| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Talent : For Good

22 Talent Articles | Page: | Show All

Teacher tackles problem of low self-esteem in new book

Bullying is complex. It can leave lasting scars that affect victims and bullies. Even bystanders may be traumatized.

“You have some bullies who are revered because they appear to have such a level of power or influence among peers,” says Anne Townsend, supervisor of psychological services for Hillsborough County schools. “You have some bullies who might be social isolated and lash out.

Solutions may be punitive for the bully and comforting for the victim. But she believes interventions should include bystanders. “We don’t want to look just at the alleged victim,” she says. “How do we promote a culture and climate in school where everyone is accepted and everyone is involved?”

A gifted teacher at Hillsborough County’s Lamb Elementary is doing her part to build acceptance. Her newly published book is aimed at helping children accept themselves. Inspired by one of her students nearly 10 years ago, The New Me is about a 9-year-old model student Hannah who decided one day she’d rather be someone else.

The precocious Hannah is well behaved, but she regards herself as plain.  “She doesn’t think that what she does, and who she is, is enough,” author Latoya Desamour says.

So Hannah changes her hairstyle and lifestyle so she will be noticed. She sits where she wants to on the bus, then joins a different group in the lunchroom. What she discovers is the others changed their appearance and outlook because they wanted to fit in.

In the end Hannah, who bears the name of Desamour’s 11-year-old daughter, learns she’s fine the way she is. “She decides she’s going to go back to being herself. Being herself is okay,” Desamour says.

Problems may occur when a child admires someone else in class, thinks the other person is perfect, and aspires to be like them. In reality, that other person probably wants to be like someone else also. “It has to stop. Kids have to appreciate their unique qualities,” Desamour says. “It affects their academics.”

It’s a theme Desamour has seen play out again and again in her 13-year teaching career. “Year after year, it was the same problem. It was the same issues: embracing who they are and appreciating their uniqueness,” Desamour explains.

It is her goal to encourage students to believe they are good enough, and can accomplish what they set their mind to. “You don’t have to give up. Everything you need, you have it. You are just as bright as the next person,” she says.

Ultimately, Desamour believes lack of self confidence can lead to bullying, By building self esteem and self confidence, she says she hopes to prevent children from ever becoming bullies.

The 32-page book published in December, 2017, includes conversation questions that parents, teachers, guidance counselors and other caregivers can use to talk about relationships. As a mother of four, she acknowledges sometimes families are so busy they neglect to talk about these relationships.

“A lot of times, we’re just so busy we ask about academics,” she says. “We don’t have conversations about relationships the kids have at school.”

Though the book targets second through sixth graders, and first grade gifted students, even adults can benefit from book illustrated by Carl Bernardo. “I’ve had adults tell me they, too, grasped the message,” she says.

She’s already working on her second book, a fiction title explicitly about bullying. She plans to share what she experienced when she was bullied in the sixth grade, as well as what she’s witnessed through the years.

In the meantime, she’s been keeping busy with book promotions through events like a book launch at menchie’s frozen yogurt at Winthrop Towne Center in Riverview and a book signing from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8, at Barnes and Noble in Brandon.

Desamour began her self-publishing journey after a colleague connected her with Bernardo, who worked on the illustrations for more than a year before the book was published.

Along the way her husband Wiclef, a business analyst, has cheered her on. “He’s always my biggest supporter,” she says.

The New Me is available through Amazon as an ebook, paperback and hardcover book, as well as through others retailers by special order. It is her goal to get the book in school and public libraries.

Writing a book has been a surreal experience. “It’s nice to see my name on something other than paperwork I have to do for the district,” says the Jacksonville native with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. “It just shows that hard work. It pays off."


Treasure Tampa offers $30K for local placemaking project

The Tampa-based Gobioff Foundation, a private family philanthropic organization supporting creative placemaking in Tampa, has launched its second round of funding for artistic endeavors that help create a sense of place and spur economic development in a neighborhood.

The Foundation will accept letters of interest through January 15 for its Treasure Tampa (T²) initiative, which will award $30,000 to one or more projects.

The goal of Treasure Tampa is to “increase the visibility of the arts,” says Neil Gobioff, the foundation’s president. “It’s not a tourism-centric thing,” he explains. “I prefer to think of it as highlighting the arts, and what is in Tampa already, to the people that already are here.”

Treasure Tampa is designed to inspire more creative placemaking, or the use of arts- and culture-based projects to help revitalize communities. “It is primarily an arts thing,” he says. “Creative placemaking can encompass much more than just the arts.”

Ideally a proposal would address a community issue through a collaborative effort that involves local residents. “It’s a lot different than just someone wanting to put up a piece of public art in an affluent neighborhood. That’s not what the funds are for,” he says.

Last year’s winner, the University Area Community Development Corporation, won “because of their connection to the community they are serving,” he points out, and because they engaged several partners in a collaborative effort to create participatory activities and events. 83 Degrees served as a media partner, for example.

“The community was heavily involved in the design and creation and installation of the art that was put in the Harvest Hope Park,” he says. “All the community was involved from Day One.”

Each proposal must be for a project within the city of Tampa or within the neighborhood served by the University Area CDC. It needs to involve a nonprofit organization, either as the executor of the project or as a fiscal agent. It also must involve a collaboration between at least two of these sectors -- public, private, or nonprofit.

It is likely one applicant will receive the $30,000, although multiple lower amount awards possibly may be given. “Most of the applications come in seeking the full $30,000,” he says.

The online application process is a little bit different this year. “One of the big changes this year is we shifted the timeline,” Gobioff says. “This way they’re not rushing to get it out right before the holidays, or during the holidays.”

The first round of the application process is less indepth than subsequent ones, he says. Letters of interest will be screened by a panel of artists, curators and business leaders. Then some submitters will be invited to make a full application by March 28. The winner or winners will be notified May 1 and have six months from then to begin the project; the funds should be used within a year.

“Some of these projects can be an ongoing project,” he explains.

This is the second year for the program inspired by a benefit for ArtPlace America, a cooperative endeavor aimed at strengthening communities by integrating arts and culture in community planning and development.

“The funding is only one aspect of it,” he says. “We also hold the educational events.”

The foundation, started by Gobioff’s brother Howard shortly before his death from cancer in 2008, also supports human rights and civil liberties causes globally.

A ribbon cutting and art unveiling Friday, December 15, commemorated the improvements at Harvest Hope Park at 13704 N. 20th St., Tampa. The event culminated with a Community Block Party.

With the community garden, playground and artwork installed, University Area CDC is proceeding with the project’s second phase, to include multi-purpose sports field, sidewalks, lighting and parking, says Nestor Ortiz, the organization’s chief programs officer.

Those improvements are scheduled for completion in 2018, he says.

Learn more about Treasure Tampa (T²) by visiting current projects on the Gobioff Foundation website.


ECHO of Brandon claims top prize in social entrepreneurship

ECHO of Brandon, a charity whose mission is to end hunger in southeastern Hillsborough County, took the $25,000 grand prize in Social Venture Partners’ first Shark Tank-styled competition for social entrepreneurship in the Tampa Bay Area.

Social entrepreneurship is the use by nonprofits of the techniques that enable startup companies and other entrepreneurs to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues.

“The turnout was amazing. The energy was amazing. The teams were incredible,” says Jennifer Finney, a member of the SVP committee planning the Fast Pitch competition. “It surpassed everything that I could have imagined.”

ECHO, which provides emergency food, clothing, household items and career planning, was represented by Eleanor Saunders. Saunders explained how ECHO clients upcycle donations (clothes, curtains, leather items, etc.) into sellable products such as purses, jewelry and tablecloths. The work involved provides jobs for the clients, and sales proceeds go back into the organization's operating budget, making the nonprofit more independent financially and less dependent on government funding or charitable giving. The team was coached by Joan and George Lange.

The event attracted more than 400 to the University of Tampa on Friday, Dec. 1, to hear three-minute pitches from 13 nonprofits chosen to participate in SVP’s free, two-month accelerator and mentoring program. The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and UT partnered in the event.

The $15,000 second place prize was awarded to Wheels of Success, represented by Susan Jacobs and coached by Anne Marie Campbell and Sam Giunta, and the $10,000 third place awarded was given to Girls Empowered Mentally for Success, represented by Crystal Bailes and coached by Sheryl Hunter.

Wheels of Success is dedicated to providing transportation solutions to the needy. GEMS helps at risk elementary, middle and high school girls discover their passion, and more easily transition into productive adults.

Attendees texted into a link to choose the Audience Choice Award, which went to Starting Right, Now, represented by Vicki Sokolik and coached by Lily Jin. It received $5,000. Starting Right, Now is working to end youth homelessness in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Another $5,000 prize was given to Accelerator Award winner Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative, represented by Marissa Davis and Carrie Hepburn and coached by Finney. The collaborative promotes health and wellness in vulnerable populations by addressing barriers to health and services.

“We decided to give an Accelerator Award for the team that showed up to the accelerator every time ready and eager to learn,” Finney explains.

The 13 local nonprofits were chosen from a pool of more than 50 applicants. Judging was done by Phillip E. Casey, Tom Wallace, Joe Hamilton, Rochelle Friedman-Walk and James Tully.

Other nonprofits who participated included:

  • University Area Community Development Corporation, which administers a Prodigy Cultural Arts Program to help at risk first through twelfth graders;
  • Directions for Living, which is dedicated to providing life-saving services to residents through its innovative Peanut Butter and Jelly run;
  • Bright Community Trust, whose mission is to create strong and vibrant neighborhoods;
  • Enactus at University of South Florida, an organization that helps students develop their talents and make a difference in the Tampa Bay community;
  • Just Learn, k-12 learning program that seeks to expose students to the planet’s biggest challenges like urbanization and food production;
  • Keep St. Pete Lit, an organization promoting the greater St. Petersburg literary community;
  • Inspiration Labs, the legal name for Tampa Hackerspace, where members have working space, training and tools to develop their creative projects; and
  • The Well, which runs the WellBuilt retail store that sells and repairs bicycles to fund community rides, safety workshops and sliding scale repairs.

SVP is based in Seattle; a Tampa chapter was formed in 2014.

SVP plans to make the competition an annual event, with initial work beginning in January as part of strategic planning.

“They all got incredible exposure,” Finney says. “It was really great to see everyone’s genuine interest and passion for each one of the teams.”


Artist-made skateboard proceeds go to nonprofit Boards for Bros.

There’s no denying that skateboarding culture has always been mixed up with some form of art, whether it’s deck design or graffiti.

Now comes California Artist Andrew Schoultz to kick off the annual Tampa Amateur Skateboarding Finals while celebrating the Skatepark of Tampa’s 25th Anniversary. Schoultz will be exhibiting 15 hand-painted skate decks alongside 10 other artist’s boards at The Bricks in Ybor on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m.
 
Instead of the profits going into the artists’ pockets, these 25 rideable art pieces will be going to the local nonprofit Boards for Bros.
 
“I’ve been paying attention to what Boards for Bros. has been doing for a while. They go into underprivileged areas where there are skate parks or they’ll set up a mini skate park for a weekend and they give away boards and helmets to those who don’t have them. Right now, skateboarding is the new ‘hoop dreams.’ Some of the most talented kids are coming from underprivileged areas. Skateboarding really can save you, and I think there’s a lot of power and purpose in what they’re doing,” Schoultz says.
 
Though he lives and works in California, Schoultz has ties to the skateboarding community in Tampa through Paul Zitzer, SPoT Events Operations and Public Relations (they grew up in the same city), and SPoT owner Brian Schaefer (they connected after he saw Schoultz’ installation at Art Basel Miami last year).
 
“I was coming to SPoT a lot in the '90s, and in 1999 I skated in one of their amateur contests. I pretty much grew up going there, and 20 years later I’m still participating, just in a different way,” the artist says. “I’ve worked in a nonprofit sector in the past, so I know how hard fundraising is. You can do a lot with very little and still have a big effect, so raising a couple thousand dollars could really help. This is what I love about skateboarding, it’s a really community-oriented sport.”
 
Schoultz, who earned his BFA at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, has international acclaim and mostly shows in galleries and museums with linear/drawing-based work that is loosely based on comic books, graffiti, old clip art and skateboard graphics.
 
“I’ve been a skateboarder all my life, but as an artist I’ve emerged into doing things all over the world. Skateboarding has informed everything I’ve done to this point as an artist and a person,” he says.
 
While Schoultz won’t be around for this opening, he will be back in Tampa in March where he will be there to paint the skatepark and participate in another fundraising event during the Annual Tampa Pro.
 
Any pieces that don’t sell during the show will be available online at SPoTTampa starting Nov. 20, with the proceeds still going toward Boards for Bros.

Caregiver-related businesses make pitch for help

Imagine a hotel along the Pinellas County beachfront equipped for and staffed by the disabled. The hotel would be self supporting and those with handicaps could live there independently, with a little help from Resident Assistants who act kind of like parents.

That’s the vision of Bill and Jane Williams.

Like many parents of special needs adult children, the couple wanted a plan that would secure their daughter’s future. So they formed The Banyan Odyssey, a Largo-based nonprofit organization in late 2015.

“We don’t want our kids to be sent away from home. We want them to be in our community, but to have a safe place to live and work and be as independent as possible,” explains Jane, The Banyan Odyssey’s Vice President.

Named for the banyan tree, a symbol of rest, The Banyan Odyssey already is working with 25 families with special needs individuals 16 through 29. They are providing training for those diagnosed with a variety of disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome, Autism, the genetic disorder Prader–Willi syndrome, and Intellectual Disability, a condition that results in below average academic development through age 18.

While they raise funds and look for that ideal property, a mom-and-pop hotel that can be purchased and renovated, The Banyan Group is getting its potential employees ready through events like the Camp Banyan summer program.

Employment in that group has been a problem. “The disabled community [in Florida] is at 85 percent unemployed or underemployed,” she asserts.

“Our deal is if you are physically capable of working a 30- or 40-hour work week, you should have the opportunity to,” she says.

The Williamses goal is to create a social community loosely modeled after a college dormitory, where Resident Assistants can look in on residents to make sure their laundry is done, their apartment is clean, and they are ready for work. It would be a place where their 24-year-old daughter Mary Elizabeth, who goes by M.E., can live securely and independently.

Jane says the community will be for “handicapable” adults. “Instead of focusing on disability, we focus on what the young people can do,” she explains.

The Banyan Odyssey is one of six companies that will be vying for an assortment of prizes at the Caregiver Accelerator Pitch Competition between 2 and 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, at Bryan Glazer Family JCC, 522 N. Howard Ave., Tampa. Each will have six minutes to make a pitch before four judges: Chris Bennett, of Callyo; Jamie Huysman, of WellMed; Jeffrey Makowka, of the AARP; and Wilma Norton, of Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

A People’s Choice Award will be determined by online voting.

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, a Florida Caregiver Conference follows from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the same location. The conference, which focuses on the caregivers of veterans and male caregivers, includes educational presentations, information about Caregiver Accelerator companies, and innovative solutions. Speakers include Retired Major General Tony Taguba, on “Caregiving is a Public Health Crisis” and Jean Accius, PhD., of the AARP Public Policy Institute, onBreaking the Stereotypes: Spotlight on Male Family Caregivers.”

Walk-ins are welcome. The pitch competition is free; the conference, which costs $50, includes respite services for attendees.

Monica Stynchula, Program Director of St. Petersburg’s Caregiver Accelerator, says organizers are hoping to attract young entrepreneurs interested in tapping into $72 billion in caregiver’s market opportunities nationally.

In Florida alone, some 2.6 million provided $30 billion in unpaid care last year, she points out.

“What we’re trying to do is build resources into our communities that don’t exist today, [resources] that help caregivers when they need them,” Stynchula explains.

As the oldest baby boomers turn 70, the need will only increase in coming years, she points out. Ninety percent want to stay in their homes, so AARP wants to encourage businesses that can help them stay home safely for as long as possible.

“10,000 boomers are eligible to retire everyday,” she says. “It’s a real challenge to our economy and to our families. Right now we have over 60,000 on a waiting list for senior services in Florida.”

The Caregiver Accelerator acts as a pre-incubator for caregiver-related businesses, providing 18 hours worth of business training and the opportunity to attract the attention of the AARP, a national advocacy group for the elderly.

The other five finalists that will be presenting pitches include:

  • Guillermo Abadia, of Lumitec Consulting in St. Petersburg, a software development company;
  • Robin Albright, of Bradenton, author of 12 Tiny Well-being Tips for Caregivers, a workbook to help caregivers take care of themselves;
  • Bonnie Brown, of A Better Life, a St. Petersburg company offering life coaching and Medicaid planning;
  • Cynetta Hill, of Graceful in Home Aging of Tallahassee, and
  • John Webb, of Medication Call Reminder of Tampa, an automated service operating nationwide.

Do you love to work with kids? Encore Tampa Bay is recruiting volunteers

Tampa Bay is one of 16 communities nationwide that is piloting a grassroots program aimed at improving the lives of vulnerable children. Called Generation to Generation, the program mobilizes older adults, who share their talents and experience.

“The goal of the national campaign is to mobilize over 1 million adults in the next five years to serve in any kind of role helping kids,” says Bevan Rogel, Executive Director of Encore Tampa Bay, a nonprofit initiative working under the umbrella of Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

The adults may read to children, or be a mentor or friend. “We think it’s a match made in heaven,” she says. “We think it’s going to be a good thing for the community.”

Encore Tampa Bay is part of a larger movement of Baby Boomers, who are realizing in their 50s and 60s or beyond that they want to do something more with their life: they want an encore. They want to use their skills and talents. That may mean starting a new business, volunteering, using a skill in new ways, or starting another career.

“Older people realize they can live the life that they’ve always wanted to live, instead of doing what was expected of them,” she says.

When they retire or become empty nesters, seniors aren’t always sure what they want to do. “Older adults say they want to do something to help kids, but they don’t always know where to go,” she says.

Generation to Generation, an Encore initiative, gives adults a chance to discover what they’d like to do, while sharing the depths of their experiences with young people. “It’s a learning lab. We’re trying different things,” she says. “It’s not just a call for social action. It’s really looking at going deep within different communities.”

Generation to Generation will be working with community centers, neighborhood associations, libraries, retired teachers, alumni, corporate groups and clubs to identify ways to help children through partnerships.

Encore Tampa Bay is recruiting both partners who work with older adults -- and older adults to work with children starting in January. It is partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, Metropolitan Ministries, R’Club Child Care, Inc., and United Way Suncoast in the two-year program.

“We can’t do this alone. We need organizations,” she says. “People who are in front of older adults all the time.”

Initially the program is targeting three areas: Wimauma, Tampa Heights and South St. Petersburg.

Volunteer leadership roles are available in multiple areas including marketing, storytelling, evaluation, community outreach and ambassadorship.

Ultimately, the goal of Generation to Generation is to expand beyond the older and younger sets. So, there won’t be any “carding” if younger adults want to lend a helping hand, Rogel says.

“Our bigger effort is to involve all generations in helping kids,” she says.


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.”


Multicultural Family Day shares wealth of varied cultures

The world is a diverse place, but it also is vast. Hindered by limited experiences, people may be lulled into stereotypical beliefs that cause division. Richedean Hills-Ackbar is working to change that.

An African-American from a very culturally diverse family, which includes a variety of Hispanic cultures and Japanese, Hills-Ackbar has decided to share the richness of cultural diversity with the public June 25 at Tampa’s Water Works Park.

The occasion? Multicultural Family Day.

“It’s really to break down these barriers that people have gotten from just watching TV,” Hills-Ackbar explains.

Organized by the Taste of East Tampa, founded by Caregiver’s Helping Hand and Central Florida Community Planning and Development, Multicultural Family Day is a free event catering to the entire family. Activities are slated from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; visitors can come by car or ride a water taxi.

The event features a Kid Zone, sponsored by Sunshine Health, where there will be face painting, henna tattoos and a splash pad, plus an art contest with $200, $100 and $50 prizes sponsored by Molina Healthcare. The winners will be announced at 3 p.m. Mexican girls aged 5 to 12 will share their cultural dances as well.

A special section is being set up to accommodate wheelchairs.

Even pets are welcome. “Water Works Park has a dog park there,” says Hills-Ackbar, Founder of Caregiver’s Helping Hand.

Music includes reggae and a Spanish band that will play a variety of different styles. “If you like to dance, that’ll be great,” she says.

She also is planning a Chinese dragon dance and seeking people who want to learn it.

Vendors will sell different types of cuisine including Thai, Mediterranean, Japanese fusion and the typical American foods like hamburgers and hot dogs.

Although this is the first Multicultural Family Day, there was a multicultural evening event last August at Pepin’s Hospitality Centre. The initial idea came about two years ago.

“We share everything, the experiences the food and everything like that,” she says of her family. I thought other people could enjoy that same experience.”

In the end, she hopes others will learn to appreciate other cultures without trying to change them. “What I’m trying to build on is like a mini world,” she explains, “so that people can mix together and see.”


For Good: Ex-offenders to build tiny homes with Big Idea Grant funds

An established, ex-offender re-entry organization, looking to build tiny homes in South St. Petersburg, has won a $50,000 Big Idea Grant awarded by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay.

The Pinellas Ex-Offender Re-entry Coalition won the award for its Second Chance Tiny House Manufacturing Company, which will train people coming out of jails and prisons for construction jobs, says Wilma Norton, the Foundation’s VP of Marketing and Communications.

There were 31 applications for the award that promotes self sufficiency. It is the second time the Community Foundation has offered the grant.

They’ve got partnerships with a host of people and a revenue stream to pay for the continuing cost of operation, but they need startup costs,” Norton says of PERC, which plans to build and sell tiny houses to private citizens and local government.

Michael Jalazo, PERC’s CEO/Executive Director, says the organization was “grateful and humble” to receive the award. He expects to have the first tiny house up by June.

“We’d like to see the tiny house movement take off,” he adds.

With the grant, Jalazo is looking to build at least eight tiny homes on land cleared by abandoned and condemned homes, most of them in South St. Petersburg. It is prepared to “ramp up” efforts and build even more as funds are available, he says.

In the process, he hopes to keep the ex-offenders out of jail and prison, while providing homes for the homeless.

PERC already has been given housing plans. It also has scoped out a possible location for construction: the old Lealman Fire Station.

Big Idea Grant finalists were Arriba Transportation, proposed by Enterprising Latinas of Wimauma, and Evergreen Life Services, which proposed to teach basic skills to the disabled through virtual-reality technology.

The foundation will continue to work with the finalists and other applicants to gain funding, Norton says.

In 2015, two donors came up with an extra $50,000 apiece so three non-profits could proceed with their projects.

Arriba Transportation is seeking to provide six bus routes, seven days a week, to the Wimauma/Ruskin area using 15-seat vans. Its goal is to take riders to work and school, as well as connecting them to a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) bus route.

“We know instances where people have paid $200 to go to the Mexican Counselate in Orlando. ...” says Liz Gutierrez, the organization’s Founder and CEO. “People in this community pay $65 to get to Tampa General. We can change that.”

Evergreen Life Services offers a variety of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Its social enterprise, HEAVENDROPt, is located in St. Petersburg, where it creates new products with parachutes used by U.S. veterans.


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: AT&T employee donates winnings to local hospital’s new distracted driving class

When you hear the acronym DD, you probably think of a designated driver, or maybe you think of drunk driving, but those two letters have another meaning in today’s fast paced and uber-communicative culture.

Distracted Driving is an ongoing problem, the cause of 45,740 car crashes in 2015 in Florida alone, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and it’s about more than just texting: Chiming in on social media, taking car selfies, video chatting or finding that perfect song somewhere in your itunes playlist all mean you’re distracted, and that’s when accidents happen. 

In an effort to reinforce the importance of paying attention to the road and your surroundings while driving, a group of like-minded organizations and one driven AT&T employee recently came together to try to make a change. 

Thanks to two challenges AT&T gives to its employees every year, the Director of AT&T Wireline Regional Infrastructure, Regina Ennis, dedicated herself to raising awareness and educating her community about distracted driving for the “Do One Thing” Challenge. 

She continued her mission during the follow up challenge called “It Can Wait, 16 in 16” challenge in which employees were encouraged to get friends and family to sign the “AT&T It Can Wait” pledge, which reminds people that “distracted driving is never okay.” 

AT&T Spokesperson Karen McAllister says that they have had over 14 million people take the “It Can Wait” Pledge since they started in in 2010.

“We find that there is power in a pledge. Once people take that pledge they are committed to not driving distracted,” she says. 

Ennis got almost 400 people to take the pledge in 2016, and for her efforts she won $2,500 to give to an organization that already had a distracted driving program in place.  

Ennis lived in Orlando for many years before moving to her current home in White Plains, NY, so she was aware of the Bradenton-based Mark Wandall Foundation an organization founded in by Wandall’s widow, Melissa, after he was killed by a red light runner only a couple of weeks before their child was born. The Foundation works to help grieving children who have lost family members or guardians. 

While the Mark Wandall Foundation doesn’t offer a distracted driving class, Founder Melissa Wandall knew who did. 

In mid-January, Ennis, along with Wandall, and Ed Narain, regional director at AT&T, presented the $2,500 winnings to Johns Hopkins All Childrens Hospital in St. Petersburg, where they lead the Florida Suncoast SAFE KIDS Coalition.The money will go toward funding a class for teens and new parents about the dangers of distracted driving, and ways to avoid becoming another statistic because of it. 

For more information about the class, call the Florida Suncoast SAFE KIDS c/o Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital at 727-767-8581 or 800-756-7233.

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: Art Extravaganza features artwork to benefit Haiti

This weekend, South Tampa Artist Donna Morrison is hosting The 2016 Art Extravaganza, an annual art show aimed at holiday shopping, and for the first time including a raffle to benefit Haiti in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Morrison has long been involved with Village Partners International (VPI), a Tampa-based nonprofit, which provides medical and other services to Haiti and other impoverished “world villages.” All proceeds will go to VPI. 

Tickets are five dollars apiece for a chance to win an original 15” x 22” watercolor painting by Morrison, entitled Purple Passion #1, valued at $1,500. The show takes place October 27-29, 2016 and includes works from well-known ceramic, woodworking, photography and jewelry artists.

“I like things that have multiple good outcomes,” says Morrison. “I love having a raffle because it involves a lot of people, spreads the word, somebody gets a great painting, and Village Partners gets money to be sent to Haiti.”

In addition to the over $72,000 VPI already spends annually supporting a hospital and Mobile Clinic in Haiti, the devastation caused by the recent hurricane has meant new and urgent challenges. The all-volunteer organization is currently trying to raise funds to build wells for clean water and for nutrition support in the northwest sector, which has had significant increase in cholera outbreak as well as malnutrition and lack of clean water, according to Tampa surgeon Dr. Sylvia Campbell who runs the nonprofit and has been doing mission work in Haiti and Uganda since 1996.

“Haiti is a country that has been steeped in so much tragedy,” says Campbell. “Every dollar that is given to VPI goes to help those in need. We are all volunteers, and do this mission out of our hearts. Fundraisers like this help support the cause, both in dollars and awareness. … Each dollar can change a life.”

Campbell says Village Partners International has a vision “what we call the 3 ‘C’s” – connect, commit and continue. VPI has been operational since 2007, though the founders had been involved in similar work largely through the Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church for years. In addition to its work in Haiti, the organization is active in rural Uganda and has partnered with Beth-El Farmworker Mission, supporting migrant workers in Wimauma, Florida.   

For more information on the Art Extravaganza and chance to win a painting, you can email Donna Morrison,  or you can make a direct donation to VPI through its website.
22 Talent Articles | Page: | Show All
Signup for Email Alerts

Underwriting Partners