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Awesome Tampa Bay Winner: Teacher Of Jailed Teens

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Sylvia Albritton says she believes everyone has a story to tell. And now she has $1,000 to put her students' stories into a nicely bound cover.

Albritton received the money as a gift from Awesome Tampa Bay on Thursday, March 1, 2012. It is the second award Awesome has given to those whose work is having a positive impact on the Tampa Bay region.

Albritton teaches youth ages 14 to 18 at the Falkenburg Jail in Hillsborough County. Her students are facing adjudication as adults for crimes Albritton considers acts committed without thought for repercussions. Her writing program gives them an outlet for exploring their feelings about their lives and their actions.

"I retired after 35 years of teaching and I wasn’t tired," says Albritton. "I wanted to teach again. My thought was a traditional
middle or high school. But what I ended up in was a drug treatment facility for at-risk kids. And I loved it. Now I teach at the jail.

"I’ve learned that our youth oftentimes don’t have an outlet for expression. And I think it helps them to write. Sometimes it’s a thoughtless act and they don’t see the repercussions of it. This helps them confront that. I come home from work happy every day."

Albritton says she plans to use the money to create a bound book of her students' writing. "I spoke to my principal about soliciting more writing and artwork from the students and binding them in a book that addresses how we’d do things differently given the chance. Make it look like a professional text for the library at the school and maybe share with other programs as well. And you never know. I was told me that sometimes an award like this leads to other resources. I could just gather the papers together and staple them myself. But that's just not the same."

Awesome Tampa Bay is part of the Awesome Foundation, a national nonprofit that provides money to those making a positive difference in their communities. Albritton was chosen from nearly 70 applicants.

Writer:  Missy Kavanaugh
Source: Sylvia Albritton, Hillsborough County Jail
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