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Derrick Brooks and kids need your help

When you see the title Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School, don't let your eyes deceive you.

The "s" in Brooks is not a dollar sign and the "d" in DeBartolo is not a diamond.

Yes, the school was founded by Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks and Lisa DeBartolo, executive director of the DeBartolo Foundation and the daughter of prominent developer Eddie DeBartolo.

However, that doesn't mean Brooks and the DeBartolo family whip out their checkbooks every time the school has a need.

"There's a difference between writing a check and sowing a seed," Brooks said. "It's two different things."

Principal Phildra J. Swagger has played a key role in helping implement Brooks' vision of a small school that could offer college preparation to students who are not at-risk, but at-promise. The school features dual enrollment, advance placement and the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program that strengthens college prep skills.

"The biggest thing I said was if I start a school, I want them to get a college education," said Brooks, who holds a masters from Florida State University and serves on the college's board of trustees.

"I wanted to set the foundation now because when I left Pensacola to go to Florida State, I was intimidated. I don't want kids to go through that. If they're not comfortable leaving home and where they're coming from, you have a chance of losing that kid.

As the charter school moves toward completion of its second year, Brooks and school officials have much to beam about. The fully-accreditated school's enrollment rose from 173 to 250, all 17 seniors will move on to post-secondary education opportunities.

The school also added a sports program with volleyball, basketball, softball and baseball.

Much of that success comes from the fact Brooks and DeBartolo have provided a state of the art facility in a former Circuit City off Fowler Avenue. The technology inside is more like what you might find in private institutions.

But remember — those are seeds. It's still a charter school operating under the auspices of the Hillsborough school district.

"The truth is we're a public school funded the same way public schools are funded," Swagger said. "We're operating on a lean budget."

Brooks effort already has drawn national attention. The school recently received a $25,000 grant from the NFL Players Association, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who made a personal donation to the school, sought out Brooks last week to get a school tour during his busy Super Bowl schedule.

"Derrick Brooks has provided so much leadership to this community and to this school," Goodell said. "He knows the students. He's got a full understanding of what's happening and the challenges."

Now the challenge is convincing the local community to step up. The school's parents have done so by staging their first fundraiser, a Fire and Ice Gala at the Hillsborough Bar Association's Chester H. Ferguson Law Center on April 25. Tickets are $75 and the group is seeking corporate sponsors. Call (813) 971-5600.

Brooks and DeBartolo may have sowed the seeds, but like any farming effort, it takes a team of workers to bring in the harvest.

That's all I'm saying.

Derrick Brooks and kids need your help 02/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 6, 2009 11:39pm]

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