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The Out-of-Door Academy Grooms Future Leaders With Their Commitment to Community

Whether it’s 76 donated Thanksgiving meals or 650 inches of hair, these kids are spreading hope and making an impact throughout Sarasota.

Presented by Out of Door Academy December 17, 2018

The core value of service is entwined with The Out-of-Door Academy’s academic curriculum. Instilling how to be involved, empathetic people who use their education to better their communities at large is as important as algebra and history lessons. Students are inspired to take action in meaningful and compassionate ways through established, student-driven initiatives. The school partners with more than 40 organizations, including Girls, Inc., the American Cancer Society, Easter Seals of Southwest Florida, and Manasota B.U.D.S. School faculty is always in awe of how the students not only embrace service projects, but continue to nurture them and make them even more successful than expected. Here are a few highlights from the school’s efforts this year: 

Gocio Elementary School Partnership
Each year ODA students, parents, and faculty provide Thanksgiving meals for Gocio Elementary families. Delivering this holiday meal to families in need at Gocio has become an important tradition for every Out-of-Door student, as it has been an annual service project for more than 10 years. This year, the school donated 76 full Thanksgiving meals to families who otherwise would not be able to enjoy the holiday dinner. Each family’s basket contained all the fixings, along with a recipe book in English and Spanish compiled by ODA middle school students. 

Inspired by participation in a leadership group that meets weekly to learn about becoming community leaders and role models, second grader Maxine Gould extended ODA’s partnership with Gocio Elementary. She organized a project for ODA families to sponsor Gocio families in need, inspiring more than 50 families to volunteer and provide holiday gifts for these families.

ODA Junior Earns Youth Excellence Award for Beach Clean Up Initiative
ODA junior Luke Lozano noticed a challenge the county was facing after spending time at Siesta Key beaches. After seeing the cigarette litter, he spoke with the head of Siesta Key Maintenance to see how he could help. While Keep Sarasota Beautiful has a plan to reduce cigarette litter, the ownership and upkeep of the project wasn’t proving successful, so Luke took matters into his own hands.

After surveying the existing receptacles and ensuring that their rusted/non-functional locks were replaced, Luke developed a route, timetable, and data collection tools. Since 2017, Luke has made weekly visits to measure, track, and empty the roughly 50 receptacles that line both Siesta Beach and Turtle Beach. Over this time period, the cigarette waste on these beaches has been reduced by 70 percent.

Taking the project a step further, Luke discovered Terracycle, a company that upcycles cigarette waste into utilitarian items such as palettes and park benches. Instead of simply discarding the cigarette waste, Luke now sends the collected materials to be repurposed into something functional. His efforts were honored by Keep Sarasota County Beautiful as he received the Youth Excellence Award at their volunteer recognition event. The young environmentalist says, “I am really proud of this award, but even more proud of the difference I have been able to make in our community.” 

Second Graders Bring Joy to Bay Village Residents
Second grade students visited Bay Village of Sarasota to share songs and unique versions of familiar stories with the residents. The visit was the culminating celebration for their writers workshop unit called Fractured Fairy Tales. Students kept the integrity of a classic fairy tale but added their own creative twist by changing some of the details. While students were excited to celebrate their hard work, the most meaningful part of this field trip was bringing joy to others. “It was wonderful! I saw residents responding that I haven’t seen much out of in quite a while. It really is a great thing when we can get the different generations together,” says Diana Caughron, a Bay Village representative. It was evident from both second graders and residents that their time together was mutually beneficial. 

Students Donate Hair for Children
While many students volunteer their time, and some fundraise, another way ODA students choose to give back is to donate their hair! Spearheaded by Lexi and Ashley DeBartolo, for four years ODA students have worked with Children with Hair Loss, a non-profit that provides wigs at no cost to children who have experienced hair loss due to a medical condition. At the 2018 event, twelve students and four teachers donated a total of 144 inches of hair. Over four years, ODA has donated 650 inches of hair to this special organization. What a wonderful way to exemplify the core value of service through a simple act with a big impact.