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Turnaround Achievement Awards mark a legacy of success

April 19, 2016 - Points of Pride

The 2016 Turnaround Achievement Awards has reached a 30-year milestone, recognizing student success and personal legacy. The purpose of the event is to honor students who have achieved the most significant turnaround change in their lives. Over the past 29 years, approximately 1,600 students have been recognized at this ceremony.  Greg Pietz, Treasurer of Bowling Centers of Tampa Bay and long-time event partner and sponsor, believes that it’s important to reach out into the community and provide encouragement. Pietz shares that his organization will continue to support the Turnaround Achievement Awards, “for as long as they are in existence”.

Over the years Turnaround honorees from middle, high, and charter schools have enjoyed a formal breakfast shared amongst family, friends, and school/district staff members. Each student is presented a sincere, heartwarming speech from a trusted school representative. Shared testimonials are often emotional stories chronicling improvements in the student’s attendance, self-esteem, attitude and behavior, and journey to academic success. In addition, every honoree receives a personalized, engraved recognition plaque, and this year for the high school students, a $1000 scholarship to a Hillsborough Technical College of their choice.

Walt Shaffner, Director of Nontraditional Programs and the facilitator/moderator of the Turnaround celebrations has helped continue the legacy of the Turnaround Awards over the last eight years. Shaffner states, “To have continued to sponsor and host these awards for 30 years is a legacy of its own.”  When asked about student impact and if the awards made a difference Shaffner confirmed, “Of course they did – in some cases the award was a life-changer.” Shaffner continued to explain that this is a “recognition of a [students] outward reflection of an inner decision.” As Aiden Hernandez, honoree from Smith Middle School told us, “I had to want to change and that was [the first] decision.”  

Words of wisdom were shared throughout the events by district staff and special keynote speakers; NFL Wide Receiver Nelson Agholor, who attended Liberty Middle School, Major League Baseball player Kevin Ohme, graduate of Lennard High School, and Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober. The advice and motivational messages came directly from the heart of the speakers and resonated with students and the adults who celebrated with them.

Van Ayres, Deputy Superintendent remarked, “I am just extremely proud of each and every one of our students, and our faculty and staff members who didn’t give up on these kids.” He continued to remind the honorees that, “Your turnaround journey doesn’t stop here.” 

Superintendent Jeff Eakins advised the audience, “Don’t forget, you have people who care.  Share your story, because it may change other people’s lives.”  While Shaffner publically challenged each award winner to make their success the first step toward leaving a legacy of their own for their school.

Take a moment to view the Turnaround Achievement Award documentary, created and produced by Ethan Huggins, a former Rampello K-8 Turnaround recipient, now attending Blake High School.  The Flickr album below contains images from all three awards ceremonies.  

Click the links below to view listings of the 30th Annual Turnaround Achievement Honorees:

March 31st Honoree List

April 4th Honoree List

April 5th Honoree List 

If you have a Turnaround story to share email

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