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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012 8 years ago

Ready. Set. Give.

by: Candice McElyea

Think back to high school. Think about the mean girls, the annoying cliques, the horrible food and the stress of fitting in.

Now that you're totally depressed, think about your favorite teacher. You know, the one that inspired you to want to do a good job, the one who helped you find that unique career path or the one that just got a smile on your face when the rest of your day had been horrible. For me, that teacher was Ron Carr at Riverview High School in Sarasota. Ask my parents and they will tell you I was born a debater, but Mr. Carr taught me how to debate professionally and specifically, and had a true passion for bringing out the best in his students.

I will never forgot the first day I stepped foot in his speech and debate class my sophomore year. It honestly changed my life. It was in this class that I learned to love---yes, love---public speaking. Most people say that is the one thing they fear most in life, in some cases more than death, but I honestly love it and it started in Mr. Carr's class. I went on to take Mass Media, and that's when I knew I wanted to be a journalist. Without boring you with my life story, let's just say it set me off on a great career path.

Anyhow, fast forward just about 20 years (oh my god, it's been 20 years). I now have the opportunity to give back to teachers like Mr. Carr by serving on the board of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. This organization helps people tailor grants for teachers so that programs no longer paid for by the state due to increasing budget cuts can still happen---such as field trips for low-income students to the amazing arts and culture organizations we have in Sarasota, or literacy programs in the schools. These grants help to support volunteers from the Partnerships and Alliances Linking Schools (PALS) program (which, by the way, Mr. Carr now runs), or provide computers and other school supplies to children who can't afford them. It is an awesome organization I am proud to serve on, and I feel like it's my way of giving back to the school system that made me successful.

Next week on March 27, you have an opportunity to give back too. The Community Foundation of Sarasota and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation are launching the Giving Partner Challenge. The Education Foundation is one of about 100 non-profits competing for grants, and if we can collect the most unique donations in a 36-hour period, we will be awarded $20,000. There are a lot of other goals and contests to win with this challenge, but if you ever had that favorite teacher who helped you achieve your goals, or if you ever had that helping hand as a school kid growing up, I ask you to consider giving $25 to the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. I truly believe that it is our responsibility to help ensure the success of tomorrow's leaders by giving our kids today every possible chance to succeed. Check out what the foundation does at, and then check out the challenge at

Take this opportunity to give back in a small way to your community that could turn in to big dollars for local non-profits. Get ready. Get set. And give!!!

- Follow Candice McElyea on Twitter @lwrcandice

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