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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Educational MVPs

The Buccaneers and Verizon Wireless teamed up to present the annual Making Visions Possible awards to area educators Friday, with LB Derrick Brooks gladly doing the honors


LB Derrick Brooks was a 2002 Educational Visionary award winner and a 2003 Making Visions Possible awards presenter

In 2002, Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB Derrick Brooks was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, an award many refer to as 'Defensive MVP'. This Friday, Brooks was involved with a different kind of MVP Award, though this time as a presenter. Brooks was the guest speaker and an eager awards presenter at the Buccaneers and Verizon Wireless Making Visions Possible Awards Banquet at Raymond James Stadium.

The MVP program, a product of the partnership between the Buccaneers and Verizon Wireless, is an effort to reward creative educators within the school system and stimulate further program development. The program does this by providing monetary support that helps the initiatives grow. This year, the Buccaneers donated a total of $8,500 to the three overall winners, while Verizon Wireless provided a free cell phone with usage for one year, a cell phone headset, a Verizon Wireless t-shirt, a John Lynch bobblehead doll and a travel bag with the slogan "Nothing happens unless first you dream" to each of the 23 finalists.

Brooks, who earned the Educational Visionary Award from the Hillsborough Education Foundation for his work with his "Brooks' Bunch" in April 2002, was a perfect choice to present this year's awards. It was fitting that the NFL's Defensive MVP honored the community's own educational MVPs because Brooks has firsthand knowledge of what it takes to develop and implement highly creative and innovative programs with today's youth.

"I'm honored and I consider it a privilege any time I can be involved in an event that furthers the education of our children," said Brooks to begin the event. "I try to be a positive force in education through my "Brooks' Bunch" program and I applaud all of you and your efforts in making an impact on the lives of our children."

Brooks discussed his own commitment to education, the Brooks' Bunch program he developed and a little about his own background as a youth in Pensacola. (Without getting into specifics, Brooks was a bit of a class clown and his fifth-grade year was literally a pain in the butt.)

Brooks took time out in his speech to acknowledge the efforts of the community's teachers, admitting that their hard work doesn't get nearly as much attention as his own on the football field. There may not be networks fighting over the rights to the National Math Championships, but that doesn't diminish the importance of the teachers' work.

"It may not seem like you always receive all of the recognition that you deserve, but believe me I know what you go through," said Brooks. "There are a lot of people in our organization behind the scenes that don't always get recognized, but they don't give up. To see the success of these programs is amazing and whenever you can invest in a child it is always worth it."

Chuck Hamby, the Vice President of Verizon Wireless, Dr. Earl Lennard, the Superintendent of Hillsborough County Schools, and Joe Perez, the Principal of Durant High School and the winner of last year's first-place award, followed Brooks at the podium and discussed the importance of the MVP program and what its creation has meant to the community.

"We wanted to accomplish something that would touch the lives of our youngsters," said Dr. Lennard. "We wanted to create a program that would make their visions possible and that's what this is about…MVP."

After a break for lunch, the three winners were announced.

The second runner-up prize went to Mary Joe Spack of Chamberlain High School. Spack received $1,000 to go towards the funding of her program, which is designed to encourage reading for pleasure and has been proven to increase students' reading level and their performance on standardized tests.

The first runner-up prize was presented to Christine Farrell of Leto High School. Farrell earned $2,500 for her school to continue a program that is designed to develop leadership skills by having high school students tutor eighth graders, as well as prepare the younger students for the trials and tribulations they may face upon entering high school.

Felicia Yanger of Blake High School was named the first prize winner for her program, which provides students with extensive legal mentoring opportunities that are "above and beyond" those offered at any Hillsborough County school. The program pairs students one-on-one with public defenders and state attorneys for a full day each in actual courtroom settings and investigations, involves direct face-to-face dialogue and live courtroom experience with local judges, prepares students for mock trial competition and culminates with the final round of mock trial.

Yanger, who is in her first year of teaching after 15 years as a Hillsborough County prosecutor and private practice attorney, was thrilled about winning the $5,000 first prize.

"I'm very surprised and I'm certainly excited because now I have the money I need to do all of the things that I want to do," said Yanger. "The money will help us continue and expand upon the program. There were no funds available at the school for the program, so this will actually help a great deal."

Yanger's principal, Lewis Brinson, was also delighted that his school was the first-place winner and couldn't have been happier for his new teacher.

"When you have teachers who are willing to go the extra mile and do things that they don't do normally in the classroom, it makes your job easier," said Brinson. "It brings something extra special to our school and our students, and I just love it."

The 23 Finalists for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Making Visions Possible Award presented by Verizon Wireless were:

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