What are you most proud of? Have a loving partner? Did you persevere through pain?  Maybe thinking of your child makes you crack a grin. Or perhaps you’re taking a deep breath thinking of how you’re managing that stressful job.  Where does your association with Tampa Prep rank?  

Claiming Tampa Prep isn’t exactly top of mind for many alumni I know. But you start to notice things in the years since graduation. You realize all the strong women or men around you at an alumni event honoring a cherished staff member or legendary coach. You’re genuinely happy hearing about an old classmate’s success. You also believe that you can still count on the support of people at Prep no matter how old you get or how low you fall.

When people at work wonder why I know so many random things (like the countries and capitals of the world, the English three-tiered agricultural system, or footnote 4), it’s because my teachers cultivated my curiosity.  Part of my job involves writing and helping people craft stories. I can’t tell you how many times I internally chuckle when saying the same phrases my English teachers hammered into my brain. Think of similar moments in your life that echo back to an experience you had as a teenager (or parent) at Tampa Prep. I’m sure you’re smiling, too.

The older I get, the more I realize Tampa Prep was my safe space. I learned to fail. It was bruising at times – dealing with the consequences of procrastination, being on the unfortunate end of an unrequited crush, or notShannon Encina at Class of 1999 Graduation following through with responsibilities. But here’s what makes Tampa Prep special. The teachers, administrators, and coaches let you falter. That time in your life is messy. You’re trying to figure out who you are. But those adults then help you dust off and motivate you to grow from failure. I know now Tampa Prep strengthened my sense of self. That insight comes years after I moved the tassel on my graduation cap.

That’s when the moment hits. It feels good to be proud of being part of the Tampa Prep community. The school pushed us to live with a higher purpose than ourselves. Own that you are meeting this lofty mission. The adults in our time at Prep made a difference in our lives. We continue to have those opportunities to impact the current and next generations of proud Terrapins. Consider what gifts you can share during this season of giving. Maybe the gift is your time. Many students could use your advice, gain insight from your life path, or get a step ahead just by making a connection with you. Think back to when you were a teen. What if you had that type of access? Don’t wait for a request. Reach out to Tampa Prep. Make yourself available to help. These kids need your involvement. 

Shannon Encina '99Maybe you’re at a point in life when you no longer fear a bank account overdraft, paying for a pizza in change, or hoping your paycheck clears before the rent or mortgage payment.  I used to do a double-take when reading the donation amounts from Tampa Prep parents. I was the kid who drove a Saturn and had a longstanding I.O.U. tab with Steve Garrett for lunch. Donating $25 dollars to Prep was about as much as I could afford for several years. The amount isn’t the point. I want to help the school and the people who meant so much to me. I want the students there to have more resources than I had. Most importantly, I want those students to have as many supportive adults at Prep as they navigate this critical time in their lives. I had many in my corner. I have faith you did, too. Consider the financial gift you can give. Be proud of your Tampa Prep legacy and help the pride take root in each successive Terrapin generation.