OMYF Community Spotlight: Elevate Orlando

By John Denton
June 16, 2011


ORLANDO – One hundred percent is 100 percent, and that’s a success rate that Elevate Orlando proudly boasts when it comes to their program affecting the lives of teenage children in the Central Florida area.

Just this past year, all 50 of the Evans High School students who participated in the Elevate Orlando program – one that goes into five Orlando-area public schools and teaches life skills, character building and leadership – graduated high school. And again, 100 percent of those students will be either attending college or heading off to the military following high school. That 100 percent success rate certainly makes Elevate Orlando President Jack McGill smile knowing that his organization is making a difference in young lives.

``With our staff – this is maybe more than half of their jobs – they are mentoring and being involved in the lives of the young men and women. The greatest asset for most of these youths is a solid adult relationship in their lives and that’s what we’re trying to provide,’’ McGill said. ``All of our staff really connect with the kids. All four of them have grown up in the inner city themselves and have a passion for kids. They want to see the trajectory and the cycle change for these kids’ lives.’’

Elevate Orlando’s staff is about to expand thanks to a $45,000 grant provided by the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a McCormick Foundation Fund (OMYF-MFF), back in the fall. The program is currently teaching 25 character education/life skills classes in five different schools in the Orange County Public School System. The grant money given by the OMYF will help the program grow to at least three more classes and another 125 youth reached. That should take the program to approximately 475 students from the fourth through 12th grades.

Elevate Orlando was one of 19 Central Florida organizations presented grants by the OMYF-MFF as a part of the Magic’s community outreach initiative. Over the last 21 years, the OMYF has distributed more than $16 million to local non-profit community organizations. The Orlando Magic Youth Foundation raises community dollars annually through donations, auctions and events such as the Black Tie and Tennies Gala and the OMYF Golf Tournament. Fundraising efforts then go to the Fund, and are matched at $0.50 on the dollar by the McCormick Foundation. In 2011, in addition to presenting checks totaling $1 million to 19 non-profit organizations, the OMYF-MFF also awarded scholarships totaling $30,000.

“Education is the key for the future of our youth and this country,” said Orlando Magic President Alex Martins. “It is through programs like Elevate Orlando that make these students realize their dreams of graduating and moving on to the next phase of their life with the invaluable skills this program teaches.”

The 2011 grant recipients from OMYF: Adult Literacy League, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Boys’ Town of Central Florida, Coalition for the Homeless, Conductive Education Center of Orlando, Crealde School of Art, Education Foundation-Osceola County, Elevate Orlando, Foundation for Orange County Public Schools, Foundation for Seminole County Public Schools, Hebni Nutrition Consultants, Hope Foundation for the Homeless, Jewish Family Services of Greater Orlando, Orlando Ballet, Florida Hospital for Children, Harbor House of Central Florida, Hope Community Center, Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families and the Valencia Community College Foundation.

McGill said that the grant money will allow his organization to hire an additional staffer/mentor who will teach character education, life-skill development in Evans High School and in Pine Hills. That will allow the program to reach an additional 125 students in the schools and more importantly provide tutoring and mentoring after school and in the evenings.

Elevate Orlando teaches three classes a day at Evans High School, four classes at Meadowbrook and Robinswood Middle School and six classes daily at Pine Wood and Hiawassee Middle Schools. Elevate Orlando’s mission is a simple, yet powerful one.

``We want to empower urban youth to graduate with a plan for the future,’’ McGill said.

McGill has worked in the Orlando business community for years and is quite familiar with the Magic’s willingness to reinvest back into the community. He said the intentions of Magic owner Rich DeVos are sincere and the grant monies given out each year speak volumes about the Magic’s desire to make a difference in the Central Florida community.

``I’m a huge fan of the DeVos family, and with them it starts at the top,’’ said McGill, whose organization was able to take students to 15 Magic games this past season at the Amway Center. ``And knowing who they are and having observed them in the business community for years, it just follows suit with how they are committed to providing a quality basketball product and wanting to give back to the community.

“The Magic are an organization that gives back to the community just as much or more than all of the season ticket holders are giving to them. Our whole model is built around sponsors who want to make a difference in the community, so the Magic have demonstrated that financially and with the quality of the people who have been out to help us.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.