Arts, Education, and Sports, What’s the Connection?

By Connie Gee-Abate, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce

On Wednesday, August 24th, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce hosted the Education Connection annual signature breakfast, “Arts, Entertainment, and Sports, What’s the Connection?”, sponsored by Suncoast Credit Union. The event had a sell-out attendance of 220 chamber members from the business and academic communities who gathered to hear how the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Busch Gardens, and the Tampa Bay Lightning organizations partner with our local schools and universities to help develop Tampa’s local talent and provide opportunities that lead to jobs for many of our students.

Judy Lisi, CEO of the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts described their education programs as community builders, offering programs for ages two to eighty-two. The Straz Center has 30 partnership schools in Hillsborough County that build bridges to inspire artistic success by nurturing creativity and confidence in children. Many of the children receive scholarships to attend the programs offered by the accredited Patel Performing Arts Conservatory. The Straz Center also utilizes the talent of interns from numerous schools and are currently looking for more interns for all of their departments. Anyone interested can contact the human resources department at the Straz Center.

Jim Dean, President of Busch Gardens and Adventure Island had numerous success stories about the education programs offered at Busch Gardens. The organization partners with the Hillsborough Community College and the Hillsborough County Schools to provide mentorship and internship programs. Many leaders in the company today started out as interns “right out of high school” who worked hard and were recognized for all of their efforts through promotions. Mr. Dean even made a connection at the event with Dr. Jody Tompson from The University of Tampa, who runs the student Strategic Management Consulting Program for undergraduate and graduate students. Because of the connection made at the breakfast, students attending The University of Tampa will have an opportunity to conduct a study at Busch Gardens. Any student who may be looking for an internship in the entertainment industry can contact Busch Gardens human resources department.

Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Storm, proudly spoke of three major educational programs offered through his organization. Partnering with the University of South Florida, students are given experiential learning opportunities through a residency program that was started by a student. USF students who study Sports Management work directly with the sports teams. There is also an internal training program for employees, where USF guides ten Lightning Leader Employees” through a series of on-site speaker presentations. The third program is the “Community Hockey Team”, a partnership with Hillsborough County Schools that intends to teach 100,000 students over the next 5 years by combining the fun of hockey with science and math skills.

At the conclusion everyone could agree that the connection between education and the arts, entertainment, and sports industries have a major impact upon our community. Creativity, innovation, and jobs are developed through the support of organizations such as the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, Busch Gardens, and the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Storm. Our community thanks Judy Lisi, Jim Dean, and Jeff Vinik for supporting education and leading the way to a better tomorrow for our local students who are the workforce of tomorrow.

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