More than 400 supporters of the Carrollwood Day School (CDS) in North Tampa attended the recent 007 Gala that raised more than $300,000 for the school. Carrollwood is among several highly regarded private schools in the Tampa Bay area, including Berkeley Preparatory in Tampa, Shorecrest Prep in St. Petersburg, Tampa Preparatory School in downtown Tampa, the all-boy Jesuit High School, and all-girl Academy of the Holy Names.
As a parent of a 9th grader I was asked to donate a bottle of wine worth at least $25 for the gala. At the event I was delighted to see how the bottles were adorned in black tie and no matter which bottle you chose, you knew you would receive at least a $25 dollar bottle of wine.
I was happy to pull two bottles, donate $50 to the cause, and receive both bottles of very nice Champagne.
Behind the Wine Pull and Restaurant Row of Gift Cards, there was a long table filled with baskets for the silent auction. The main event, a live auction, rallied attendees to bid with enthusiasm while others offered matching grants to raise the donation goal.
The Gala, which took place at the JCC Bryan Glazer facility, brought in more than $302,000 with almost $120,000 raised at the live auction to add turf to the elementary playground field. Parks Lincoln Tampa/Wesley Chapel and CDS family Terry and Carol Mullane have been Title Sponsors of the event for the past four years.
(Tracey Serebin, Peggy Haught & Lisa Walsh)
The Mullanes are among Carrollwood’s strong base of supporters who have been instrumental in advancing the school, including its top ranking in the Tampa Bay area. Which had me thinking about the contributors to this school, the advancement it has made over the years and how it ranks in the Tampa Bay area.
When my son and I were exploring high schools for him to attend, he applied to Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School, a highly rated college prep charter school that has a lottery for acceptance. We also explored Tampa Prep and Carrollwood as two schools that seemed to be a good fit for Zack. This all took place during the pandemic, so school tours were limited, and student shadowing was only available at CDS.
While Zack did get accepted to Brooks DeBartolo, by the time we were able to go on a school tour we realized that while it was strong in academics, sports offerings were limited and the campus was small since it is a fairly new school.
The biggest draw to CDS for me was the Entrepreneurship Program. While most schools are focusing on STEM and building out their science and technology offerings, CDS is focused on STEEM ~ Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Math, and this year opened a $14 million dollar Center for Innovation, to foster innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in students.
The 40,000-square-foot building spans two floors and a glass-enclosed bridge connects the center to the school. The center has a student union space with indoor dining, a new science wing, and design tech and visual arts classrooms. The learning bridge has a technology hub and student collaboration areas, as well as a collegiate level entrepreneurship center.
This entrepreneurship focus may be one of the reasons this year CDS drew its largest enrollment ever. Or it could be that the school received induction into the prestigious Cum Laude Society in December of 2019, with only 382 institutions in the U.S. receiving this distinction. Perhaps it is because CDS is an International Baccalaureate (IB) continuum school that, in 2005, became one of only six in the U.S. to provide IB instruction from pre-school through high school.
In addition to its entrepreneurship track, CDS also has a strong College Counseling department which was a big draw for me. Zack and I have been talking about his higher education plans for many years, and he has had a list of top colleges since middle school. At CDS, all students get assigned a College Counselor their freshman year who provides individual guidance in choosing and applying to colleges.
What also impressed me is that 100 percent of the Class of 2021 was admitted to a four-year university or college. Of those graduating seniors, 81 percent received either the Academic Scholars or Medallion Scholars award through Florida Bright Futures, and 44 percent of the class attended school out of state.
Carrollwood Day School has students thinking about college from freshman year, and announcements are made to the student body as seniors are accepted into schools or are recruited by colleges for their sports acumen.
In 2016, CDS built a new football stadium, locker room, a combined gymnasium with three volleyball courts and two full-size basketball courts. The stadium features a state-of-the art turf field and stadium lights for baseball and soccer. It's an athletic field to rival any in the country.
(2nd to L - Marshall McDuffie, CDS Football coach, Kirby Smart, Sara Rubinstein, Head of CDS, Tim Walsh, Upper School Principal)
Since the addition of these facilities, top colleges scout and recruit Carrollwood student-athletes to their campuses. In fact, University of Georgia Head Football Coach Kirby Smart, winner of the National Football Championship this year, landed his helicopter on the football field to scout new recruits.
Carrollwood Day School has been fortunate to have built an outstanding athletic facility and Center for Innovation because of the support from families and donors. The Wagner Family offered a million-dollar matching grant for the athletic field complex and is a benefactor of the Wagner Entrepreneurial Center. Todd Wagner is an American entrepreneur and CEO of Charity Network, as well as co-owner of 2929 Entertainment with Mark Cuban.
Todd and his wife Kari are involved in promoting CDS's mission of creating entrepreneurial thinkers for a global society. They launched an Entrepreneurship Business Investment Team club to help students connect with experts in various industries who know what it takes to be an entrepreneur in the 21st century.
It will be interesting to see how Carrollwood expands on its mission over the next three years as my son continues his high school education and gears up for college.