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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, May 9, 2019 11 months ago

Leadership Winter Park class donates laptops to local nursery and kindergarten

Class XXIX acquired 20 laptops for the Welbourne Avenue Nursery & Kindergarten last month.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

Leadership Winter Park Class XXIX is on the verge of graduation — but not without finishing one last project to benefit the next generation.

Class XXIX recently made a difference at the Welbourne Avenue Nursery & Kindergarten as it donated 20 laptops and a charging cart for students to use for lessons and taking tests.

The idea for the project came from Welbourne Avenue Nursery Executive Director Robynn Demar, after she noticed kindergartners weren’t doing as well as they could be on assessments for school readiness.

The Gardens at DePugh Executive Director Kristine Miller, one of the participants in Class XXIX, was familiar with the need for more technology at Welbourne Avenue Nursery & Kindergarten; she serves on the nursery’s board of directors.

The kindergartners’ performance in assessments a couple years back was eye-opening, Miller said.

“The board saw it as a place that we could improve,” Miller said. “One of the barriers that we discovered was that they don’t have computers at home that they can use, and they didn’t have computers at Welbourne to use — and a lot of preschools and kindergartens are starting to introduce intentional computer technology into the classrooms to teach students how to learn using technology. ... Robynn put together a proposal for the Leadership Winter Park class as one of their projects for the year.”

Manny Acosta, of Class XXIX, got things started as he reached out to some contacts at Microsoft, which had some representatives tour the nursery and learn about the needs for the school.

Microsoft presented Class XXIX with a project for the 20 laptops and charging cart, which would cost about $5,000.

The class reached out to local contacts for financial donations and also sought item donations for a silent auction at the Leadership Winter Park graduation ceremony that took place Thursday, May 9.

Class XXIX was able to raise the entire cost for the technology through sponsorships by April 18 — within the span of about a month after the project started.

Class XXIX member Dawn Braddy, who works for the Orange County Clerk of Courts, said it was an incredibly rewarding project.

“I was there when we actually delivered (the laptops) and saw the excitement on these little ones’ faces,” Braddy said. “That was pretty amazing. We all say that one of the best experiences about this whole process is the camaraderie and the collaboration and the groups of people that would have never interacted in each other’s life. Seeing everybody and the excitement for us to be able to do something together for others in need has been truly just a blessing and amazing.”

The project to bring laptops to the Welbourne Avenue Nursery & Kindergarten was just one of several projects for Class XXIX. The class also partnered with the Center for Independent Living to build a ramp for a family that was no longer able to use the stairs to access their home. Another outing saw the class sort oranges at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

“Through this class, we’ve learned a lot about Winter Park and about getting connected to the community,” Miller said. “It’s not just learning how to be a leader in the community, it’s about getting connected to the community.”

Professional photographer Sheri Mazariegos, of Class XXIX, said Leadership Winter Park has opened everyones’s eyes to the community’s many needs.

“The group really did come together to really want to make a change,” she said. “There’s so much more need in our community than we even realize. I think that was one of the biggest takeaways from Leadership Winter Park. There are so many ways that we can give back right in our backyard, right in our community.”

Tim Freed is the Managing Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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