Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg's annual Breakfast of Scholars honored graduate Markee Davis with its inaugural Ben Fisher Alumni Mentoring Award. Davis, now a senior at Shorecrest Preparatory School, is an active volunteer at his alma mater. Fisher, for whom the award is named, was executive director of the Academy Prep Foundation for eight years.
Attendees at the event, held in the ballroom of the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, heard from head of school Leanne Howard, board of trustees chairman Joe Bourdow, trustee Dom DiMaio and alumnus TiAuna Shaw. Ms. Shaw is a 2005 Academy Prep graduate who went on to complete studies at Boca Ciega High School and the University of Florida and has returned to Academy Prep as an AmericCorps teacher.
Several speakers cited the private, need-based school's accomplishments: All of its 2008 class graduated from high school in 2012, and 90 percent of its graduates go on to earn high school diplomas.
Synovus Bank was the presenting sponsor, and WTVT-Ch. 13 news anchor Mark Wilson was master of ceremonies.
Education and literacy seemed to be on nearly every charitable organization's agenda during the past several weeks, and none more than United Way Suncoast, which held its 125th anniversary celebration by announcing an early literacy initiative.
Under the Tuscan Sun writer Frances Mayes was the evening's keynote speaker and signed copies of her newest release, The Tuscan Sun Cookbook.
Recalling her childhood in Fitzgerald, Ga., Mays said she often visited a Carnegie library there. The power to read "should be a birthright," she said. "A line from a book can influence your whole life."
Additional speakers at the dinner, held in St. Petersburg's Nova 535 event space, included master of ceremonies Rod Carter, United Way president and chief executive Gary Sasso and chief development officer Afira DeVries.
"Soup's On," the St. Petersburg Free Clinic's annual fall fundraiser and food gathering, drew nearly 600 guests to the Coliseum, where patrons donated more than $80,000 in cash and more than four tons of nonperishables.
By any measure, those are impressive numbers. Still, Pinellas‑Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger reported, nearly one in four children in Pinellas County, about 7,000 total, are chronically hungry.
Roy Whipp, Walt Davin, Janet Paroo, Peggy Spoor and Mike Hopkinson received individual awards at the 34th annual soup-and-bread meal. The First Presbyterian Church men's group and Good Samaritan Church received faith community awards; Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and St. Petersburg Moving & Storage took the corporate awards. Canterbury School of Florida was the educational winner. Tampa Bay Harvest and OneBlood (formerly Florida Blood Services), were presented organizational awards.
Lawyers for Literacy launched its 11th year at a reception honoring volunteers and featuring a presentation by St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster.
The nonprofit program pairs tutors with at-risk third-graders in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties with the goal of helping children to read at grade level. This year, it had 120 tutors in 11 schools, executive director Steve Graves reported.
Reading is the key to understanding nearly anything, Foster told the group. As an example, he said, he was able to replace the fuel pump in a 1969 Chevelle by following a manual during the days when he was a law student.
Recipients of five-year volunteer awards were Christine Derr, Nancy Harris, CeCe Ingle and Barbara Pritchett.
Hosts for the evening were Tara and Lucas Fleming. He is the founder and president of Lawyers for Literacy. LexisNexis was the corporate sponsor.