Celebrating Our Donors

celebratingThe scholarships that give educational opportunity to tens of thousands of low-income schoolchildren would not be possible without the contributions of corporations. That’s why Step Up For Students, the families and students who participate and the community leaders and elected officials who support the program gather so often to pay tribute. Throughout the year, whether in the annual donor rally or through smaller individual events, Step Up For Students celebrates its corporate partners.

Our 2014 Donor Appreciation Event – Celebration of Achievement

celebration_photo3-30Tampa – Student performers from all over the state stepped onto the stage of the historic Tampa Theatre Thursday to shine the spotlight not only on their high notes, ball-changes and fast-moving fingers, but to also cast the bright light on the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program, which many of the performers use to attend the school that is right for them.

Elementary through high school aged students showcased a variety of talents including sign language, tap dancing, piano and even a steel drum band performance, all in the name of celebrating and showcasing achievements made in their Step Up For Students partner schools.

But the real stars of the talent-show event were the people sitting in the balcony: The program’s donors and supporters who help send some of Florida’s poorest children to schools that best fit their individual learning needs.

“Today we are sharing what we have learned in school and are performing and showcasing our talents as our way of saying thank you,” said student emcee, Rylee Johnson, a junior who attends the Academy of Holy Names in Tampa with help from a Step Up scholarship. Because, what better way to say thank you to someone than to show them that you will succeed? And success – in whatever form it takes – is what this program is all about. By supporting Step Up For Students, you have all recognized that not every student learns the same way. We are all different, and so different schools work best for each of us.”

Johnson then introduced the keynote speaker, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers player and Super Bowl XXXVII winner Mike Alstott. He thanked donors and encouraged the students to work hard in school.

“Work hard every single day,” he said. “And when you fall, push yourself up and do it again – just like we do on the field. Practice. Improve upon your God-given talents, and I know you will achieve incredible things.”

Nearly 350 students representing 15 schools performed onstage and more than 30 partner schools submitted artwork, science projects, robotics demonstrations and other samples of student work for a gallery exhibit in the theatre lobby.

“Our goal for this event is to show the people who make this scholarship opportunity available – the donors and legislators who support the program – exactly why it’s so valuable to our communities and to the future of the children who are using scholarships this year,” said Step Up President Doug Tuthill on Thursday. “Today we are seeing first-hand the power of education, and what students are capable of achieving when their school environment complements the way they learn.”

Coverage of the Celebration of Achievement event here.

Our 2012 Donor Appreciation Event – Celebrating 10 Years of Educational Opportunities

davion-faith-webTampa –  Gov. Rick Scott spoke on December 12 at a celebration of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for low-income children, the program for providing options to Florida families and providing dramatic savings for taxpayers.

“We work to give every student and every parent learning options that work best for their families,” Scott said. “Florida families deserve the best opportunities possible for their children, and programs like the Tax Credit Scholarship help them to achieve those goals.

Scott spoke at the Tampa Museum of Art to an annual donor appreciation dinner that included 200 corporate leaders, legislators, educators and families who participate in the program. The scholarship is serving 50,821 students in 1,322 private schools, and is fueled by corporate contributions that a receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit from the state.

Among the legislators attending the event was House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who sponsored a bill in 2010 that strengthened the scholarship and allows it to grow each year so long as companies are contributing and more students are choosing it. Enrollment has doubled in the past four years, with an additional 10,000 students on a waiting list this year. Also, this year, companies gave $229 million in tax-credited contributions.

Executives from several of those companies spoke about why they contribute, including the President and CEO of Premier Beverage Bob Drinon, HCA Vice President of Government Relations Bryan Anderson, and CEO of United Healthcare of Florida, David Lewis.

Additionally, Faith Manuel, an Ormond Beach mother who had a son at age 15, told the audience that she switched Davion to Calvary Christian Academy, and he quickly felt as though he was part of a family. He just completed his first semester at Florida State College in Jacksonville. “Thank you for his scholarship and for amazing opportunity to stand here before you tonight,” she said.

Read the press release here.

Our 2011 Donor Appreciation Event

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 10/4/11-STEPUP100411 CH- during the Step Up for Students Donor Appreciation event Oct. 4, 2011 at the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee. .COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO. Tallahassee – Gov. Rick Scott graciously welcomed more than 100 supporters of the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program to the Governor’s Mansion on Oct. 4 to celebrate and honor corporations for collectively contributing more than $900 million to the scholarship program since 2002.

The event featured special announcements from J.J. Taylor Distributing Florida, Inc., Walgreens and Winn-Dixie Stores, Inc., all of which presented checks to Gov. Rick Scott for Step Up For Students Scholarships. Walgreens, a donor to the scholarship program since 2006, presented a check for more than $27 million – the total amount the company has donated to the scholarship program throughout the years.  Winn-Dixie presented a check for $5 million and J.J. Taylor Distributing, the newest corporate donor to the Step Up For Students program, pledged $20 million to provide scholarships.

Since the first scholarship was distributed in 2002, more than 200,000 students have benefitted from a Step Up For Students Scholarship, including Travis Blanks who offered his testimony at the Oct. 4 event.  Blanks is a senior at North Florida Christian School in Tallahassee where he will graduate a semester early in December 2011 and continue onto Clemson University on a football scholarship.

Our 2010 Donor Rally

2010-donor-rally-photos-largerSt. Petersburg – Nearly 1,000 students, teachers and parental choice supporters joined Governor-elect Rick Scott Dec. 9 on the grounds of St. Petersburg Christian School to celebrate nine years of the Step Up For Students Scholarship Program. During the 2010-11 school year, more than 33,000 low-income students in Florida benefitted from the K-12 scholarship, which is made possible through the generous contributions of corporations. Since 2002, corporations have redirected more than $900 million to the Step Up For Students program, which is also known as the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.

It is through the generous donations by corporations that struggling students such as Silas Lopez have been given a second chance and renewed hope. Lopez, a senior at Victory Christian Academy in Lakeland, told rally attendees how the Step Up For Students Scholarship has made a dramatic change in his life. “You have given me a second chance at success,” he said. “I will do my best to make you proud.”

“We are honored to be part of a program that is making such a profound impact on Florida’s children and ultimately our future.”

David Lewis, CEO Central North Florida Division, UnitedHealthcare of Florida Inc.
(Since 2009, UnitedHealthcare has contributed $20 million to provide scholarships for at least 4,819 low-income children)

Read the press release

Coverage by Bay News 9

Our 2009 Donor Rally

2009 Donor Rally Ad for So Fla Biz Journal.pubFort Lauderdale – Gov. Charlie Crist welcomed 800 students, parents and business people to Mount Bethel Christian Academy to celebrate the Step Up For Students scholarship for low-income students, and he also saluted a Miami Union Academy freshman, Antonio Trigo, who has turned his academic life around and was the class valedictorian in eighth grade. In nearly 10 years since Florida created an education option for economically disadvantaged children, corporations have redirected more than $900 million to scholarships for needy students. Walgreen Co., the title sponsor of the 2009 celebration, has contributed more than $28 million.

“I am grateful to all the companies who have taken the time to learn about this valuable program and participate in it,” said Governor Crist. “With their generous support, Florida’s children have more scholarship opportunities available and together, I am confident we will continue to provide more educational opportunities and options here in Florida.”

Fort Lauderdale, FL --10-16-09-- Photo by Joshua Prezant--STEP U“Our company understands that, in order to have strong and prosperous communities, we must invest in the education of our youth. Step Up For Students has created a way for companies to provide valuable educational opportunities for Florida’s families so that their children can thrive.” Casey Cesnovar, Director of State Government Affairs, Walgreen Co.

(Since 2006, Walgreens has contributed more than $31.5 million to provide scholarships for more than 7,000 low-income children.)

Past Donor Appreciation Rallies