Congratulations Class of 2017-2018!

2017-2018 Tampa Connection Graduation

The Tampa Connection class of 2017-2018 celebrated the conclusion of their year at a memorable Graduation program on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at F.I.V.E. Labs in the Westshore Business district.  The program began with an inaugural “Chair’s Reception” sponsored by Wells Fargo Advisors and Shutts & Bowen where class members mingled with board members, non-profit agency representatives, company sponsors, and special Keynote Speaker, Suzanne McCormick, President & CEO of United Way Suncoast.

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The Graduation Program began with an introduction from this year’s Chair, David Pearlman.  Mr. Pearlman expressed gratitude for his time as the Chair and thanked all of the class members, sponsors, and nonprofits for their dedication to Tampa Connection.


Following David’s introduction, our Keynote Speaker, Suzanne McCormick spoke to the class and entire audience about her journey to becoming the President and CEO of United Way Suncoast.  Ms. McCormick provided six pieces of advice to the class on how to make sure they are living out their purpose and creating a better world: (1) accept the invitation; (2) channel your younger self; (3) find opportunities in the nonprofit arena that can give you that “I’m doing my dream job” feeling; (4) don’t play Santa Clause while volunteering – dig in and solve issues; (5) embrace responsibility and hold yourself accountable for what you do and don’t do; and (6) leave a legacy – write your memoir in six words.  Ms. McCormick left us with these words: “Live your life now to be remembered the way you want to be remembered.”


After Ms. McCormick’s inspiring guidance, each team presented to the class the achievements their team accomplished over the course of the class year.  The class gave tremendous presentations ranging from moving videos to complete marketing and recruiting plans for their nonprofits.  This year, in between each presentation, as has become the tradition, Chair David Pearlman walked the class down memory lane with a slideshow of pictures and recap of each program from Opening Retreat to Philanthropy Engagement Day.

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Following the presentations, David Pearlman introduced this year’s Betty Tribble Award Winner, Robert Bivins, TC Class of 1991-92.  Mr. Bivins is a Managing Partner/ Director at Bivins & Hemenway, P.A.  Mr. Bivins has been involved in numerous nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay area, including (but definitely not limited to!), the Campo Family YMCA, Tampa Metropolitan YMCA, Camp Cristina, Brandon Foundation, and Optimist Club of Tampa.  Mr. Bivins has also continued his service to Tampa Connection since his time as a class member and board member.  Mr. Bivins serves on the Tampa Connection Advisory Council and has even assisted with new applicant interviews!  Mr. Bivins was very moved by the award and spoke to the class about his experience in Tampa Connection.  He described Tampa Connection as the “jump box” for his involvement in the community.  Mr. Bivins issued a call to action for the class: “Help each other make a difference.”

2018 Betty Tribble Award Winner

Then came the big moment: Graduation!  Each class member was called up to receive their graduation certificates.

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Team members of the year were announced as follows:

Blue- Greg Forrest

Red- Erik Fischer

Green- Gabrielle Redmond

Purple- Thomas Cockriel

Orange- Lea Collins

After the presentation of graduation certificates, the current Tampa Connection Board of Directors thanked the four board members rolling off for their services to Tampa Connection: Woody Pollack, Nate Cocco, Amanda Edwards, and Brian Holliday.

2017-2018 Tampa Connection Board of Directors

The incoming Tampa Connection Board Members were also announced: Greg Mitro, Collin Cook, Traci Koster, and Djenee Dunn.

After the new board announcements were made, incoming Chair, Erin McKenney, and immediate past Chair, Woody Pollack, presented Chair David Pearlman with a plaque thanking him for all of his years of service to Tampa Connection, and especially for his leadership throughout the year as Tampa Connection’s Chair.

A final presentation was given by Tampa Connection Alumni Committee members, Jeff Burns and Carol Crofton, and Board Member, Gretchen Lehman, on the importance of staying involved in the Tampa Connection family through the Alumni Committee.

The evening was then concluded with a well-attended reception in the lobby of host, F.I.V.E. Labs.  Congratulations to the Tampa Connection Class of 2017-2018!

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2017-18 Nonprofits and Class Graduates:

Hillsborough Education Foundation – Blue Team

The Blue Team worked with the Hillsborough Education Foundation this year and was tasked with creating new volunteer recruitment materials and developing a communication strategy using multiple media channels, potentially including a monthly newsletter.

Liaisons: Cecile Bare, Rachel Grannan, Gretchen Lehman

Alexandra Rozas – SDI Diagnostic Imaging, Amanda Jones – Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, Charles Poteet – LCG Advisors, Chelsea Burns – 352 Inc, Christopher Norton – CS&L CPAs, Daniel Martinez – The Bank of Tampa, Evan Malloy – Foley & Lardner LLP, Greg Forrest – Tampa International Airport, Jacob Horner – WellCare Health Plans, Inc., Jake Kelly – Harland Technology Services, Nicole Williams – Coldwell Banker, Sunny Levine (Edwards) – GrayRobinson, PA, Tom Clemente – Fraizer & Deeter

David A Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts – Red Team

The Red Team created an informational and promotional video to enlighten and inspire others to learn more about the Straz Center’s educational initiatives.

Liaisons: Bianca Mieses, Woody Pollack, Daniel Sykes, Adam Zaki

Amanda “Mandi” Clay – Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, Cory Kleinman – Raymond James Financial, Erik Fischer – Levin Financial Group, Glyssel Cooper – Santiago Therapy Center, James Zebrowski – Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Joe Erd – Links Financial, LLC, Kyle Gammon – Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP, Kyle Chaikin – Franklin Street, Lauren Strope – Cherry Bekaert LLP, Melissa Knight – Glausier Knight, PLLC, Sarah Wiest – CAE USA, Stefan Alvarez – Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig, LLP, Timothy Sousa – USAmeriBank

Greater Brandon Community Foundation – Green Team

Greater Brandon Community Foundation – Green Team

The Green Team created a marketing plan for the Greater Brandon Community Foundation. This included the creation of a promotional video that will be used to tell the story of the Foundation as well as a newsletter and marketing materials that outline the work of the Foundation.

Liaisons: Eric Cruz, Chris DeCort, Brian Holliday

Alexa “Lexie” Larkin – Probasco Law, P.A., Gabrielle Redmond – Warren Averett, LLC, Kerri Hines – PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, Kevin Clarke – MSC Software, Kyle Burns – Florigrown, LLC, Lindsey Post – Deloitte & Touche LLP, Matthew Josey – Prida Guida and Company, Miranda Gutierrez – Jaffe Tilchin Wealth Management, Rachel Morris – Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Sophia Gutierrez – Shea Barclay Group, Steve Balasko – Milner Technologies, Alex Longest – Merrill Lynch, Zac Foster – Quarles & Brady LLP

MacDonald Training Center – Orange Team

The Orange Team developed a multi-level marketing campaign to reach potential candidates and employers for the MacDonald Training Center’s new program, EXCEL (Excellence in Computer Education and Learning).

Liaisons: Brad Knudsen, Danielle Poritz, Chris Toye

Anthony Colavito – EchoSpan, Anthony Santa – Diamond View, Erika Levy – Sparxoo, Jan Masters – The Food Group, PACE and Green Advertising, Kimberly Loux – UBS Financial Services Inc, Lea Collins – Bank of America, N.A./U.S. Trust Private Wealth Management, Linden Arakawa – CBIZ MHM LLC, Lori Armstrong Drazek – HDR Architecture, Mark Witecki – Witecki Decorating, Michael-Scott Lester – PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Samuel Green – Morgan Stanley, Stephanie Carding – Empire Office, Inc., Traci Koster – Nelson Law Group

Hispanic Services Council – Purple Team

The Purple Team developed a business plan outlining a growth strategy for the Hispanic Services Council’s immigration legal services program. The team was tasked with creating a business plan that would focus on growth and sustainability by expanding the capacity to service clients, increase visibility in the community, and diversify the HSC’s funding sources.

Liaisons: Rick Garrett, Sara Sheffield, Adriana Williams

Aaron Boone – ConnectWise, Inc., Colin Cook – Tampa Bay Lightning, Dane Blunt – Carlton Fields, Jennifer      Lada – Holland & Knight LLP, Julie Girard – Greenberg Traurig, Kim Demkovich – Dominion Payroll, Kimberly Cardenas – Rivero, Gordimer & Company, P.A., Laura Maury – Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative, Mario Rodriguez – The Beck Group, Richard Rippy – BankUnited, N.A., Thomas Cockriel – Trenam Law, Thomas Wiley Hodges – HD Law Partners, Tim Lazzara – Crowe Horwath LLP


2017-18 Board Members

David Pearlman Chair, Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC

Erin McKenney Vice-Chair, Avesta

Rick Garrett Treasurer, Garrett Roofing, Inc.

Chris Toye –  Secretary, Morgan Stanley

Woody Pollack Immediate Past Chair, Shutts & Bowen


Cecile Bare – The Bank of Tampa

Eric Cruz – Bivins & Hemenway P.A.

Nate Cocco – State Farm

Chris DeCort – Johnson & Cassidy, PA

Amanda Edwards – PayChex

Melissa Fields – Bank of America

Liana Fuente – Fuente Companies

Rick Garrett – Garrett Roofing, Inc.

Rachel Grannan – Hays

Brian Holliday – Fifth Third Bank

Brad Knudsen – Cherry Bekaert, LLP

Gretchen Lehman – Ogletree, Deakins,

Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Bianca Mieses – CI Group

Danielle Poritz – PWC

Niti Shah – Academy of Motion Pictures

Arts & Sciences

Sara Sheffield – Jackson Dental

Hethre Strickland – Coalesse

Daniel Sykes – Awesome Concepts

Adriana Williams – Suntrust Private Wealth

Adam Zaki – PWC

Administrator: Natalie Raymer


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