Keynote Speaker, Erin Gruwell, Highlights One of Tampa’s Top Events
Take a moment and imagine: Every child sees high school graduation as a certainty, not just a possibility. Every parent has all the resources they need to help their child excel. Every dream – even yours – has the opportunity to take flight. Now imagine that place is this place – our community. United Way Suncoast believes it can be a reality. “Imagine” is the theme for the 12th annual Art of Giving, United Way Suncoast’s signature fundraising event. The event annually raises six-figures for United Way Suncoast’s Youth Education Initiatives, which help keep children in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties on the path to graduation and career readiness.
“Art of Giving is not just an event – it’s an experience,” said Suzanne McCormick, United Way Suncoast’s President and CEO. “Once a year, we invite hundreds of Suncoast community and business leaders to pool their resources together to fundraise in a fun way. The result is more kids reading, with more access to books, and put on the path towards graduation and success.” While Art of Giving always features delectable delicacies and drinks, live and silent auctions, performance art and meeting-and-mingling with more than 500 of the Suncoast’s philanthropic leaders, the highlight is always each year’s keynote speaker. This year, education advocate, catalyst for social change, and New York Times bestselling author, Erin Gruwell, will speak of her inspiring time as an inner-city educator that transformed the lives of her students; a pay-it-forward journey that now sees her students inspiring the lives of thousands across the globe.
“If you’ve never heard Erin’s story, you need to,” added McCormick. “It’s both poignant and timeless. Where many others saw problems, Erin saw potential. The journey she led her students on is one that parallels United Way Suncoast’s youth education programming, in that both seek successful destinations that set students up for success.” The 12th annual Art of Giving is presented by Bank of America, and is also supported by platinum sponsor, Publix Super Markets Charities, and media partners, WEDU and WUSF Public Media. Art of Giving benefits United Way Suncoast’s Youth Education Initiatives, which provide children with in- and out-of-school supports so they can overcome barriers and stay on track to graduate. Please click here to learn more about Art of Giving.
About Erin Gruwell (Keynote Speaker)
Erin Gruwell’s steadfast commitment to the future of education has won her many raves and awards. “The Freedom Writers Diary,” the New York Times bestseller that chronicled Erin’s extraordinary journey as a inner-city teacher with her 150 high school students (who dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” in homage to Civil Rights activists, the Freedom Riders) was turned into a film, “Freedom Writers,” starring two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank as Erin, and chronicled in the documentary, “Freedom Writers: Stories from an Undeclared War.” By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider their own daily decisions, and ultimately, re-chart their future. With Gruwell’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence in order to become aspiring college students, published writers, and citizens for change. Gruwell decided to channel her classroom experiences toward a broader cause, and founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches teachers around the country how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own. Erin and her students have appeared on numerous television shows, including “Good Morning America,” “Oprah,” and “The View,” and the Spirit of Anne Frank Award is just one of dozens of awards their inspirational story has garnered.
About United Way Suncoast
United Way Suncoast staff, volunteers and trusted community partners connect people, create change, and impact lives in DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota counties by developing, enhancing and implementing services and programs to help create a stronger, more vibrant community. United Way Suncoast is changing the community’s story by helping to break the cycle of generational poverty through educational programs that give children the skills to succeed and help adults achieve long-term financial stability, as well as provide support services to those who need it most.