee Davis will be the first facility to house Head Start along with Social Services, Ziegler says, the Town and Country facility does offer multiple services including Head Start, plus aging and library services.  

County officials are trying to customize the one-stop shop concept in other areas of the county to minimize travel for its constituents.

“It wouldn’t be a one size fits all if we really speak to different pockets in our community,” Ziegler says.

At Lee Davis, the county offers homeless prevention services, including assistance with rent and utilities, to eligible individuals. It also connects residents to social services case managers for job placement and adult education.


Got a big idea for a social enterprise? Community Foundation of Tampa Bay might fund it

Because it’s virtually impossible for local donors alone to meet the financial needs of nonprofits serving people in need, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay is holding its second Big Idea Grant competition, offering up to $50,000 to nonprofits who pitch the best ideas for either a new social enterprise for their organization or by expanding something they’re already doing. 

The goal of nonprofit social enterprise is to help these organizations become sustainable by relying less on charity and more on self-sufficiency to earn the money necessary to continue to do the good works that they do. 

The caveat, though, is that in order to win, nonprofits must find organizations that are similar to their own in mission, and work together to create a business plan with a clear road to sustained profitability. 

In 2015 the Big Idea Grant participants came up with so many innovative and creative ideas for collaborations that two more donors came forward with $50,000 each so that three different collaborating nonprofit groups were able to move forward with their initiatives. 

One of 2015’s winners, My Mobile Market was a partnership between Feeding Tampa Bay, Suncoast Goodwill and Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally to supply low-income neighborhoods with a pop-up grocery story, supplying affordable, healthy fresh food items like fruits and veggies, and non-perishable staples like beans and rice and peanut butter. 

Matt Spence, CFTB’s VP of Community Impact, says that one of the key ingredients that comprises nonprofit success is allowing a nonprofit to concentrate on what they are already doing well. In partnering with other groups that are doing a similar service but may have more experience with a different aspect of the same mission, these collaborations mean bigger and better results for all involved. 

My Mobile Market is an example of why that works. 

“Feeding Tampa Bay understands food and nutrition and distribution and they do those things extremely well,” says Spence. “What they don’t have experience with, and what Goodwill brought to the table, was in the job training aspect of it, so Goodwill was working with their adult clients to help build job skills and those are the people who man the trucks, who drive it, who sell the food. Those are all Goodwill employees. It’s a way to to connect to different areas of expertise while still allowing the nonprofits do what they do well.”

The deadline for submissions to win the Big Idea Grant is March 3. 

For Good: Children’s Board of Hillsborough County seeks applicants for $10.8M in grant funds

The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County is offering $10.8 million in grant money to organizations that meet the criteria the board has set in place to ensure that children are healthy and safe, developmentally on track, ready to learn, and are in supported and supportive families. 

The CBHC releases this grant money every five years, so while some organizations may reapply and continue receiving funding, new entities also have an opportunity to secure grants as a new source of revenue.  

“We like to take another look at what the community needs, what new providers may have come into the area, and our goal of course is to fund the very best programs and services for the citizens of Hillsborough County,” says Paula Scott, Director of PR at the Children's Board

A special Leading Grant of up to $250,000 will be awarded to organizations that provide high quality summer programs for children, including making sure the program includes things like art and literature, and STEM and safety education. 

Another Uniting Grant of up to $250,000 will go to fund programs that provide training to early childhood educators on social-emotional learning. The CBHC specifically is looking to fund organizations who have both the administration and the programs in place that can train teachers to instill Conscious Discipline in the children, meaning that when they start Kindergarten children are prepared.

“It’s important that they enter Kindergarten ready to go, that they’re able to handle their emotions, that they’re able to regroup if something upsets them,” says Scott. “That’s all that Conscious Discipline and trying to give the providers the tools to handle those children, and also putting into those children the tools that they need to be successful once they enter the Kindergarten environment.” 

The grant money is open to non-profits and for-profits, but groups must meet very specific guidelines, which are outlined on the CBHC website. Scott says it’s crucial to read the Request for Proposal or RFP capacity checklist page to learn if organizations have the internal capacity to handle a grant from the Children’s Board.

Applicants can apply from now through March 2017. 

Once grants are awarded, the CBHC continues to closely monitor how the funds are used in order to ensure that the children are gaining the maximum benefits. 

“Our grants are wonderful in that we make sure if we’re investing county taxpayer dollars that there is a definite positive outcome on those folks that they’re working with and the children and families,” Scott says.

For Good: Free eBook guides nonprofits in private-sector partnerships

Consonant Custom Media (CCM), a communications and publishing company headquartered in Sarasota, has released its latest eBook, “Making Private-Sector Partnerships Work for Your Nonprofit,’’ following a successful preview at the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Planet Philanthropy' conference in June. 

The digital publication is available at no cost to communications, fundraising and development executives.

"Private sector partnerships are so vital, particularly to small- and medium-sized nonprofits, because they enable those nonprofits to magnify their reach and advance their mission,’’ says Steve Smith, CCM Creative Director and Publisher. “They help make the [nonprofit's] mission more understandable to more people and help them reach out to additional private-sector partners, donors and patrons.”

Smith notes that modern corporate culture emphasizes the value of social responsibility, and that companies engaged in cross-sector partnerships gain a competitive advantage with consumers, employees and investors. 

"Companies have made a transition from thinking 'We'll write a big check once a year' to really having social responsibility in their DNA. Now they want more of an intimate relationship with the nonprofit,’’ Smith says. “We're seeing corporations say, 'Let's look for ways our employees can participate’.” 

CCM's eBook cites Nielsen's 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility survey, stating that 55 percent of global respondents said they would be willing to pay more for goods and services from companies committed to social and environmental giving -- up from 45 percent in 2011. The eBook also cites a 2011 Deloitte Volunteer Impact study that found that 61 percent of Millennials consider a company's commitment to the community when making a job decision.

"There's a tremendous amount of value to the nonprofit because then if the relationship is being managed well, every one of those employees becomes an ambassador for that nonprofit," Smith says.

Chapters in Making Private-Sector Partnerships Work for Your Nonprofit include: Corporate Social Responsibility Today, Benefits of the Cross-Sector Partnership, Is Your Organization Ready for Sponsorships?, What Makes a Good Relationship? and How to Pitch to Private-Sector Partners.

Smith created the eBook with assistance from the CCM team, as well as editorial contributions from several nonprofit professionals. Contributors include Veronica Brady, Senior VP for Philanthropy at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, Tom Waters, President and CEO of Easter Seals Southwest Florida and Martha Wells, Director of Community Engagement at the South Florida Museum.

“Making Private-Sector Partnerships Work for Your Nonprofit'' can be ordered by visiting the Consonant Custom Media's website.

Major grant to help Tarpon Springs program create solutions to adverse childhood experiences

Robin Saegner wants the world to be a better and safer place. Because she’s just one person, she’s concentrating on bringing this dream to reality in her own backyard in Tarpon Springs.

In 2010, she founded the Peace4Tarpon Informed Community Initiative with the ambitious mission of creating a more peaceful and thriving Tarpon Springs. Saegner envisions a community where all residents are safe healthy, educated, respected and valued.

What makes this initiative unique is that it uses a whole community, holistic approach to solving challenging issues by seeking to understand and address root causes, instead of symptoms. Saegner’s vision just got a big endorsement – and financial boost.

Peace4Tarpon was selected as one of 14 programs in the United States – and the only one in Florida – to get a grant to support and expand its innovative work to address childhood adversity. It will receive nearly $300,000 over a two-year period from the Health Federation of Philadelphia with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment.

With this grant, Peace4Tarpon joins the other 13 programs in a collaborative project called Mobilizing Action for Resilient Communities (MARC). They will share best practices, try new approaches and become models for other communities in implementing effective solutions for combatting adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs.

“The MARC project will give us a fantastic opportunity to take our work of building a peaceful, healthy and resilient community to the next level,” says Saegner, former Vice Mayor of Tarpon Springs. “Our goal is to reduce the number of ACEs and build resiliency, which will greatly increase their chances of leading happier, healthier and more successful lives.”

Some of the areas she and other project directors will target are child neglect, abuse and abandonment, and how to come up with solutions to prevent them. Studies have shown that these traumatic events can have lifelong impacts on children’s health and behavior, and affect the communities they live in.

Saegner says she sees this as the “public health issue of our time.”

“We see how unaddressed trauma plays out every day from the most personal level to national news. It is at the root of both physical and emotional challenges,” she says. “The current epidemic of trauma can be slowed and eventually reversed if we address it through a unified purpose and response. This is what fuels my commitment to this cause.”

Tarpon4Peace and the other programs selected to be part of the MARC initiative got a strong endorsement for the work they are doing by a spokesperson for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Martha B. Davis called them “living laboratories that can teach all of us” what it takes to transform cycles of trauma into a culture of health.

“Anyone who is interested in strengthening the resilience of their community should pay attention to what these communities are doing,” Davis says.

Other recipients include: Alaska Resilience Initiative; The HEARTS Initiative for ACE Response in Albany, N.Y.; Vital Village Community Engagement Network in Boston; Buncombe County (North Carolina) ACEs Collaborative; Creating Sanctuary in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon; Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative; Trauma Matters in Kansas City, Mo.; Elevate Montana; Philadelphia ACE Task Force; San Diego Trauma Informed Guide Team & Building Health Communities Central Region; Sonoma County (California) Connection; ACEs/Resilience Team & Children’s Resilience Initiative in Washington; and Wisconsin Collective Impact Coalition. 

For Good: Humana seeks nonprofits for wellness grant

Tampa Bay nonprofits that promote wellness may be eligible for a grant being awarded by the Humana Foundation, which is currently seeking applications from organizations for their yearly grant.
 
“We are looking for organizations that promote healthy behaviors, health education and access to health services in the community,” says Dr. Theo Sai, Humana regional medical director for central Florida. “It is part of Humana’s larger commitment to improve health in the community by 20 percent by the year 2020.”
 
Beginning December 1st, local nonprofits can submit a letter of intent outlining their organization’s proposed initiative. Upon evaluation, those selected will be invited to submit an online application, with a winner being announced March 2016.  
 
Last year, Tampa Palms-based charity, Starting Right Now, was the recipient of the Humana Communities Benefit Grant, receiving $350,000. Starting Right Now (SRN) helps homeless teenagers with resources including housing, mentoring, employment and education. The money was used to expand the nonprofit’s Hillsborough housing, making rooms for 24 more youth, and is restoring a school in Pinellas County that will be used to house an additional 50 teens.
 
Giving back to the community is a priority for the large health insurance company.
 
“Humana encourages all people, including our own employees, to volunteer and contribute to their communities,” Sai says. “When people give and volunteer, it leads to a better community overall.”
 
For additional information on the Humana Foundation or how to apply for the grant, visit the Humana Foundation's website.

For Good: Saint Leo University president gives up inauguration celebration for student scholarships

When Saint Leo University president Dr. William J. Lennox Jr. took over the reins of the school earlier this year, he was asked what kind of celebration he wanted as part of his inauguration. With several options from which to choose, including galas, private dinners or weeklong affairs, the president chose an unanticipated option. He chose not to celebrate at all.

“When I had the conversation with him about his inauguration celebration, he had a lot of questions,” says Denny Moller, VP for university advancement at Saint Leo University. “One of his biggest concerns was the cost of the celebration. He finally just said he would rather see that money go back to the students.”

Instead of a presidential inauguration, university leaders decided to award $2,500 scholarships to 20 deserving students. The scholarships will be divided among students at the university campus, those who take courses online exclusively and graduate students.

“These are one-time scholarships funded by a donor to the university,” Moller says. “We are expecting to get hundreds of submissions.”

Moller says that students have to submit applications by October 30th to be eligible, and will receive funding for the spring semester. He also says funds will be given to those who are expected to graduate next year.

“These scholarships are to help those who are close to graduating,” he says. “We will only be looking at applicants who are scheduled to graduate in the spring.”

The application process includes submitting an application online and writing an essay that illustrates the student’s financial need.

“It is our hope that the president’s gesture sends a positive message, not only to our students,  but to the rest of the education community and leadership, that it should always be about the students.”  

For Good: Beverage association offers grant money to nonprofits

In an effort to promote health and wellness in the community, the Florida Beverage Association (FBA) is launching a grant program that will help fund nonprofits that encourage nutrition, physical activity, health and wellness, as well as environmental sustainability programs.
 
The FBA is made up of several beverage companies including Dr. Pepper, Snapple, Coca-Cola, Pepsi Co. and Nestle Water. 
 
“We want people to know that we care about the communities we serve, and where our employees live, work and play and ensure they are healthy and environmentally sustainable,” says Liz Castro-DeWitt, executive director of the Florida Beverage Association.
 
To be considered for the grant, nonprofits must be a 501(c)(3) charitable organization or a state or local governmental entity and meet the requirements the FBA has listed on their website.
 
Castro-DeWitt says FBA grants may also be eligible for consideration for matching grants from the American Foundation for a Healthy America.
 
As far as who should apply, Castro-DeWitt says accredited nonprofits that meet the requirements are welcome.
 
“We are looking for people with innovative ideas from how an individual or group introduced recycling to their community, to fitness camps in community parks to something we have never even thought of or heard of before,” she says. “This is the first year we are doing the grant program, so we are very excited about it, and excited to see what people come up with.”
 
Grant applications need to be submitted by October 15, 2015. All applications will be reviewed by the FBA grant subcommittee. Grant recipients will be selected and notified by the FBA Board of Directors by December 31, 2015. To learn more about how to apply, or to get an application visit the FBA website.

For Good: Social Venture Partners selects finalists for charitable investment

Social Venture Partners (SVP) Tampa Chapter, which helps individuals and nonprofits looking to give back to the community, is in the process of selecting which charity they will fund.

After a speaker series earlier this year and discussions among its members, the SVP decided to focus on one specific issue.

“The five finalists we have chosen fit into the focus areas that we had set, which is homelessness and foster care,” says Rebekah Heppner, Executive Director and Founding Partner of SVP. “In particular, these groups were doing things that were more preventative so that less people are in the foster care system or end up homeless.”

The five finalists selected are Adoption Related Services of Pinellas, Alpha House of Tampa, Bright Community Trust, Positive Spin and Ready for Life.

Heppner says the final application and selection process requires that finalists submit additional information, SVP members conduct site visits in September. On November 12th, remaining finalists and ultimately funding recipients will be announced.

She goes on to say that there has been a heavy interest from those wanting to invest and become a part of SVP. The deadline to become a member and become part of this year's effort is October 31st.

What is SVP’s goal in all this? To help these charities by combining financial and human capital to strengthen their infrastructure in order to fulfill their missions.

“Ultimately we are looking for groups that are at the right point in the development where our partners can really make a difference,” Heppner says. “This means they already have a good business foundation that works, and have ideas that they have shared in their application where we can help them even more.”

For more information, visit the Social Venture Partners website.

For Good: Safety Harbor merchants offer loyalty card discounts, donate to local nonprofits

The businesses of Safety Harbor have found an innovative way to give back to the community through a fundraising challenge. The Safety Harbor Downtown Business Alliance, Inc. (SHDBA) has launched a campaign to raise money for charities using a loyalty card.
 
“The campaign was designed to encourage excitement in the philanthropic community about supporting charities while saving money for their families at small businesses in Safety Harbor for a year,” says Karena Morrison, SHDBA charity challenge manager. “We began with 18 merchants and have added 9 more since the launch of the promotion of the challenge on May 1st. We are inviting more merchants in Safety Harbor to join our efforts.”  

The loyalty card can be purchased online via the SHDBA website, and buyers can then use the card to save at participating merchants.
 
Merchants include Live Fit Academy, Paradise Restaurant, Boutique 238, Practically Pikasso, Brady’s BBQ, Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club, Safety Harbor Chevron and Cold Stone Creamery.
 
In addition to the savings loyalty card members receive, they will also be doing some good.
 
“The merchants who were participating in the loyalty card program as of May 1st are also competing for votes, and the top three merchants will be offered the opportunity to select and donate a bonus to one of the approved charities in the challenge,” Morrison says. “100-percent of the proceeds from the loyalty card sales will be donated to approved charities and the SHDBA, Inc.”
 
Approved charities include My Hope Chest, Stop Bullying Now Foundation, Florida Autism Center of Excellence, RCS Food Bank, Suncoast Animal League, Paul B. Stephens Exceptional Student Education Center and the Safety Harbor Museum & Cultural Center.
 
For more information, or to purchase a loyalty card, visit the SHDBA website.

For Good: Electrical contractor takes on distracted driving with national campaign

Each time you text while driving, your eyes stray from the road for around five seconds – enough time for an accident to occur. According to the National Safety Council, one in four car crashes involves cell phone use. 

At any given moment, more than 660,000 people across the United States are using cell phones or other electronic devices. Texting and driving can be especially dangerous for teens on the road.

One local company is taking a proactive approach to reducing distracted driving through a new safe driving campaign. St. Petersburg-based electrical contractor Power Design, Inc, launched “Decide to Drive” to encourage employees and fellow community members to practice safe driving.

“Join me in making the one decision not to text while driving, the one decision not to email while driving, and the one decision not to drink and drive,” Power Design CEO Mitch Permuy explains in a news release.

The “Decide to Drive” campaign is centered on the Power of One pledge, or the notion that one safe driver can save lives.

“Power of One is about how the decisions we make every day impact us as individuals, impact our families, our friends and the communities we belong to,” Permuy says.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman praises the local business for “doing their part to create a safer St. Petersburg.”

"As mayor, my first and most important job is public safety,” Kriseman says. “Too many people across our nation have lost their lives in the brief moment they or another driver used a cell phone or electronic device.

Kriseman called for drivers in St. Pete and across the country to “work together and help save lives.”

Power Design has partnered with EndDD, a website dedicated to safer driving, to promote the “Decide to Drive” campaign.

“We are always grateful to spread the message at workplaces, and we anticipate that employees will bring the safe driving message to their families and to those they care about,” website creator Joel Feldman explains in a news release. 

Other efforts to promote the “Decide to Drive” campaign will include establishing a Power Design corporate transportation program, supporting People Against Distracted Driving, providing information on safe driving apps to employees, and informing the community about the campaign through social media.

To view the Power of One pledge and learn more, visit the “Decide to Drive” campaign website

For Good: Private school for underprivileged to open in Tampa in 2016

Lower income, inner city youth in the Tampa Bay region will have another option for private education as Cristo Rey High School gets ready to open in 2016. The private school, whose model exists in several other cities around the country, will open its doors to students grades 9 through 12, in an effort to give them the best education possible.

“The Cristo Rey model offers a rigorous academic program,” says Jim Madden, feasibility study coordinator for Cristo Rey. “We also see a high graduation rate among our students, but more importantly seniors who graduate from the program have over a 97-percent college acceptance rate.”

In order to qualify for the program, Madden explains that students and their families must be at or below the federal poverty definition, and the student must be at least two years behind in school.

In addition to the scrupulous academic program, Cristo Rey also offers students an opportunity to get a taste of the job world.

“Five days a month the students will go out and work in a white-collar job at a number of companies in the area,” Madden says. “The money that gets earned by the student gets put towards their tuition.”

As for tuition, Cristo Rey is funded through fundraising campaigns and private donors. Richard Gonzmart, president and CEO of Columbia Restaurant Corporation, donated $10,000 back in April to help get the program started, and has pledged a total of $100,000 to the program.

“Cristo Rey requires that you fundraise or have pledges in the amount of $2.5 million dollars, plus whatever it costs to renovate the facility in order to get approval,” Madden says.

Just this past week, Cristo Rey Tampa received that approval.

A total of 27 corporate work partners have pledged jobs, including Columbia Restaurant Corporation. Madden says families are also expected to pay $500 a month in tuition in order to help fund their child’s education.

“I spent 36 years in the Pinellas County school system, and one of the things that is so important is to increase the graduation rate,” Madden says. “If you look at the graduation rate of certain demographics compared to those in Cristo Rey, you will see that the model works.”

Cristo Rey Tampa will open its doors August 2016, and will be located at the campus of Mary Help of Christians Center situated at 6400 East Chelsea Street in Tampa.

For more information, or to donate to the cause, visit the Cristo Rey website
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