Along with Barbara Marinelli (second from left), Student Advisory Board Members (from left) Nida Siddiqi, Candace Sharrow and Lisa Bardwell helped out at the Fall Festival
While teenagers have long been acceptable targets for pro baseball teams, and increasing numbers of young hoopsters are changing directly from their prom tuxedos into NBA shorts, the trend of high school-to-the-pros has mercifully not touched the National Football League yet.
In the Tampa Bay area, however, high school kids have been jumping right into the world of professional football for the last three years.
During the 1999 off-season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Community Relations Department formed their inaugural Student Advisory Board (SAB). While this team of about 40 motivated high schoolers may not show up on the roster, the SAB is an integral part of the Buccaneers' community outreach efforts.
The Buccaneers created this council, comprised of high school sophomores, juniors and seniors, in an effort to bring together intelligent, energetic and motivated students to perform community service projects, create Buccaneer spirit in their schools and develop leadership skills in preparation for continuing education.
This year's Student Advisory Board, which will complete its year-long term in May, is made up of 40 students representing 25 Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, and Polk county high schools.
In addition to their work in the community, SAB members have the opportunity to attend Buccaneers training camp practices, have dinner with the players and tour Raymond James Stadium. It's a combination of worthwhile service and unique opportunity that attracts many prospective students.
"After picking up an SAB application that was in my school newspaper, I just thought this looked like something right up my alley," said Blake High School representative Mika Bulmash. "So I applied."
To become a part of the Buccaneers Student Advisory Board, the students were required to submit applications and interview with several members of the Buccaneers' Community Relations staff before being selected.
The SAB meets on the first Tuesday of every month; the focus of the March meeting was a resume workshop with Buccaneers Director of Human Resources Gene Magrini.
"The meetings and games are like special occasions and I think everybody on the board looks forward to them," said Zachary Cooper, an SAB representative from H.B. Plant High School.
During the season, the students discuss community service programs and how to promote Buccaneer spirit in their high school, while the off-season meetings focus on helping the students prepare for life.
As with the meeting topics, the SAB meeting location changes from month to month.
This past season, the SAB meetings took place at Buccaneers Training Camp, the Press Box at Raymond James Stadium, the Buccaneers' Locker Room at One Buc Place, the East Club Level of Raymond James Stadium and the Pirate Ship at Raymond James Stadium. Future meetings are scheduled to take place in the Raymond James Stadium Media Room and on the Practice Field at One Buc Place.
SAB members are also provided with promotional items to distribute to their fellow students and Buccaneers fans. Among the items handed out by the SAB last year were Buccaneer key chains, Buccaneer notepads, Buccaneer luggage tags, Buccaneer team photos, Buccaneer window clings, NFL schedule cards and a poster featuring all of the Buccaneers who have earned their college degrees.
All SAB members are also required to work at Buccaneers home games and to attend the home games in which they are not working. At each game, half of the council members work as customer service representatives in the East and West Club Lounges of Raymond James Stadium during home games while the rest get the opportunity to relax and be fans for the day.
"Working and attending the games is a lot of fun," said Bulmash. "I wasn't a big football fan when I joined the Board, but now I love the Bucs and cheering for them during the games."
The Student Advisory Board isn't just about games and giveaways, however. Each SAB member must also complete a minimum of five community service projects per year; many choose to do more.
In the last year, SAB members have participated in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Women's Organization Fall Festival, a Halloween Party at the Children's Home that featured pumpkin carving and trick-or-treat bag decorating, the Thanksgiving Gift Basket distribution at Metropolitan Ministries, the Glazer Family Foundation's Halloween Celebration at Lowry Park Zoo and "Can Hunger" canned food drive, the Toys for Tots donation at Raymond James Stadium, the Gatorade Youth Football Clinic Event at Joshua House with Mike Alstott and Dave Moore, Susan B. Komen's Race for the Cure and a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rookie Club Event at the West Tampa Boys & Girls Club.
"Working at the Metropolitan Ministries Food Tent during the holidays was the best thing we've done," said Cooper.
While there are many advantages in joining the SAB, what the members seem to enjoy the most is meeting other Bay Area students that they may not have met otherwise.
"I like coming out to the meetings and being able to talk to and meet people that you don't see on an everyday basis," said Cooper. "It's a chance to meet new people and do new things. I would definitely recommend the SAB to other kids in my school."
Cooper's sentiments were echoed by Bulmash. "The best thing about the board is the chance to meet people from all over the Bay Area," he said. "It's also exciting to be involved with the Buccaneers."
Thus far, the high-school-to-the-pros experiment of the Bucs' Student Advisory Board has been a rousing success, and the future looks even brighter.
For more information on how you can become a Buccaneer Student Advisory Board Member, call 813-870-2700 ext. 274. Applications for the 2002-2003 Student Advisory Board are currently being accepted.
The 2001-2002 Student Advisory Board Members are Lisa Bardwell (Eastlake), Meghan Bowles (Tarpon Springs), Kevin Brown (Dunedin), Mika Bulmash (Blake), Brian Calhoun (Brandon), Michael Carty (Durant), Maria Cevallos (Wharton), April Coates (Wharton), Zachry Cooper (H.B. Plant), Jarod Dicks (Plant City), Johnny Dicks (Plant City), Aaron Garcia (Armwood), Shelley Griffin (Plant City), Ricky Harb (Berkeley Prep), Carlista Hawls (Thomas Jefferson), Christina Hernandez (H.B. Plant), Amanda Kern (Tarpon Springs), Jeffrey Livingston (Palm Harbor University), Brandi Mabe (Blake), Brittany Mills (Manatee), Tyrone Moses (Sickles), Ari Nikjeh (Palm Harbor University), Kari Pfeiffer (Palm Harbor University), Hailey Pike (Tampa Bay Technology), Ashley Potter (All Saint's Academy), Matthew Riebow (Armwood), Robert Sadler (Durant), Christopher Sampson (Hillsborough), Matthew Scott (Jesuit), Candace Sharrow (East Lake), Nida Siddiqi (Tampa Bay Technology), Christine Spiker (Bloomingdale), Robyn Stambaugh (Boca Ciega), Kayce Tillett (East Bay), Melissa Valdes (Sickles), Torran Wakefield (Leto), Christy Walker (Durant) and Mackenzie Wilkinson (Riverview).