Tampa Bay Wave brings the tech to Think Big for Kids mentoring program

When Think Big for Kids founder Tony DiBenedetto wanted to add a partner with a technology and entrepreneurship focus to his career mentoring program for at-risk youth, the Tampa Bay Wave was a natural fit.

DiBenedetto, a tech executive and entrepreneur, has been involved with the nonprofit tech accelerator for a decade, is currently an entrepreneur in residence there and knows that the Wave and its President and CEO Linda Olson put a premium on giving back to the community.

“It just makes sense to me given our mission to partner with a tech accelerator like the Wave because a lot of the kids we are working with want to be entrepreneurs,” DiBenedetto says. “So, what better way to figure out if you want to be an entrepreneur than to get mentored by entrepreneurs, which the Wave has tons of.”

The two nonprofit organizations entered their partnership in July and are now in the process of putting it into action. Through it, Wave member companies can do career showcases and skills presentations for youth in the Think Big for Kids program, become mentors, offer internships, and help with fundraising.

The newly-minted partnership may be Think Big for Kids’ first tech sector partner, but in the growing digital economy, it will not be the last.

“We wanted an early-stage technology company as one sector of our program,” DiBenedetto says. “Now that we have it, we will be adding more tech companies.”

In fact, Think Big for Kids is seeking to add additional business partners and mentors from a cross-section of the economy to keep up with demand.

Launched in 2016 to serve youth in grades 6-12 enrolled in Boys & Girls Clubs programs, Think Big for Kids now works with 750 kids across 20 clubs in the Tampa Bay Area.

Some of the program’s 14 current business partners include Tampa General Hospital, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Bank of America, and Nielsen

The program includes career showcases, help to identify career preferences, mentoring, internships, guidance when graduating high school with finding work, and advice on going to a trade school or attending college. Since most of the children in the program are underprivileged, that help often includes assistance in finding financial aid or scholarship opportunities.

Because of the program’s popularity, DiBenedetto says, Think Big for Kids needs to add 100 mentors by December.

“We need multiple companies to step up and offer mentors,” he says.

For more information, follow these links: Think Big for Kids, Tampa Bay Wave.

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather, and Florida's wealth of outdoor festivals.

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