The red and white striped pinafore dress gave birth to Denise Young’s desire to serve oh so many years ago. The first time she walked into Miami’s Mercy Hospital as a 14-year-old candy striper, she started developing a heart for helping, and that drive continues today for the Leadership Tampa Class of 2003 class champion.
So, when Young made up her mind to help a new nonprofit, you knew it had to be special. Year Up is a national bridge program for young adults that recently expanded to St. Petersburg. They work to close the occupational divide between people 18-24 who long to work but don’t necessarily have the training and businesses that struggle to find viable candidates for jobs that pay a livable wage.
Year Up’s students are trained for IT and business jobs with a focus on professional etiquette. They’re asked to come each day professionally dressed, and the program launched a clothing drive to help outfit its newest participants. When Denise learned of the drive, she flew into action and asked if I could meet her and some of the program’s leaders at Hawkers in St. Petersburg. How could I tell my LT ’03 classmate no?
The next thing I know, I’m literally writing a column in between bites of food. The Year Up officials said the column did indeed spark interest in the clothing drive, and Denise herself got several companies she works with as a construction business consultant to contribute. And, I ended up giving a presentation to the latest cohort about the power of writing and the need to avoid pitfalls as they rise up.
I can’t say I’m surprised. When Denise reaches out, guided by that heartfelt longing to make a difference she first developed at Mercy Hospital, I always answer the call. It’s an approach that should typify Leadership Tampa Alumni. We need to lean on each other to elevate goals and achieve missions that mean the most to us.
We shouldn’t just remember the good times from years gone by, we should answer the call and strengthen the bonds that united us at the beginning.
That’s all I’m saying.
Ernest Hooper, LT’03
2018 Newsletter/Annual Review Chair
Editor and Columnist, Tampa Bay Times
Follow him @hoop4you