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Meet The Team

Hello Step Up family and supporters,

We’re pleased to meet you or get reacquainted with you! We will be providing content to you on our new blog, “Stepping Beyond the Scholarship.”  With a team of our talented writers we are thrilled to be part of this new journey, and where it might take us. This is Step Up For Students’ story, which means it’s YOUR story. Whether you have a question, a comment or a story idea, we’d love to hear from you. Our emails are below. Working together we can make this a great community in the blogosphere. Thanks for coming along in this new adventure. #WeAreStepUp4Students

Alissa Randall 

Alissa Randall

Alissa

Alissa is a Jersey girl who loves living in Florida and enjoys exploring, antiquing and finding that rare gem.

Alissa leads two departments at Step Up For Students, Marketing and Advancement.

Marketing is responsible for promotion, community outreach, content development, branding and donor events. Additionally, the department creates marketing programs and recruits scholarship applicants. Advancement is responsible for raising unrestricted funds to help families get the most from their scholarships.

Prior to joining Step Up, Alissa spent 10 years in key account strategy and development, most recently as a director at Cox Target Media, a division of Cox Enterprises, Inc. She also served as a senior account manager at ORB Interactive, an interactive advertising agency offering proprietary media tools exclusively to major corporations for online marketing. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Roger Williams University, a master’s in media from The New School for Social Research and a master’s in computer animation from William Paterson University.

Fun fact: Many years ago, Alissa worked at Digital Domain as a coordinator on the movie, “The Fifth Element.’’

Reach her at arandall@sufs.org

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Sherri and Annabelle

Sherri Ackerman 

A former newspaper reporter, Sherri covered social services and education, among other news beats, most recently as a staff writer for The Tampa Tribune. She also happily worked on stories on travel and eating, two other favorite topics.

Growing up, school choice for Sherri and her sister meant moving frequently with their mother and grandmother. Sherri attended nine public schools in three states before graduating from Brandon High in Florida. College followed, paid for with a small grant and loan, and jobs as an oyster shucker, bank teller, bartender and waiter before — finally! — landing a writing job at a community newspaper. Sherri has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications/news editing from the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The mother of two children who attend a charter elementary school, Sherri enjoys family road trips with husband Steve traveling to the annual cousin reunion in her home state of Indiana, camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and searching for vintage junk and the best she-crab chowder along the East Coast.

As a public relations manager at Step Up For Students, she works with media across the country, promoting scholarship programs and Step Up’s public service announcements. She also writes stories about the families Step Up serves to help make more parents aware of their educational options.

Have a great story for Sherri? Reach her at sackerman@sufs.org. Follow her on Twitter: @SherriAckerman1

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Lisa and Olivia

Lisa A. Davis

Lisa is a longtime storyteller whose first-grade public school teacher in Massachusetts kick-started her love of writing by encouraging students to choose a sticker for the top of their lined paper and crafting a story about the picture. Lisa couldn’t get enough stickers. Her love affair with writing led her to a career in news reporting that spanned two decades and two states, with her cutting her journalistic teeth at The Boston Globe while a student at Northeastern University.

When Lisa could no longer afford college in Boston, she moved to the Tampa Bay area where college was more affordable, earning her bachelor’s degree in creative writing at the University of South Florida in Tampa. After spending more than a decade at The Tampa Tribune, she joined Step Up For Students in 2012, and traded in writing about the mostly bad in society to writing stories about what’s good, and has loved telling Step Up For Students’ stories ever since.

During her downtime, she and her husband are often involved in some sort of do-it-yourself project, and spending time with their daughter. Lisa loves her family and friends, the Red Sox, U2, making old things pretty again, antiquing, thrifting and traveling so her daughter can experience amazing things like fireflies in the mountains of North Carolina and singing “Sweet Caroline” at Fenway Park in Boston. Lisa adores all thing vintage, and she and her family of three are renovating a 1972 Shasta trailer, their future cottage on wheels. She, her hubby and their daughter live in 1920’s bungalow in Tampa, and their only child attends a Hillsborough County charter school. Lisa is also pretty handy with a glue gun.

As Step Up’s Public Relations and Social Media Manager, she oversees the company social media, the Step Up For Students blog, annual report, newsletter and produced the company’s first PSA. She also assists with media, securing and working with event speakers, and otherwise spreading the word about Step Up’s scholarship programs.

She enjoys hearing a good story. Reach her at ldavis@sufs.org.

 

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Nia

Estefania “Nia” Nunez-Brady 

Estefania (her friends call her Nia) is a world traveler, a baseball lover and a political junkie. When she’s not working, she is canoeing on Tampa Bay with her husband, playing with her dog, Boogers or enjoying a sporting event.

Estefania  was raised in Colombia with her two parents and brother. Thanks to an approved political asylum, she and her family moved to the United States in 1999.  She made Miami her home for 15 years, where she went to many public schools, graduated from Miami-Dade College and Florida International University with double major in Political Science and English. Later, she completed her Master’s Degree in Conflict Analysis & Resolution from NOVA Southeastern University.

She moved to the Tampa Bay area at the end of 2014, married her lifelong best friend and strives to make her mixed-breed rescued dog’s life the best she can.

Before joining Step Up For Students, Estefania worked for the Board of County Commissioners in Miami-Dade as a communications and media specialist and as a marketing director for the Ultimate Titan.

As a Digital Marketing Specialist, Estefania works to promote Step Up For Students through newsletters, earned media, public service announcements and more. She is also responsible for updating the website, sharing student and school stories and much more.

You can reach Estefania at nbrady@stepupforstudents.org.

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Paul

Paul Soost 

“Following his dream” is what brought Paul to the sunny state of Florida. Born and raised in the Midwest – Minnesota and Illinois to be exact – cruise ships were not a common sight except for on television. But at an early age, Paul decided he wanted to work on a cruise ship.

College courses at Illinois State University (Go Redbirds!) were chosen with this in mind, leading Paul to bachelor’s degrees in Public Relations and Recreation & Park Administration. An internship, followed by a full-time job with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, helped pave the path to Florida. But he was still 60 miles from the nearest port.

Paul was elated when Disney announced they were launching two cruise ships, thus allowing Paul to realize a dream as he became part of the marketing team for Disney Cruise Line! Adventures onboard and to Caribbean islands and other exotic destinations were finally a reality.

After stepping back on land, Paul has worked with Children’s Home Society of Florida and Massey Services, a pest control service.

In his free time, Paul enjoys playing softball and singing in the church choir, but not at the same time! He loves to travel and plans to fill up the pages of his second Passport. He volunteers for IDignity and the Adult Literacy League. Paul’s ideal afternoon? Taking in a baseball game at a MLB stadium.

Paul joined Step Up For Students in May 2015 as Marketing Manager, where he’s excited to be developing marketing programs and donor events. He’s thrilled by the opportunity to work for a tremendous organization that helps Florida students “follow their dreams.”

Reach Paul at psoost@sufs.org.

 

Welcome

Welcome to the Step Up For Students blog, “Stepping Beyond the Scholarship.” We’re excited to have you join us as we debut a new forum for our parents, teachers, students and advocates to connect with one another and share their personal experiences with the (income-based) Florida Tax Credit Scholarship and the Gardiner Scholarship for children with certain special needs.

We hope to be informative, sharing news about Step Up For Students, our scholarship application periods, participating schools and services, among other topics. We also aim to intrigue you with profiles about our scholarship recipients and their families, our partner schools, our program donors and partners.

In addition, we’d like to help answer your questions and provide a network of support for you as you navigate your child’s educational path. Which private schools accept the scholarships in your community? What combinations of therapies have helped your child with special needs? Is there a homeschool curriculum that really brings results? In the months ahead, we will feature guest bloggers, including parents and educators. We’ll also publish various series, such as a behind- the-scenes look at all things Step Up. We invite you, our readers, to become active participants.

We look forward to growing our blog, and taking this adventure with you. Thank you for reading.

Your friends at Step Up.