On a historic week in Tampa as the Buccaneers head to the Superbowl, LT’21 embarked on their week 2 program day focused on community outreach. The morning kicked off at Cristo Rey Tampa Salesian High School. In 2020, the high school had its first graduating class, delivering on their mission to provide underserved students the knowledge, character, and skills to transform their lives through a distinctive approach to inner-city education.
Tampa is plentiful in organizations that exist to serve needs in our community. After some inspirational presentations which set the stage for the day of having a servant’s heart, small groups set out to visit nine of those sites, including the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the United Way which both have ties to this year’s class.
The Crisis Center of Tampa serves the community 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, by connecting those struggling with a variety of difficult situations with support. Jennifer Moore, Vice President of Development at the Crisis Center, and member of the LT’21 class adds that “The mission of the Crisis Center is to ensure no one in our community has to go through crisis alone. A crisis is simply a life’s problem that needs a solution. We are the community’s gateway to support through 2-1-1.” The group learned that the center creates a personalized experience for each caller, by communicating in various ways, and hiring a diverse workforce to meet unique needs.
The United Way serves five counties and works to provide leadership and programming that improves lives and creates lasting community change. The visiting classmates also got a taste of the ALICE Report, a biannual report that is the basis of United Way’s work. Daniel Mineo, Senior Manager of Grant Development and Management Resource Development for the United Way, and a member of the LT’21 class, says “The ALICE Report is a tool we use to define a survival budget for families in our community who live above the federal poverty line and are still struggling just to afford basic needs.”
The afternoon brought four additional experiences including a visit to Quantum Leap Farm and a thought-provoking food desert project. Quantum Leap Farm exists to improve quality of life through equine-assisted therapies. The group was able to witness a therapy session in progress and learn about the tremendous progress that the therapy has brought for that 14-year-old client. With a waiting list of over one year long and limited access to funding, the farm continues to work through barriers and opportunities to provide this alternative therapy to the community in need.
The food desert activity took part of the class to the United Way Suncoast’s Sulphur Springs Resource Center. Sulphur Springs is an area where affordable good-quality fresh food is not always accessible. In partnership with the YMCA, and only a $100 budget to feed a family of four for a week, LT’21 classmates had to get creative and make difficult decisions while putting themselves in the shoes of others.
In closing, a key takeaway was that the community is everyone. In order to improve the challenges Tampa faces, local leaders are urged to give back and become a part of the solutions that drive change. The class left empowered to make a difference.