LT’19 Education Day

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to the think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” – MLK, Jr.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” – Albert Einstein

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats


We saw fire!  Yeats was right. It was a lighting of fires! It’s quite possible that our own fires regarding the power of education were (re)lit as well.  In fact, our own fires ignited an appreciation for those who serve in the education sector, often at a high cost of personal sacrifice and delayed return on investment. To see the fire in their eyes – both the teacher and the student, passion in their hearts, and conviction in their communication was enough to convince us that maybe the sacrifice wasn’t as much as a sacrifice as it appears and the thirst for a return on investment was quenched enough to keep them going back for more. The day’s evidence was a confirmation of what many of us experienced individually during our Teacher Shadowing days that had been completed on the weeks prior to Education Day.

For ten intense hours, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2019 was immersed in the power of education, the local opportunities that are available for many, the challenges that our region has regarding education, and the very honest dialogue about the solutions that make improvement possible.

The timing and subject matter could not have been timed more perfectly for Hillsborough County (and this region) since it was the day after mid-term elections and the historic vote for a school referendum, which passed convincingly.  The passing of this referendum sent a clear message to all onlookers that education is a priority for our area and everyone has bought into the vision to improve our public educational system.

With a limited schedule, LT’19 was privileged to experience multiple area educational options: private educational options (Academy Prep of Tampa and Cristo Rey Tampa High School), public high school options (with emphasis on magnet opportunities at Blake High School’s Theatre and Arts Program and Chamberlain High School’s Culinary Arts Program), and finally, post-secondary options at Hillsborough Community College. While touring Academy Prep, the passion and drive of Mr. Lincoln Tamayo, Principal of Academy Prep, was undeniable.  His fire fuels his staff which impacts his students in a significant way.  The professionalism and brilliance of the students was unmistakable. It was clear that he is not just interested in providing a quality academic education, but a broadened intellectual lifestyle opportunity.  This became clearer throughout the day as we engaged with more educational professionals. They all recognized the importance of a quality, holistic development of each student.

While we did not have an opportunity on this day to tour University of South Florida and University of Tampa, previous days and opportunities have allowed these nationally recognized colleges’ impact to be felt. Time would not allow us an opportunity for a dive into approaches and options for pre-K, kindergarten and middle school for public schools. Not visiting any of these schools did not mean that we did not have an opportunity to hear about the options surrounding them. Our superintendent spoke very adeptly about their impact, potential, and challenges.

It was really our treat to personally engage with speakers and presenters with emphasis on both our school Superintendent, Jeff Eakins, and a group of Blake High School students who provided amazing musical and theatre presentations.  The principals and magnet administrative teams of both Blake High School and Chamberlain High School took time to share about their programs, schools, school history, and future opportunities.  Their fire was unquestionable.  As a part of the day, we were treated to an amazing lunch by the culinary program students at Chamberlain in their Outback sponsored facility – on campus! The students did an amazing job! If they were on Yelp or OpenTable, I’m sure they would have earned a 5-star review.

Superintendent Eakins talked about all levels of our public schools, the recently passed referendum, current statistics on graduation rates, literacy rates, achievement zone schools, teacher salaries and retention, and so much more.  It was also very insightful to have him frame the progress of the school system from a historical context, which at times has not had a positive history for all individuals within our community. It was not difficult to engage in this dialogue and these educational options while seeing some of the glaring challenges that our educational system faces. A very pointed statement from the superintendent that provided fruitful dialogue was, “Although our schools have glaring achievement gaps, achievement gaps aren’t created in our schools. There are so many ‘outside’ issues that affect what happens in our schools.”

As we concluded our time learning about the public school system one of the last statements made was, “Education is clearly an economic driver in our community.”  This statement, in my mind, should have cleared up why a group like Leadership Tampa should be concerned about education and all of the challenges that our current educational system faces. When all students are empowered with a great education, the entire community wins.

This statement was a great transition for us moving into the last component of the day where we were introduced to the strong academic partnerships between our academic institutions and our economic development organizations.  Ms. Bea Bare of Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation led us in a mock presentation of gaining (recruiting) new companies to the area. Representatives from USAA, University of South Florida, University of Tampa, and Hillsborough Community College were a part of this panel mock presentation.  It was an incredibly informative demonstration to see the layers of collaboration necessary to see our community win.

HCC staff then gave us presentations and a tour of several amazing departments who are on the front lines of quickly training our workforce to meet the demands of area businesses and the needs of our community.  Those departments included Auto/Mechanic, Diesel Repair, Fire Academy, Paint and Body/Collision, and Welding (it was interesting to note the emphasis on transportation among these programs). The fire and engagement of each instructor was not only clear, but inspiring.  A fire academy instructor who served 35 years active duty as a fire fighter, a diesel repair instructor who drove trucks for decades, a paint and body instructor who served in the industry for over thirty years, a welding instructor who had an award-winning show in Japan. You could also sense the appreciation and respect of the students towards their instructors. These students, who are adults, were treated with dignity and honor for their unique stories, but most importantly, who they were becoming. Mr. John Meeks, Dean of HCC Workforce Training Center aptly shared, “college is for everybody, we just need to find out which track and program.” After some question and answer, he concluded his presentation with this idea, “You either skill your workforce or you grow them.  We believe we can do both.”

Every person on the planet has been impacted by a teacher. In some way, our unique educational experiences have deeply shaped who we are and how we think.  It has played a role in developing our personal convictions, individual self-concept and confidence, as well as, our created space for incredible relationships and indescribable life moments. The quote of the day summarizes our day, “Our schools are incubators of the next generation of leaders.” The activity, research and history prove this statement true. I hope that the horizon of the future is lit by the fires of Tampa’s educational influence and power.

Author: Christopher J. Harris


Member News 11/8 – 11/15

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Member News 11/1 – 11/8

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  • November 13: ProVise Grand Opening: Ribbon cutting ceremony with key ProVise Management representatives and Chamber Ambassadors at 3 PM on November 13, 2018. Grand Opening Celebration from 4 – 7 PM. ProVise Management Group is headquartered in Clearwater and have expanded to the Tampa/Westshore area. Stay to tour the office, meet the team and enjoy beer, wine, and snacks.Event is located at 4350 W. Cypress St, Suite 225, Tampa, FL 33607.

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LT’19 Arts & Culture Day

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain a child when we grow up.”- Pablo Picasso

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” – Oscar Wilde


On October 24, 2018, the Leadership Tampa Class of 2019 spent the day traveling to various sites throughout the city of Tampa that highlighted some of the many wonderful places where all aspects of the arts are celebrated and shared. We started the day at the University of South Florida Institute for Research in Art Graphic Studio located on the USF campus and part of the Tampa area for over 50 years. Professor and Director, Margaret A. Miller shared with us the history of this wonderful studio and some of the original works from the many leading contemporary artists from around the world who contributed the magnificent collection featured at the studio. We also took a tour of the studio where we were treated to a demonstration of printmaking techniques that have been used by the various contributing artists who visited the studio.

Next up on the agenda was a tour through the Henry B. Plant Museum located on the University of Tampa campus. We were greeted by the Executive Director, Cynthia Gandee Zinober (LT’01) who shared a brief history of the museum and the important impact Henry Plant had on the Tampa community when he built this Tampa Bay Hotel back in 1891. An extra special treat was a performance by local actor Amber Forbes who is part of the Upstairs/Downstairs cast that performs every Sunday at the museum. Amber portrayed Maggie Stroud who was a laundress at the hotel in 1920. She shared with us wonderful memories of what life was like back then at the hotel and in the Tampa area.

After her moving performance, we took a ride over to the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Arts where Julie Britton (LT’ 97), Vice President of Development for the Center shared the great history and impact of the many performances that have occurred at the five theaters located there since it opened in 1987. She also shared with us the great impact the Patel Conservatory at the Straz Center has on art education. We were given a tour of the facilities and parts of the Patel Conservatory. All of us were in awe when we stood on the stage and looked out into the magnificent performance spaces.

Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, we arrived at the CI Group office located in downtown Tampa, where we were treated to delicious lunch and a lively discussion about Tampa’s Food Scene by Michael Blasco (LT’12), Tampa Bay Food Trucks, and Jeff Houck, Marketing and Public Relations Manager for Columbia Restaurant Group. We learned about the impact of Tampa restaurants, the unique contribution of food trucks, and the best place to go for a great Cuban sandwich.

After lunch, we hopped on the bus again and headed down to Stageworks Theater, Tampa’s longest-running professional theatre company, since 1983. Karla Hartley, their Producing Artistic Director, spoke with us about the history of professional theater in Tampa and some of the challenges and joys that come with producing and performing “cutting-edge” plays in Tampa. In addition, Karla and two of the actors from their current production of The Revolutionists shared a moving scene from the production and one our classmates was fortunate to have his name drawn for two free tickets to see the rest of the performance.

Our final stop for the day was the Historical Tampa Theatre. President and CEO, Josh Bell, shared with us the great history of this 1,250 seat movie palace that was built in 1926. Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and continues to host many great performances and films. As a part of our time at the theatre, we attended a Film Festival Panel Discussion consisting of Tammy Briant (LT’14), Gasparilla Film Festival, Ed Lally, Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and Sara Scher, Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival.  They all emphasized how film is a way for all of us to experience various cultures and communities via a theater seat. They shared with us the impact that these film festivals have on the Tampa community and how Tampa Theatre was one of the best places to explore the stories told through movies.

We visited and experienced so many aspects of the arts and culture in Tampa on this day but as Julie Serovich (LT’14) our LT’19 Class Chair shared that morning, we could probably “spend five days” on arts and culture in Tampa and still not even begin to see all our city has to offer. How fortunate we are to live in a city that not only values and supports the arts but has also supported artists who have contributed to art and culture throughout the global community.

LT’ 19 expresses our sincere thanks to our Arts and Culture Day Sponsor: Macfarlane, Ferguson & McMullen and our Day Chairs: Jeff Gibson (LT’13), Partner, Macfarlane, Ferguson & McMullen and Jim Porter (LT’99 & LT’15 Chair), Partner, Akerman LLP.  Thank you for providing such a delightful experience for our class.

Jeanine Romano, AACSB International


A salute to our local military leaders  

They pace in the lobby outside the meeting room, mobile phone pressed firmly to their ear.

Maybe they quickly squirrel away to a corner to take a conference call or respond to an email. Some whip out their iPads and resolve a pressing issue in mere minutes.

It’s the Leadership Tampa hustle: a break between that fascinating panel discussion and the presentation from the CEO that doesn’t always serve as a break. In 10 minutes or less, these titans of business must address an issue that requires their immediate attention.

Every Leadership Tampa member must balance between the demands of the program and the requirements of their everyday jobs. Yet it can be even more taxing for the MacDill Air Force Base leaders hoping to immerse themselves in lessons on what makes Tampa tick.  

The average LT member may be worried about job security, but the average MacDill leader is worried about national security. It can be company incidents versus international incidents. Employees versus airmen. Trade secrets versus state secrets.

“Events across our nation and around the globe directly impact the duty day of any military member,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Emily Farkas, deputy commander of the 6th Maintenance Group and a LT 2018 graduate. “We typically have a consistent peacetime work schedule, but it can change instantly when the unit receives a task to deploy or to support real-world missions from home station, i.e. MacDill Air Force Base.

“In supporting a military nominee, careful consideration is given to deployment cycles in an effort to honor the commitment to the program.  Furthermore, military members typically do not have more than two or three years per assignment so the timing of participating in the program is another important consideration.”

Clearly, the stakes can be higher for Leadership Tampa’s military representatives, but they never fail to make the commitment. For decades, Leadership Tampa has found a spot for MacDill’s finest. The leadership at MacDill supports a nominee(s) from the base for Leadership Tampa so they can share their perspective as one of the more than 19,000 uniformed members at the base.

“Since the Armed Forces became an all-volunteer force in 1973, the military-civilian gap has widened, and less Americans have a connection to the military as only less than 1 percent have served,” Farkas said. “In my experience with programs like Leadership Tampa, they have been able to connect uniformed service members with community business leaders to exchange leadership experiences and to share personal stories of the military journey … much like MacDill’s Honorary Commander Program prioritizes engagement with our civic leaders.  

“Additionally, it gives military members the opportunity to know more about the community that supports them and their families.”

Few, if any, have regretted the decision. Irving Lee, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, said he enjoyed his time in Leadership Tampa Class of 2004, but the involvement was significant for him and for all MacDill members.

“The time commitment is one of the biggest issues,” said Lee, who was the 6th Mission Support Group Commander while stationed at MacDill. “The people who are the best candidates have insane schedules so in addition to picking from amongst a pool of well qualified candidates, schedules also have to be considered.”

Lee said, however, it’s about more than picking a leader who has the time. Base leaders also examine what’s best for their mission, and which candidate makes the most sense in helping with that mission.

“Another key consideration is figuring out where the best ‘return on investment’ will be for the base,” Lee said.  “Of course, we want to send the best ambassador to the community, but what will it cost in terms of time and opportunity costs to let someone make a 10-month commitment?”

Both Lee and Farkas have fond memories of their time. Lee specifically recalls a special surprise he hid from his classmates during their visit to MacDill on “Military Day.”

“I still remember (former Bucs safety) John Lynch being on our KC-135 flight,” Lee said. “I believe he had been traded and Chief Lew Monroe helped get him a flight suit and a seat on the LT flight. The ladies in the ‘04 class were amazed to see him walk up the stairs to get on the plane. I still have our group photo somewhere.”  

After completing the class, many choose to remain involved after they “graduate,” while others find themselves deployed to the next city after completing their two- or three-year tour in Tampa. Farkas has extended her commitment through LTA.

“I remain involved with Leadership Tampa Alumni because I now feel a personal connection to Tampa and desire the opportunity to give back to the community,” Farkas said.

With Veterans Day on the horizon, let’s remember to salute not only every man and woman who has served, but those LTA members who have managed to go through the class while fulfilling a commitment to the nation.

That’s all I’m saying.



Ernest Hooper, LT’03

2018 Newsletter/Annual Review Co-Chair

Editor and Columnist, Tampa Bay Times

Follow him @hoop4you

Leadership Tampa Class ’18 Prom Gives Back to Community


LT18On August 10, 2018, the LT ’18 Class hosted a prom with over 160 registrations and raised over $22,000 for the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa (CDC). The proceeds benefited the CDC’s Youth Success Center’s high school seniors as they explore post-secondary educational options.

“The original intent of this event was for us as a graduating class to think about how we could contribute something that would also continue to be an ongoing effort for our Leadership Tampa class to give back to the community,” said event co-chair Lindsay Grinstead. “The second piece of the program was that after the prom 30 classmates are getting paired with students who are at the CDC and are seniors in high school to engage in a mentorship program over the course of the school year to help them in the college search process.”

LT ‘18 took a very structured approach when looking at what they would do to give back to the community. Once they figured out they wanted to focus on education and the youth, they looked at organizations in Tampa that could benefit from the fundraiser. Representatives from each of the organizations being considered presented to the class to explain how they could benefit from the support. In an effort to support a fellow classmate’s organization, and work with an organization that supports education, LT ’18 members agreed on the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa (CDC).

“Each one of us will get the chance to mentor one of the students to help them through the process of applying for college, visiting colleges, preparing for college, and then continuing that mentorship as they’re in school, and hopefully as they continue on in their careers,” said event co-chair Randy Prescott.

The LT ’18 Class is already planning and preparing to hold the event again next year at Amalie Arena, with dates to come soon.

The event was possible due to the support of the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa (CDC) and the generosity of the following sponsors: The Mosaic Company, JP Morgan Chase, Lightning Foundation, GTE Financial, Tampa International Airport, Tampa Bay Rays, Wehr Constructors, Inc., TECO Energy, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Valley National Bank, The Beck Group, Visit Tampa Bay, Johnson Jackson LLC, KCI Technologies, CS&L CPAs, and Stacey and Brandon Pittman.

Member News 10/25 – 11/1

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