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-2

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

 

Geoff Foxgeoff-for-blog

A writer, guitar player and native Ohioan, who must no longer endure jokes about major sports teams in Cleveland (Thanks, LeBron), Geoff comes to Step Up For Students after spending much of his adult life in the newspaper business. He has lived in Florida since 2002 and most recently worked for The Tampa Tribune.

His journalism career began as a freelance writer covering boxing around Atlanta and the Southeast. Following the birth of his first son, he and his darling bride spent three years in Lumberton, North Carolina, where he worked at The Robesonian daily newspaper. In North Carolina, their second son was born.

When he isn’t working, Geoff enjoys playing and listening to music, exercising, reading, writing, spending time with his kids, watching boxing and MMA on TV — and staying on his wife’s good side.

As a journalist, he has covered world championship boxing matches and prep sports, cops and courts, education and government, music and politics, environmental issues and a slew of quirky Tampa Bay area events, from The Rattlesnake Festival in San Antonio to the Cuban Sandwich Festival in Ybor City.

Geoff joined Step Up For Students as Public Relations & Strategic Communications Manager in June 2016. He is eager to tell positive stories about lives changed by the organization’s invaluable work.

You can reach him at gfox@stepupforstudents.org.

 

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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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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.

Jeff BarlisJeff-Barlis-11.2015-for-web

Following his journey around the U.S., Jeff has disproven Thomas Wolfe’s adage “You can’t go home again.” Jeff was born and raised in Dunedin, Fla., in the early 1970s when Pinellas County was mostly undeveloped woods, orange groves, and pristine beaches.

After splitting his primary education years between private and public schools, Jeff attended University of Central Florida and University of Florida, where he graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in creative writing. His journalism career then took him throughout Florida to Durango (Colo.), York (Pa.), New York City, Los Angeles and back to Tampa Bay again. Jeff is proud to have worked for both of his hometown newspapers, the Tampa Tribune and the St. Pete Times, as well as Newschannel 8.

An passionate Tampa Bay sports fan, Jeff has attended Super Bowls, World Series, and Stanley Cup Finals (some even victorious!). He grew up dreaming of being a tennis player. When that fantasy ended, he carved out a career in sports journalism that lasted 25 years.

Jeff joined Step Up in December 2014 as the Instructional Technology Specialist in the Office of Student Learning. He is now the Communication Manager in the Policy and Public Affairs department, where he focuses on finding and sharing some of the most compelling success stories in Step Up For Students’ schools.

Reach Jeff at jbarlis@sufs.org.

 

In Memory of Sherri Ackerman 

sherri

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 about 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 enjoyed 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 worked with media across the country, promoting scholarship programs and Step Up’s public service announcements. She also wrote stories about the families Step Up serves to help make more parents aware of their educational options.

She is deeply missed.