Belle Glade teens in Philanthropy Tank finals

Special to The Sun/Photos courtesy of Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank
Team Uniformity members are (from left) Yalissa Baltazar, a seventh-grader at Glades Day School; Mya Rodriguez, a Lake Shore Middle School seventh-grader; their mentor, Evelyn Flores, with her daughter; Guadalupe Alcala-Garcia, a Glades Central High School senior; and philanthropist-investor Rick Stone.

A trio of schoolkids from Belle Glade have established a charity that exists just to help their fellow students, and adults think so much of it that their project, Team Uniformity, is one of eight finalists in this year’s Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank competition.

The contest culminates Sunday, March 11, with a reception and “Shark Tank”-style event at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. The PBPT organization was established by Advisors for Philanthropic Impact a couple of years ago in partnership with the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County and the Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Their intent was to help shape students’ leadership paths and, through their creative solutions, address and improve social issues in the community. The PBPT competition, in its third year, aims to challenge, empower and equip the students (who must be enrolled in grades 7-12 in Palm Beach County) to develop and execute high-impact, sustainable community betterment projects.

Special to The Sun/Photos courtesy of Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank
The 2018 finalists gathered for an initial meeting on Saturday, Feb. 3, at Palm Beach Atlantic University. The eight teams met with their mentors and some of the Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank’s investors and coaches to prepare themselves for the live “Shark Tank”-style competition, set for Sunday, March 11, at Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.

According to Mary Ford, a mentor/tutor at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County facility in Belle Glade and friend of Team Uniformity leader Guadalupe Alcala-Garcia, the charity was her idea when the opportunity came up to apply for the PBPT. The other two team members also attend after-school programs at the club; they are seventh-graders Yalissa Baltazar (Glades Day School) and Mya Rodriguez (Lake Shore Middle School). Ms. Ford related how Guadalupe, who’s a senior at Glades Central High School, arrived at her idea:

“I asked her, ‘What would you do if you could do anything to help people in the community?’ She said, ‘I would give the kids uniforms.’ And I said, ‘Why uniforms?’ And then she told me the story of how her parents would buy her uniforms when school started but then in January, you know, she had growth spurts and the uniforms would always be too small for her, and it really made her sad and the kids would pick at you and everything. And the other two girls, they’re in seventh grade, and they’ve had similar experiences, too, so they decided to work together on this project.”

The girls, who have to build their charity from the ground up and are being mentored through PBPT by Evelyn Flores, produced a detailed application describing the project, showing evidence for a community need for it, drawing up a budget and identifying potential partners and the impact it would have, plus submitted a short video to give the judges an understanding of their project. On March 11, they’ll pitch their project to the panel of four investors from Palm Beach: Jim Karp, John F. Scarpa, Christine Stiller and Rick Stone, in front of a live audience.
The teams all received professional stage training from Julie Rowe, director of education at Maltz Jupiter Theatre. Each investor chipped in $25,000 to help finance the projects, and all eight finalists are eligible to receive up to $15,000 to put their ideas into action, plus 12 months of one-on-one mentoring.

Ms. Ford, a teacher who also works at the Boys & Girls Club, has known Guadalupe for three years, tutoring her for college readiness. She also helped her with her college application to Florida State University, where Guadalupe has been accepted, and financial aid forms.

“She’s just real driven. Her favorite quote, her senior quote, and this is what she always says, is that her dreams are more important than sleep. Can you imagine that, at 17? She’s phenomenal,” said Ms. Ford, adding that she and her two teammates have had others’ help as well.

“That (PBPT) lady, Miss Evelyn, is like their mentor, she calls them and she finds out about financial stuff. But the lady that’s really helping them – there’s this place called Cool Closet in Delray where this woman gives away prom gowns, she gives away clothes. And it’s all free, you just have to go in with an organization. So we went down there, we met with this lady, her name is Linda, and she told them how to go to the stores to get the hangers, how to organize their whole clothes closet, how to set it up and everything. She’s absolutely phenomenal, and it has helped them, because out here, we don’t have a place that does that.”

Ms. Ford said Guadalupe really believes in her idea because clothes are very important to teenagers’ lives and she wants to help relieve her classmates’ pain.

“Guadalupe even said that once she was able to get clothes that fit her, then she was really better able to concentrate on school, and I think she’s like number seven in her class or something,” Ms. Ford said.
To learn more about Palm Beach Philanthropy Tank, visit www.philanthropytank.org.

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