“ANYTOWN™ empowers young minds to take the steps needed to better their communities.” - Destiny (2013 delegate)
As the 2013 ANYTOWN™ summer finally concludes, Community Tampa Bay staff, volunteers, and 113 delegates reflect on their experiences, lessons learned, and relationships cultivated. A diverse group of over 100 youth from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties had the opportunity to participate in the ANYTOWN™ program. Through topic specific workshops, intensive dialogue groups, and intentional dorm communities, the teens were able to empathize and become allies to people facing stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. However, the five days and four nights is just the start of this lifelong process.
Each ANYTOWN™ session is championed by up to 25 diverse staff members who mirror the youth population intentionally, so all participants can see themselves reflected as change agents and leaders. The program is designed to make sure the mission of empowering diverse groups of young people to create more inclusive and just schools is achieved through meaningful dialogue and genuine cross-cultural interactions. The experience is empowering for all involved, including volunteers and parents. Franz Villate, a volunteer who served residentially in 2013, feels that each ANYTOWN™ session raises the bar. Nadia Rumbolt, another 2013 volunteer, agrees: “We were able to include even more diversity in our programs, but it couldn’t have been achieved without the excellent staff combinations.”
Nestor Ortiz, a 2013 ANYTOWN™ co-director, reiterates the purpose and focus: our youth. “We continue to become more diverse in our recruiting. We seek out communities not typically given opportunities to participate, including students with autism and other varying abilities as well as immigrant students. It does get better every year.”
For some young people, themes such as gender discrimination, the coming out process for an LGBTQ youth, and the effects of institutionalized racism are experiences they may not have thought about before ANYTOWN™. The volunteer staff empowered many youth with knowledge to make positive change. The teens learned a lot about their communities and themselves. Sara felt enlightened after the process, “ANYTOWN™ opened my eyes to the kind of world we live in and how we should all come together. Everyone’s fighting some kind of battle.” Valentina felt a different kind of connection, “I want to get started with my faith journey. I never knew where to start before, but now I do.”
Now that everyone is settled back in their communities, the evidence of the effectiveness of ANYTOWN™ is affirming from the perspective of Jay, another graduate, “ANYTOWN™ taught me, overall, that change is hard. It won’t happen in the blink of an eye. It takes hard work and perseverance. ANYTOWN™ has made me realize how important it is to stop stereotypes, prejudices, and discrimination. I formed many lifelong friendships with people from all different backgrounds, something I am grateful for. Thank you ANYTOWN™ staff, students, teachers, and mentors for everything you do!”
We welcome all 113 new ANYTOWN™ graduates into the growing alumni family. We look forward to continuing to promoting dialogue and cross-cultural interactions with our Anytowners year-round!
Written by Amber Carles Klee with edits by Nadia Rumbolt
As we wrap up another summer of inspirational ANYTOWN sessions, we are reaching out to share important news about Community Tampa Bay.
The Board of Directors regretfully announces the resignation of Executive Director Stacie Blake, effective July 30, 2013. Since Stacie arrived in April of 2008, Community Tampa Bay received a Bank of America Neighborhood Builders award in the amount of $200,000; several thousand youth across Pinellas and Hillsborough counties experienced Community Tampa Bay’s life-changing opportunities – among them, ANYTOWN™, Be Intentional Institute and Facilitating the Leadership of Youth (FLY); and the annual Creating the Change luncheon has gained momentum in reputation, attendance and multi-year pledges.
We are grateful for Stacie’s leadership and passion for the organization during her five-year tenure. As one who articulated and promoted Community Tampa Bay’s mission in a professional manner with a personal candor, Stacie spoke persuasively about the youth touched by our programs and wasn’t afraid to talk about the tough and provocative issues plaguing our communities locally and nationally. We wish her the best in her career endeavors.
The Board has appointed Gerri Bradley as Interim Executive Director. Gerri’s record of dedication and service to Community Tampa Bay includes thirteen years with the organization. Gerri brings a deep knowledge of the organization to the position and has previously served as interim executive director at the request of the Board of Directors.
We value your support and participation in Community Tampa Bay activities. Thank you for your continued commitment to promoting dialogue and respect among all cultures, religions and races. This critical work cannot be done without you.
Community Tampa Bay’s Board of Directors
Molly is cooking a tasty meal of pasta in her Old Northeast home as she graciously conducts this interview. She has recently moved into the house with her husband and young daughter. Multitasking is something that Molly does well as she is a ‘Molly of all trades’ within our great vision of a community free from all forms of discrimination.
Easy to talk to, she provides insightful feedback through the eyes of a donor as well as a volunteer giving her a special perspective. Molly donates her time by volunteering annually as a staff member of Community Tampa Bay’s ANYTOWN™ Program, a week long experience aimed at empowering youth to create inclusive and just schools and communities through dialogue.
“Community Tampa Bay as an organization has a mission and believes it. They live it out in everything they do and that makes them unique. Also, all the volunteers can articulate why the mission is important to them and they use that as a focal point in all they do.”
She first learned of Community Tampa Bay and their mission to promote dialogue and respect in our community through another long-time volunteer as well as Executive Director Stacie Blake while attending an ANYTOWN™ Community Night. She then landed a position at the agency to develop a Tampa Bay Community Corps proposal to expand our area pool of inclusive leaders. The rest is history.
She says she feels greatly appreciated for her contributions, “Stacie always calls after large events to thank me for my donation and ask me if I have any comments or suggestions.”
She expresses that she feels validated and respected as not just a donor but a contributor to the growth of the organization. This appreciation along with the direct experience and knowledge she has received and is able to impart to youth has encouraged her to spread the word of Community Tampa Bay.
After earning a degree in Latin American Studies and Spanish, Molly spent a lot of time in Central and South America where she focused on working with organizations dedicated to bringing educational opportunities to impoverished communities. After that rich experience Molly had a desire to bring her skills into her home community empowering her to earn a masters degree in Urban Planning focusing on Community and Economic Development from the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. She is an avid sports fan, loves Indian food, and as if she couldn’t get any more extraordinary, has actively sought out ways to learn to play the harmonica.
She is president of the board of Project Prosper, a non-profit that empowers recent immigrants and refugees through a program of small no-interest loans, mentoring, and financial education. She does this while volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay and, of course, Community Tampa Bay.
We thank Molly Auld for all that you do for Community Tampa Bay and look forward to what you have in store for us. We know you will continue to be an advocate for a community free from all forms of discrimination.
Post by Amber Carles Klee
Seabron Reese, affectionately known as ‘Reese,’ was introduced to the ANYTOWN™ program when he participated as a delegate in 1995, marking the beginning of his commitment to an overall vision of a community free from all forms of discrimination.
Reese first jokingly exclaimed, while speaking of his ANYTOWN™ experience: “The food was on fire! Woo the food was good. We ate all the time!”
On a serious note he described his delegate experience as motivational; helping to confirm the reality of racism and injustice he experienced and observed throughout his life. This empowered him to spread the word by volunteering with Community Tampa Bay to promote dialogue and cultivate a community of leaders to be advocates of change.
Starting at the age of 16, Reese has chosen to use the knowledge he gained through higher education to become a mentor, learning from his peers and also from the over 1000 youth he has worked with and impacted. Even as an ANYTOWN™ co-director, 18 years later, he still finds new ways to move toward ending discrimination.
For the past 9 years Reese has enthusiastically worked as a PE Coach at 74th Street Elementary, a football coach for the Northeast Bandits, and mentoring student athletes in a local track group. He uses the skills he has accumulated through that experience to engage youth of all ages. He also became an ordained deacon in May of this year, an accomplishment that has been very gratifying. Reese manages all this while being a dedicated father and husband.
The 1995 ANYTOWN™ grad is also the CEO of Infinite Cinema, a video company he has painstakingly built from the ground up. This idea came from a desire to create beautiful memories for his clients.
Reese applies the mission and vision of ANYTOWN™ in every arena of his life. “How can I not? That’s the real question. I apply the mission with my elementary kids, my four boys, on the football field, the video company, the staff I have, and while I’m day dreaming. If I’m there, the mission and belief are there, even in church, which can be the hardest place to do it.”
We are grateful to Reese for all he has done for the organization and all that he continues to give. Most of all we are excited for what Reese will provide and contribute to the future mission of Community Tampa Bay.
Thank you Reese, for being an advocate for a community free from all forms of discrimination!
Post by Amber Carles Klee and Nadia Rumbolt
TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, has long supported organizations that work to promote youth development in our community, resulting in a grant awarded to Community Tampa Bay. This marks TD Charitable Foundation’s first year supporting Community Tampa Bay as part of the bank’s commitment to giving back to the community.
TD Charitable Foundation has partnered with Community Tampa Bay to support the ANYTOWN™ program, whose mission is to empower diverse groups of young people to create more inclusive and just schools and communities. A staunch commitment to active involvement in the local community is a vital element of the TD Bank philosophy. TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank® and the TD Charitable Foundation provide support to affordable housing, financial literacy and education, and environmental initiatives, many of which focus on improving the welfare of children and families.
Our interactions with the representatives of TD have been delightful in all facets. We appreciate our new friendship and hope to cultivate this relationship for years to come.
We hold an immense gratitude to TD Charitable Foundation and all that they do for us and our community.
For more information on TD Charitable Foundation visit their website at http://www.tdbank.com/community/our_community.html and email your local community contact.
Eric Coyner, president of the Rotary Club of Largo presented a $1500 check in support of ANYTOWN™ at the regular meeting on June 3, 2013. Proceeds are from the annual Death by Chocolate fundraiser hosted for the past 17 years by the club.
“Supporting ANYTOWN™ for youth in Largo is a wonderful example of community engagement and desire for a world without discrimination and we are grateful for this donation.” said Stacie Blake, executive director of Community Tampa Bay. The program engages youth from across Tampa Bay with a mission to empower diverse groups of young people to create more inclusive and just schools and communities where all individuals are treated with respect and understanding. To learn more about the ANYTOWN™ program visit here…
The program’s mission seems utopian, yet it is contagious.
A place where teenagers, as well as adults, can come to learn and understand experiences different from their own. A place where inclusion is paramount; where diversity and words used to communicate matter. A place where taboos surrounding discussions about hate, prejudice and stereotypes dissolve. This place is what Community Tampa Bay calls ANYTOWN.
“I would say this is the only program that does youth leadership with diversity education. And there’s an expectation that students will return to their schools and communities, and take action,” says Stacie Blake, executive director.
ANYTOWN was founded 21 years ago when the nonprofit Community Tampa Bay, now headquartered at 1499 Beach Drive SE in St. Petersburg, was still a field office under the National Conference for Community and Justice. Even earlier, though, the agency was known as the National Conference of Christians and Jews, focused on promoting interfaith dialogue. Read the rest of the 83 Degrees article here.
Ana Gomez is one of six Hillsborough students selected for YEA! Awards this year. See her award presentation at 1:49 seconds made by Commissioner Kevin Beckner and then stay tuned to listen to all the presentations and see the great things happening with youth in the county.
Congratulations to all the winners and the over 70 area nominees!
“We should not forsake our differences. We need to appreciate the differences that we have and focus more on being united rather than divided.” Francette “Cet” Mohamed-Moore is one of Community Tampa Bay’s outstanding volunteers. Cet has learned, practiced, and taught through friendships and volunteering what it means to embody inclusion. As an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, Cet faced adversity for not fitting the societal labels of the language and behaviors generalized to fit a person of color. For years, Cet has migrated toward organizations that promoted inclusion and connected diverse groups of individuals. She is motivated that these moments of intentional inclusivity can lead to something revolutionary and is inspired by Bob Marley’s music. She has adopted some of his lyrics for her personal mission: “One love – that’s going to take revolution. I think it’s a revolutionary act to say I’m going to put in the work to try to understand you and to try to have you understand me.” A world with Cet’s mission is one where everyone can disagree, but still treat each other with respect and dignity.
In high school, Cet was involved in her GSA, the Gay/Straight Alliance. She was in charge of GSA’s Oppression Week, an event that educated the youth in her school about the ISMs (racism, sexism) that are present in our society. She also modeled youth-adult partnerships by speaking to adults about measures to keep those of the LGBTQ community safe in schools. Cet mentored high school teens, volunteered with an agency that dealt with spousal abuse, worked as a youth advocate, participated in recreational and athletic programs. Her favorite program to volunteer with is ANYTOWN™, Community Tampa Bay’s lifelong inclusive youth cultivating program. Every year she applies to be a counselor and she hopes to always be one.
Cet thinks the organization’s vision is radical: “They’re taking into account what we as a society expect from other people. They don’t want you to just tolerate people. Through their programs people come to accept one another, differences and all.” Cet attended the program in 2003 and graduated feeling transformed. She entered the Navy in 2005 to train as an aviation medic. Cet returned to Community Tampa Bay as a volunteer at ANYTOWN™, in 2011 and 2012, impacting 150 teens so far. One of the youth from her session shared that Cet is her favorite counselor, a moment of unsought reward.
Cet is now finishing her penultimate year at Art Institute of Tampa where she is studying Digital Filmmaking and Video Production. “I really would like to marry art and community involvement. Instead of the media being made AT them, I want to give youth the tools to make their own media and show their perspectives using posters, raising money, or creating something for social media publication such as a documentary web series.” Cet is currently getting ready to shoot her senior film in April/May and she hopes to turn discussions of her youth created media idea into a tangible, successful reality.
Thank you Cet for bringing your many gifts to Community Tampa Bay!
Written by Nadia Rumbolt
At Community Tampa Bay we are so excited for our 2013 ANYTOWN™ season! Thank you to the OVER 100 potential volunteers who applied to work this summer! We look forward to seeing you at the upcoming required trainings. The schedule can be found here. 2013 AT Volunteer Development Sessions You must RSVP for each training, and attend 3 Topic Specific Trainings and 1 Administrative Training in order to be eligible to serve at the program this summer. Contact Sarah Ogdie firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, to RSVP for trainings or because you need more details.
Together we are cultivating inclusive leaders to change communities and end discrimination!