Tampa Prep’s Progress Club is raising funds for Florida Freedom to Read Project, an organization that works to fight book banning in the state of Florida and to support educators, parents and students in keeping access to information in schools.Sam G., ‘27 started Progress Club to give fellow students a safe space to talk about issues that were important to them and to support organizations and causes that affected them. “Last year I did a fundraiser for Equality Florida because I wanted to support an organization that was fighting Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law,” said Sam. “This year we chose the Florida Freedom to Read Project because they are fighting book banning, so I thought it was a good fit. Last year I raised over $600 and my parents’ foundation* doubled it so we were able to donate nearly $1300 to Equality Florida. The school has been really supportive so I’m very happy about that.”
We also spoke with Diana Rendina, Media Specialist and Faculty Advisor for the Progress Club about why this issue is important to students:
TP: Tell us about the Progress Club.
DR: It’s a new club that started at the beginning of this school year, with about 10 members, with the goal of providing a safe space for students to talk about LGBTQ+ issues. Everybody is welcome - you don’t have to identify as LBGTQ+ to attend, listen, talk or contribute.
TP: Why is a Club like this important?
DR: I think it’s important for the kids to have a place where they can be comfortable being themselves and not have to worry about other people judging them. A place where, if they’re confused about something like the “Don’t Say Gay” law, they can ask questions and not worry about how somebody might react to that. Part of the tenet at Tampa Prep is to “Be Yourself” and this Club helps to fortify inclusion at our school.
TP: How do you see this Club affecting the students?
DR: It's giving them a sense of community. The core group of kids were already friends but kids that they didn’t necessarily know well before, are feeling included, too. This club offers an opportunity to bring together students that might not know each other. It’s become a really nice community of kids in different grades with some different interests. We want all kids to know that they are not only accepted just the way they are, but that they are supported. Our big goal is to just make sure kids feel safe.
TP: What made the Progress Club decide to support the Florida Freedom to Read Project?
DR: The students researched and discussed a number of different national and local organizations and talked about what was important to them and then they voted. They decided that they wanted to support a local cause so that the money they raise will hopefully make more of an impact. One student talked about how it was upsetting that they weren’t allowed to read a particular book at their elementary school and that’s how FFRP came up. They also thought it was really important to support this organization because a number of the books being challenged in Florida focus on LGBTQ+ characters and themes. This is an issue that directly affects kids in schools and the students in Progress Club wanted to help.
Progress Club members are raising funds by selling baked goods and rainbow loom bracelets on campus, before and after school now through April 20, with 100% of the funds raised going to FFRP. Their fundraising goal is to beat last year’s total donation amount, which was $1300.
UPDATE: As of 5/10/23, Progress Club raised $835 and with outside match donations were able to donate a total of $3,535 to Florida Freedom to Read Project!
*The Gobioff Foundation encourages youth philanthropy, has a Youth Board and works to support human rights organizations and the Tampa, FL arts community through grants that strengthen the ability of human rights and arts organizations to enrich the Tampa community and improve the state of human rights worldwide.