Category Archives for Step Up For Students

Step Up’s Wall is an old soul – and total geek

By DAVID TUTHILL

Keaton Wall is the youngest worker in Step Up For Students’ Clearwater office, but he may also be the most indispensable.

As a IT Support Specialist and the essential one-stop-shop for any co-worker with a technical issue, Wall, 21, is the man who keeps the wires plugged in at Step Up.

And he seems to possess an old soul to complement his technological gifts.

“I am a big geek when it comes to hardware and understanding how a system is running,” Wall says in his unique, fast-paced cadence. “With network administration, I can still deal with hardware-type stuff but on a larger scale. And it allows me to help people, which I enjoy, but once again, on a larger scale than just say a computer technician.”

Wall is the son of Bryan Wall, of Nottingham, England, a former Hollywood set designer, and mother, Cheryl Wall, of Long Island, New York. He has half-siblings over 15 years older than he and his younger sister.

His father’s work put him in touch with technology and computers from a young age – and even inspired his name. He is named in honor of movie star Michael Keaton, who became friends with Bryan Wall when they worked on the original “Batman” film. They bonded over a shared interest in ancient British history.

“I got into artwork on computers and wanted to know how they worked,” Bryan Wall says in a friendly British accent, speaking on a layover between flights at his current job as a corporate trainer for AutoNation. “Keaton and I built computers together. He really got into the technical side of things when friends and neighbors had repair issues. He dove in deep, learned how to build them from scratch, and took it to the next level when he went to school, with programming and such.”

That next level began when Keaton Wall applied for the Career Academy of Information at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg. He attended there for two years until he decided that waking up at 4 a.m. to catch a 5 a.m. bus to attend 7 a.m. classes was too much of a burden.

He switched schools, and graduated from Clearwater High School while dual enrolled at St. Petersburg College. He earned his diploma with a semester and a half of college already completed.

“When I graduated high school, I was not completely certain where I wanted to go, since most universities all have generic ‘computer science’ degrees, which all focus mainly on programming, which I hate,” Keaton Wall says.

Armed with an associate’s degree, he is still enrolled at SPC.  He has earned certificates for computer support, Microsoft server administration, and Linux system administration. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in technology development and management, with a minor in project management.

He spends his free time like many young men – hanging  out with his friends, playing video games and strumming his guitar. When it comes to music, he is able to sing both the most intense heavy metal songs in an unrecognizable ragged voice, and strum acoustic, improvised melodies often focused on his angst with the opposite sex.

He went into full geek mode during a recent employee luncheon in the Step Up offices, when he brought out a virtual-reality headset and helped a half-dozen of his co-workers explore the future of gaming.

He never fails to leave an impression.

“Keaton is a problem solver, always in good spirits and is well-versed in hardware,” says Rebeca Figueroa, a project manager at Step Up, who shares a cubicle wall with Keaton. “He’s always assisting me with my computer needs and has provided great guidance. He’s an old soul.

“Keaton is a lot more mature than I’ve seen a 21-year-old be. He’s grounded, knows what he wants, has a great profession and is very stable for his age. He writes music, listens with intent and never judges a situation. These qualities show not only a well-rounded individual, but one that has been around enough to have experience in life.”

He may also have a wandering spirit. The way he sees it, it’s only a matter of time before he leaves the sunny shores of Pinellas County for the bright lights of New York.

“New York is just so alive and energetic, and it’s very modern. It’s a massive city filled with everything,” he says. “It draws me to it because I am very energetic. I like how big it is and how it makes me feel so small. I can be anything there that I can put my mind to. There’s also not a palm tree in sight, which makes me happy.”

Until then, he remains a vital cog in the wheel of Step Up’s Clearwater operations. Some may find that remarkable, but it’s no surprise to his family.

“We are all just so proud of him,” Bryan Wall says. “He was never a trouble growing up, always had great friends. We are so proud to see what he’s a part of at such a young age.”

Former lawmaker joins Step Up For Students board

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on the redefinED blog on April 26, 2017.  The blog is hosted by Step Up For Students and is an education blog dedicated to recasting the way we perceive public education.

Sen. John Legg

A former state lawmaker who helped shape Florida education in policy for more than a decade will join the board of Step Up For Students, the nonprofit that helps administer two major school choice programs.

State Sen. John Legg served in the Florida House from 2004 to 2012. He was elected to the state Senate in 2012, and served as chairman of the Education Committee for four years before leaving the Legislature in 2016.

Before he supported the school choice movement as a legislator, Legg supported it as an educator. In 2000, he helped found Dayspring Academy, a high-performing Pasco County charter school where he serves as an administrator.

Step Up’s board unanimously elected Legg to the unpaid position this week. He will join another former state lawmaker, Democratic Congressman Al Lawson.

“John Legg is an innovative and successful educator, as well as a gifted legislator and a great person,” said Step Up President Doug Tuthill. “John is committed to serving disadvantaged youth, and will be a wonderful addition to our organization.”

“It’s humbling to be a part of such an amazing team that has made such a dramatic impact in the lives of young people and families,” Legg wrote in an email.

Step Up helps administer the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which helps more than 98,000 low-income and working class students afford private school tuition. It also helps administer the Gardiner Scholarships, which provide education savings accounts to more than 7,000 students with cetain special needs.

Travis Pillow can be reached at tpillow@sufs.org.

Step Up For Students to participate in #GivingTuesday on Dec. 1

By LISA A. DAVIS

Step Up For Students is excited to announce for the first time it will participate in #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that kicks off the charitable season on Dec. 1.

In its fourth year, #GivingTuesday was created by 92nd Street Y, a cultural center in New York City that has been bringing people together with the values of service and giving since 1874. #GivingTuesday has become a worldwide event with more than 30,000 partners in 68 countries, according to its website. Since its inception in 2012, #GivingTuesday is credited with increasing online donations by 470 percent on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. 

“We are thrilled to participate this year,” said Step Up For Students President Doug Tuthill. “Since we began this program more than a decade ago, we have awarded nearly half a million scholarships to both low-income students and children with unique needs. We are providing educational options to those who need it most and we know this program changes lives.”

Step Up For Students helps administer two scholarship opportunities to Florida schoolchildren: the income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship for K-12 children from low-income families and the state-funded Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA) for children ages 3 to 22 with certain special needs. Step Up gives these family choices of where and how their children are educated.

“Please donate to Step Up For Students,” Tuthill said. “We want to continue to not only provide students with scholarships, but add value to those scholarships by providing educators and students with extra support and so much more for children to be successful.”

To donate to Step Up For Students, please visit www.StepUpForStudents.org.

“Every penny counts,” said Tuthill. “And because of our top-notch ratings on Charity Navigator, you know that every penny will be used wisely. We greatly appreciate any support you give to this life-changing program.”

To follow the day of giving on social media, be sure to check events and post using the hashtag #GivingTuesday and #StepUpForStudents or share on Twitter with @StepUp4Students.

Introducing Step Up For Students new website

Step Up For Students is excited to present a new and improved website at the same Step Up address: www.StepUpForStudents.org. We’ve made the site more visual, simpler and friendlier to use in general, so you can quickly find the information you need.
Let’s take a quick tour.
This is what you will see when you visit the Step Up For Students website:
You’ll notice on the top, an easy-to-find parent login, and to the far right of it, you’ll find links to our social media channels — Facebook,  Twitter — and  this blog (if you haven’t liked or followed us already, please do).
Of course, we still have drop-down menus, but have organized them by audience and specific topics:  “About Us”, “For Parents”, “For Schools & Providers”, “For Donors”, “Our Stories”, “Newsroom” and “Contact Us.”
On the “For Parents” page, you can select from either scholarship option to learn more.
On the homepage, whether you’re a parent, a potential donor, or an educator, you can quickly find what you need with our bigger icons and larger headers:
To find news and information on each of our scholarship programs, it’s just as easy.
And no matter which page you land on, you will always see this to guide you toward other resources and help:
And of course, the site is in Spanish, too. With a simple click on the far right of the top of the homepage, you can switch from English to Spanish:
Please stop by our new site at www.StepUpForStudents.org and take a look around. And please let us know what you think at marketing@sufs.org.