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CEO’s in Schools: Showing Students What’s Possible

February 19, 2021

By Aakash Patel

Last Friday started out a bit differently than usual.

Instead of sitting in an office or taking a breakfast meeting, I spent my morning in the car line at Gorrie Elementary School in Tampa. I greeted parents as they dropped off their children, and I waved to students as they walked into class. I saw what a day in the life is like for the thousands of educators, students and administrators in Hillsborough County Schools.

Imagine if you could spend the day in a classroom. What would you tell the students? What would they learn?

That’s part of the idea behind CEOs in Schools, an annual program that started in 2019 to connect Hillsborough County students with business leaders in the community. On Friday, nearly 170 CEOs and business leaders like me came to Hillsborough schools to learn what their inner workings are really like.  

There are two reasons why this program is so important. First, it gives business leaders the chance to connect and give back to the schools that serve our community. Second, it gives students the opportunity to learn from business leaders — and potentially see a future career down the road.

As chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Hillsborough County, I know the value of working on the ground in schools. And as we all know, the pandemic has made it an even more difficult time to be a student and an educator. With most teachers having balanced some combination of remote and in-person instruction, there has been a learning curve for almost everyone.

That’s why it’s so important for the business community to let teachers know that their work matters. Hillsborough superintendent Addison Davis agrees.

“When our educational leaders and CEOs join forces for children, anything is possible,” Davis said in a press release. “These partnerships can result in solutions that make our entire community stronger as we seek to create a world-class education for all.”

I’ve seen that firsthand through my own experiences. For two years now, I’ve attended a day of class at Gorrie. One of the most rewarding parts of the program has been my enduring relationship with the school’s principal, Marjorie Sandler.

I asked her what the community can do to help her school — and all of Hillsborough County’s schools — thrive during this hard time. She humbly answered with only two things.

First, she would love to establish a volunteer base of business leaders helping out with reading and mathematics. So if you are reading this and see yourself in those words, if you want to be in front of a classroom with engaged students, consider getting involved as a volunteer in Hillsborough County Schools.

Second, she wants business leaders to help students with those soft skills, none more important than self-confidence. Business leaders are inherently self-confident — you have to be to build your own business.

Imagine how we might change a student’s life by showing them what’s possible. Even giving one day of your time has the power to turn on a lightbulb in a student’s mind.


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This post was written by Elevate, Inc.

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