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Pinellas Education Foundation Honors Business Partners of the Year at ChangeMakers Breakfast

Pinellas Education Foundation Honors Business Partners of the Year at ChangeMakers Breakfast

December 8, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.– The Pinellas Education Foundation hosted its 4th ChangeMakers Breakfast, naming three new Business Partners of the Year as part of an annual tribute to its business and community supporters. The event, presented by Duke Energy and DITEK, recognizes local companies and organizations whose support of public education in Pinellas County has made an impact.

“Each year, we give our schools the opportunity to think about the businesses that lend much-needed support and nominate their business partner of the year,” said Charley Harris, Pinellas Education Foundation Chair. “From these nominations, we select one Elementary and one Secondary Business Partner of the Year and one District Partner of the Year. The support our schools receive from local businesses is integral to their success. The real winners, of course, are our students.”

Harris joined Dr. Stacy Baier, Foundation CEO, and Dr. Michael Grego, Pinellas County Schools Superintendent, in announcing this year’s winners:

LKQ Pick Your Part was named Elementary Business Partner of the Year for its creation of a program that motivates third graders to read and improve their reading levels. LKQ has donated more than $3,000 to provide incentives for 470 third-grade students at Southern Oak Elementary and Walsingham Elementary. Additionally, students are invited to participate in LKQ field trips to witness car crushing, K-9 dogs in training, and firefighters using the jaws of life.

Pinellas County Utilities was named Secondary Business Partner of the Year for its South Bayou Education Program. Nominated by Seminole High School, the South Cross Bayou Education Program has impacted over 30,000 PCS students and 110 teachers since its inception in 2016. The program includes tours of the South Cross Bayou Advanced Water Reclamation Facility, classroom teach-ins, curriculum development and participation in community events.

The Ryan Wells Foundation was named District Business Partner of the Year. The Ryan Wells Foundation was created by Mike and Carrie Wells and their daughter Ashley, who is the current Executive Director, following the untimely passing of their son and brother, Ryan. It was their desire to honor his memory by contributing to the cause that was his passion and career aspiration: the culinary arts. Since the creation of the Ryan Wells Foundation, they have contributed through the Pinellas Education Foundation more than $1.3 million to culinary arts programs and students throughout Pinellas

County. Through their annual Evening with the Chefs event and Ryan Wells Golf Tournament, they have raised funds to support programs at Hollins High, Northeast High, Lealman Innovation Academy, Osceola Fundamental High, Tarpon Springs High and Pinellas Technical College. They also fund the annual culinary competition to award scholarships as part of the Pinellas Education Foundation’s Walker’s Rising Stars Scholarship Program.

“Everything we do is guided by a belief in equity for all—that everyone deserves a high-quality education—and a vision that every student will be prepared for life after high school,” said Baier. “At the same time, we are committed to a mission to accelerate educational achievement by mobilizing innovation, relationships and resources. Our valued community and business partners are a vital component in that equation.”

The ChangeMakers Breakfast is held annually with corporate and community support. This year’s sponsors included Presenting Sponsors DITEK and Duke Energy, with additional support provided by Kane’s Furniture, Clearwater Gas System, Creative Contractors, Inc., JE Dunn Construction, Long & Associates Architects, Rowe Architects, CareerSource Pinellas, Jack and Mary Critchfield, Level 6, National Aviation Academy, Nielsen, Publix Supermarkets Charities, Ryan Wells Foundation, Ellen Stavros, Sher Investments Inc., Tampa International Airport, and Trenam Law. For more information about Foundation partnerships, contact Julie Perrelli, Vice President of Advancement, Julie.perrelli@pinellaseducation.org.