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Extraordinary Woman: Jessica Muroff

Posted on: December 29th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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It was a perfect choice for the Girl Scout of West Central Florida to make when time came to pick a new leader: one of their own.

Jessica Muroff is a former GSWCF member herself and now the mother of two little girls.  In both her roles as mother and Chief Executive Officer of GSWCF, Muroff is poised to fulfil what she considers the most important task facing society today: investing in young girls.

“Today’s generation of girls faces unparalleled opportunities, but also historic challenges,” says Muroff. “It falls to us, as women (and men!), to serve as mentors, role models, and guides, and to support them in their journey—for if there is one thing we can be sure of, it’s that in our modern global economy we are going to need to harness the full potential of both men and women in order for us to succeed.”

 A University of South Florida grad with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication (with a minor in international studies) and a master’s degree in English education, Muroff worked in marketing and sales for companies such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Raymond James before starting her nonprofit career as CEO of Frameworks of Tampa Bay, an organization dedicated to developing the social and emotional skills of youth.

Today, Muroff serves on the board of directors of the Nonprofit Leadership Center of Tampa Bay, Executive Committee of USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy, and the CEO Council of Tampa Bay. She is a founding member and co-chair of Emerge Tampa, and writes a blog calledwww.bepresentproject.com. She has been awarded Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Young Business Woman of the Year of 2005, Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Up & Comers Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Emerging Leader Award in 2014.

Muroff is married to architect Michael Muroff and is the mom of two daughters, Danica and Alexandra, ages 10 and 7.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

As a family, we are committed to enjoying each other and spending time together. Like many families, we have a full plate—work, school, after-school activities, community commitments—but at the end of the day, we know our family time is important. We try to eat dinner together every night (it is never perfect). The one ritual we have at dinner each night is that we always start by asking the question, “What are you grateful for?” It is my favorite tradition that instills happiness, hopefulness, and perspective in my family.

Another one of my favorite traditions is Sunday Night Dinner. I’ve been enjoying Sunday dinners with my sister and her family for more than six years now. This time spent with family (and cousins having so much fun together!) is the best part of my week.

What is your biggest fear?

I’m a bit of a fearless person, so this is a tough question for me! I have to say that I didn’t really know worry until I have my children. I’ve been told that worry never goes away, even when they grow old. My biggest fear is that time moves way too fast and one day, very soon, I will wish that I could experience these magical years all over again. This is why I choose to be present. I know the best gift I can give my girls is my love and presence.

 What advice would you give to other women?

Be present – This is my commitment in life. I am abundantly blessed and I want to enjoy each and every moment, even the challenging moments. I try my best to be present so that I can make each day a story worth telling and learn from my actions and habits each day. This means putting away my phone when I’m with loved ones or in important meetings. It is so important to disconnect for longer periods of time just to give my brain a break from social media and email.

What is your proudest moment?

My proudest moment is when my girls saved their money and decided to donate their savings (mostly coins) to Metropolitan Ministries. They donated $25 and we matched their gift so that a total of $50 was donated. The Metropolitan Ministries team treated their gift like a big donation. They gave the girls a tour and helped them see exactly what their gift would do. I was so proud of their generous hearts and how much they want to help and give to others.

What is your biggest achievement?

My best decision I made: choosing to leave my for-profit job to begin my nonprofit career. I knew that in order to be fulfilled in my career that my job had to have a community impact. Being selected to lead the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida has been my biggest achievement to date. I have an incredibly exciting job—every day, I get to work with girls to help them tap into their leadership abilities and gain the courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place.

 What makes you happy?

There are so many things that make me happy; it is hard to keep this answer short! My girls are a great source of happiness and laughter for me. My entire family is incredible. So many of my family lives close and that makes me happy; our family gatherings are quite large and fun!

What makes me the happiest is knowing that my work each and every day is helping to develop and grow the leadership potential of girls. This starts in my house with my own daughters, but I feel so fortunate to lead an organization dedicated to this movement, the Girl Scouts. My daughters now make three generations of Girl Scouts in my family!

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I love pushing myself with my fitness. Boxing, Pilates, and my aerial silks classes are some of my favorite ways to take time for myself.

I also love to cook and bake. I cook dinner for my family nearly every night and it is my favorite way to unwind at the end of the day. I also love to bake cakes, all kinds. The more elaborate and challenging, the more excited I get.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

My message: the importance of investing the future of girls. I believe there isn’t much that is more important for the future of our community, of our society, than investing in our girls. At Girl Scouts we’re driving to transform the future leadership landscape, and produce the greatest return on economic development and social progress, by investing in girls.

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?

I think Tampa is one of the best places in this country to raise a family. We have so many options of things to do with our kids that nearly every weekend could be filled! My favorite thing to do with my kids is one of two things: visiting my mom’s farm in Plant City where my girls can ride horses and interact with all of her animals (reminds me of how I grew up) or taking them to the beach for a day. We LOVE collecting shells and building sandcastles.

What is your biggest inspiration or role model?

The future of girls is my inspiration. I learn daily about what girls in our council are doing for their communities and [how they are] growing their leadership skills. It makes me so happy to know we are growing the leaders of tomorrow.

Extraordinary Woman: Maria Gselle

Posted on: December 1st, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Maria Gsell didn’t start off in county administration; her first job with Hillsborough County School District was as secretary at Plant High School. That’s when she got the first vote of confidence that spurred her to return to college: when then principal, Dr. Jim Hamilton, told Gsell that she could “probably run this school.”

As the daughter of a migrant worker, Gsell was no stranger to hard work. Her father came from Mexico and worked the fields before joining the Air Force and being stationed in Burlington, Vermont. That’s where he met and married Gsell’s mother. One of the couple’s four sons and two daughters was Gsell. “We were a big, loud, happy family,” she says. She graduated from high school in Dover, Delaware, and married her husband, Gary, right after graduation. The couple followed Gsell’s parents to Tampa, and together raised a son and two daughters until, after 40 years of marriage, he passed away in 2013 after a lengthy illness.

Soon after Hamilton’s comment, Gsell decided to return to school. She graduated from Hillsborough Community College and earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of South Florida. She then taught English at Plant High School, became an assistant principal at Lennard High School, and has been the proud principal of East Bay High School for four years.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
We don’t have a big secret! Like other families, we believe in each other and just a few important values: education, accepting people for what they are, unconditional love, and a lot of laughter.

What is your biggest fear?
Besides the frogs and lizards that insist on coming in my garage? Seriously, I think that it is that, somehow, I will fail to recognize a potentially harmful situation that may result in one of our students either becoming hurt or not receiving the appropriate support from those of us on the faculty or in the administration. Our teenagers are growing up in a very complex world. Multiple influences combine to affect their successful transition into the adult world. I am concerned each day that we model good behavior and decision making skills, as well as provide a safe and professional educational atmosphere.

What advice would you give to other women?
That sounds a bit presumptive, but I would ask that they recognize their strengths and the skills that they have developed as they have grown. I would suggest that they find people that encourage them and nurture them, and limit their exposure to those that don’t. Our environment is full of negative voices; associate yourself with positive women.

What is your proudest moment?
As a parent, seeing how my children have grown into happy, productive adults. Also, when I spend time with my grandchildren and watch them developing and learning. Professionally, becoming a principal was a personal moment of pride.

What is your biggest achievement?
I think that would be the combination of raising a family, having a successful marriage, and returning to complete my college education as an adult. Balancing the demands of those three important, and sometimes divergent, tasks helped me develop the same skills needed in my professional life: prioritizing, negotiation, time management, listening and a strong sense of humor.

What makes you happy?
Spending time with my family, going to the beach, travel, and watching the extraordinary talent at East Bay perform in athletics, music, drama, or many other activities. Just the other night, while eating out, one of my recent graduates came to the table to tell me how much he appreciated East Bay and how it prepared him for his future. That makes me very happy. That he was so affected by his experience that he would take time to tell me about it says that the efforts we make every day to make our school a positive force for kids is invaluable.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?
I like to sit on my couch or deck with a book; watch television shows I have recorded; listen to music. When I have the opportunity, I like to travel. I will be going to Costa Rica just after Christmas. Even though they have frogs there, I am going on a zip line canopy tour, horseback riding and river rafting.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area?
It feels a bit presumptive to tell the women that read your magazine what I believe they should do or think. What I will say is that women can help each other by networking with and supporting the women in their personal contacts. We can be of great support since we have experienced similar life tracks and problems. I also believe that we should laugh more. Have fun with your work. Enjoy the moments. Life is not guaranteed. One thing I learned from the illness and loss of my husband, Gary, is that we can lose something important. Don’t miss the opportunities today; they may not be there again. Don’t be afraid to love or try something new. Life is what you do.

What else would you like to share?
Being a mom never ends. My children are grown and out on their own; there are grandchildren now. But, they still need my love, support, advice, and sometimes even my saying things that they don’t want to hear. My worry and thoughts about my children never goes away. They are always my kids. Both as a parent and as a principal, I have come to believe that life is about resilience: facing loss or failure without giving up. Being a success is less about whether you fail or lose something, than about how you get back up and face life as it is right now. The most important skill we can pass on to or families or students is resilience, because everyone falls down. The question is only how you get back up.

What is your biggest inspiration?
As I grew up, my parents were very important. They worked hard to provide a good life for all of us. We knew that we were loved. In the 3rd grade, Mrs. Wilson at Anderson Elementary School was a huge influence on how I viewed school. That continued in Delaware with Mr. Hilton in high school. When I was a secretary at Plant High School, Jim Hamilton, the principal, encouraged me to go back to school and told me that I could “run a school”. My husband Gary always supported me and encouraged me to do what made me happy. He was my best friend and biggest fan. My children also inspired me to model for them that lifelong learning is an important value.

Professionally, I am inspired every time I walk into a classroom and see a teacher in front of a class inspiring young minds. I am inspired by the administrative staff I have assembled over the past four years. Those men and women are tireless and recharge me daily. Every June as I shake the hands of the graduates, I am inspired.

Extraordinary Woman: Heather Barrow

Posted on: November 29th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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High Risk Hope Founder Heather Barrow was just 24 weeks into pregnancy with her second child when her water broke and she went into labor. Doctors immediately prepared Barrow and her husband Bennett for the impending birth of her son Hill, warning he would have a 50 percent chance of survival and would certainly face some type of severe and permanent disability.

Preterm premature rupture of membranes at 24 weeks is rare, and the mother and baby’s life is at risk as long as the pregnancy continues. Barrow and Hill were closely monitored due to the potentially fatal risk of umbilical cord prolapse and infection. With the cushioning amniotic fluid between the baby and umbilical cord gone, any movement could cause the baby to roll on the cord and stop the flow of oxygen, resulting in brain damage or death.

Thanks to an excellent medical team, prayers, the support of loved ones and a positive outlook, Barrow remained pregnant for 59 days on complete hospital bed rest. To the surprise of an operating room full of nurses, obstetricians and neonatologists, Hill was born kicking and screaming at 32 weeks by an emergency C-section. Despite being born two months premature, and having no amniotic fluid for two months in utero, Hill needed no breathing support during his brief stay in the neonatal intensive care unit. Since his birth in 2009, Hill has met or exceeded every developmental milestone and has shown no complications related to Heather’s hospitalization or his premature birth.

Helping other mothers who may find herself in that situation has since become Barrow’s mission. Armed with determination, her experience and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in accounting from the University of Florida, Barrow founded High Risk Hope, a for purpose organization that provides support, encouragement, information and resources to women and families who are experiencing a high risk pregnancy resulting in hospital bed rest, potential premature birth and neonatal intensive care after delivery. Today, Barrow leads a team of non-compensated volunteers who reach out to more than 1,200 patients annually at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital and Tampa General Hospital.

As a result of High Risk Hope’s outreach in the Tampa Bay community, High Risk Hope was recognized as the 2015 Nonprofit of the Year by WEDU/PBS. Barrow, as founder and executive director, was recognized in 2014 as the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida Woman of Promise, in 2013 as a Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero, as one of Tampa Bay’s “10 Leading Ladies” by Blu Tampa Bay, as an “Everyday Hero” by Bay News 9, and as a “Hometown Hero” by FOX 13 News.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
We try to always do our best and not take success or ourselves too seriously. I tell my children, Claire and Hill, if at the end of every day they did more good than bad, it is a successful day.

What is your biggest fear?
The day someone I love becomes very ill.

What advice would you give to other women?
Ignore the negative chatter. There is a constant voice in my head saying I should be doing almost everything better. Whether it relates to raising my children or running High Risk Hope, I am my own worst critic. Sometimes it is spurred by misplaced criticism from someone in my inner circle or a negative comment from strangers on the Internet looking to stir up trouble. The bottom line is I am doing my best with the time and resources I have and that is enough. Every woman reading this article is doing enough too, ignore the haters, including you.

What is your proudest moment?
Every year since Hill was born, Bennett cooks (and our family delivers) Thanksgiving dinner to the high risk obstetric nurses and staff at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital. I am extremely proud that Claire and Hill have embraced this tradition and understand the importance of showing gratitude to the people that helped our family during our time of need.

What is your biggest achievement?
I was able to remain pregnant on complete hospital bed rest for over eight weeks. That extra two months gave Hill a fighting chance at a full life without severe disabilities. I am not sure I will accomplish anything more significant in my lifetime.

What makes you happy?
My husband Bennett, hearing my kids laugh, meeting healthy High Risk Hope babies, coffee and country music concerts.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?
I am working on doing this more. My main escape from the craziness is riding my bike several mornings a week on Bayshore, usually around sunrise.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area?
The quote we live by in our home, and at High Risk Hope, is, “If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough,” by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I have it on my keychain and framed in the office. When I was pregnant with Hill, Bennett and I were terrified to hope we would leave the hospital with a healthy baby. Hill is now a healthy and normal six year old, breezing through Kindergarten. Almost every day over the past five years I have been terrified about what we were planning for High Risk Hope at any given time. From making our first hospital delivery at St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital to moving into office space in Ybor City to our expansion to Tampa General Hospital to hiring our first employee, our biggest accomplishments were preceded by a large opportunity for failure. Make sure your dreams for your family, career and community are big enough to terrify you.

What else would you like to share?
I firmly believe to whom much is given, much is expected. My family was given a healthy baby, when for months we were uncertain Hill would survive. Although most families with healthy children do not have our unique history, they have the same gift to be thankful for. I want those families to remember the half million families in our country every year who deliver a premature baby who enters this world with an uncertain future. There is an opportunity right here in this community to give thanks for healthy babies by supporting families who were not as fortunate. High Risk Hope has ways for every member of your family to be involved in our fight for preemies.

What is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is to try to be a role model for my children. I don’t always get it right but have realized if I am critical of my own appearance, parenting, accomplishments and relationships, then my kids will learn to mirror that criticism about them. If I tell them to be charitable and kind but do nothing to show them how, I cannot expect them to grow into charitable adults.

Karen Mertes

Posted on: November 1st, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Karen Mertes knows what it’s like to have your life suddenly altered. On Feb. 7, 2007, her life’s path was forever changed. Stationed at MacDill Air Force Base at the time, she was struck by a drunk driver who was traveling over 100 miles per hour on I-75. He had a blood alcohol level of .221, nearly three times the legal limit. During the crash, “I made a futile attempt to regain control of my vehicle as my car slid sideways down the interstate, with cars in the remaining lanes veering around my car to avoid hitting me. As my life hung in the balance, I made a bargain with God. I promised God that if I were blessed to live, I’d spend the rest of my life helping others. This promise was the genesis of my nonprofit Fulfill Your Destiny.”

Mertes suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the accident. But she is more than a survivor. She has turned tragedy into triumph, helping others who have had their world shattered pick up the pieces.

Through Fulfill Your Destiny, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, Lt. Col. Mertes financially aids people in the Tampa Bay community whose careers have been altered by injury or unforeseen circumstances. Special consideration is given to those who have sustained a traumatic brain injury.

“Imagine if you could no longer do what you are trained and experienced to do today.  What if everything you have worked for educationally and professionally was gone in an instant? This is my story. Following my injury and treatment, it became apparent I could no longer perform the work required of a military officer with a Top Secret clearance.”

She raises money for Fulfill Your Destiny in 11 ways, five of which involve offering a professional service or product for donation. “As a professional motivational speaker, I educate others about traumatic brain injuries, and I have my tax-deductible honorariums donated directly to Fulfill Your Destiny.”

Her motto is, Be Better Not Bitter, and she shares how people can do just that.

 What do you think is the secret to your success?

I believe character drives destiny. I believe in this so strongly that I’ve made it one of Fulfill Your Destiny’s mottos. I’ve spent a lifetime working hard and working smart. Working smart is great, but there is no substitution for working hard, really hard, to achieve your goals. Our Air Force’s core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do are the perfect fit for me and will remain with me for a lifetime.

My passion for helping others is evident as I donate all of my energies full-time to Fulfill Your Destiny and do not take a salary. I pay 100% of the administrative costs to operate it out of my personal funds. I also donate an additional 10% in honor of each donor, making the donor’s effective contribution 110%.

What is your biggest fear?

 It’s been said that fear means false evidence appearing real. It’s also been said that fear means forget everything and run, but I prefer face everything and rise. The choice is ours!  The key to being fearless is simply to choose to fear less.

What advice would you give to other women?

I’d like to share advice that was given to me during my sophomore summer in college when I attended the Air Force ROTC 4-week field training.  The instructor for my flight class urged me to never give up on the pursuit of my goals and achieving my dreams. His comments laid the foundation early on for me to work toward financial independence. It’s incredibly empowering to make all of my own financial decisions and not have to rely on anyone else. I also believe it makes me a stronger wife because my husband and I are true financial partners.

 What is your proudest moment?

My proudest moment in my military career came when I was serving as the Commander, 35th Comptroller Squadron and Chief Financial Officer at Misawa Air Base, Japan. I was the only commander (out of 18) to lead my squadron to an outstanding rating during the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces Unit Compliance Inspection, a feat matched in just 4 of 216 Comptroller Pacific Forces Inspections since 1970.

My proudest moments after my military career stem from choosing to be better not bitter after sustaining my traumatic brain injury. I’m dedicated to enriching lives, and I hope to inspire others living with permanent injuries by rising above my personal challenges to be an example for what focus, perseverance and determination can accomplish.

What is your biggest achievement?

I like to think that I’ve not achieved it yet as I have much left to accomplish.  I’m very proud though, of having served our country for just over 20 years.

What makes you happy?

I really enjoy seeing people smile. I strive each day to help people in our greater Tampa Bay community.  When others smile, and I know that I contributed to their happiness, that is pure joy for me.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

My favorite season is autumn because it means that it’s craft fair season. I enjoy going to craft fairs in and around our greater Tampa Bay area, admiring all the amazing and creative works. I especially like the outdoor festivals. I like meeting people in this way and learning about their craft and how they spend their time. I’m also a big fan of Tampa’s Farmer’s Markets and food trucks.

I also enjoy taking cooking classes at the Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium! To keep being at my best, I take Jazzercise classes as often as possible.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

I recommend that all parents encourage their children to pursue the highest and best use of their talents and abilities. When I was growing up, girls were not encouraged to study math and science. I happen to have a natural ability and appreciation for math. I even competed on the math team in high school. This led to my receiving an Air Force ROTC full scholarship to major in mathematics (statistics) at Boston University. I attribute many of the successes I’ve achieved in my life to nurturing a skill set and following a non-traditional career path, at least for a woman. I’m very thankful to my parents for encouraging me to be the very best I could be at whatever I chose and to leap beyond my comfort zone!

What else would you like to share with our readers?

I’m the co-author of three books to date: Woman Power: Strategies for Female Leaders, The Power of Transformation: Reinventing Your Life and Fearless Women Visions of a New World. These books are available by suggested donation to Fulfill Your Destiny.

How do you enjoy or draw information from the magazine?

I appreciate that Tampa Bay Parenting gives information with names, dates, locations and descriptions of events and festivals in and around our greater Tampa Bay community. This information is a must-read for me.  I enjoy learning about our community in the What’s Happening section. I also like how the magazine showcases activities and events within each county.

What is your favorite thing to do in Tampa Bay?

My husband and I are members of Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, and we’ve adopted Cocoa, a resident sea turtle at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium!

 Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

I’m very grateful to all the women who have served in our United States military before me and helped pave the way. Specifically, Major T. H. Baca, the first woman to officially serve as a commissioned officer in the National Guard, Army and military force, eventually rising to major and later appointed Assistant Adjutant General of New Mexico. I was presented an award named in her honor, the Major T. H. Baca Award for my contributions to women in the military.

I’m also inspired by individuals who have been confronted by life-changing events and have persevered. I’m a lifelong learner, embracing the lessons these people share with their stories of triumph.

Extraordinary Woman: Stacy Carlson

Posted on: October 29th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Focus on your assets, not your deficits. Don’t freak out. A smile and “hello” can go a long way in making a bad day better or a good day great. Those are the mantras by which Stacy Carlson lives.

Carlson is the busy mother of three boys, Trey (13), Jacob (6) and Jon Luke (5). “They are the absolute best part of me, even when they are being naughty (and maybe that comes a little from me too),” says Carlson. Carlson’s other job is as vice president and program director at Helios Education Foundation, where she works to help more students access and graduate from postsecondary education.

“As a first-generation college student, college was always an expected destination after high school,” says Carlson. “My personal journey to get there taught me the path can be full of potholes and unnecessary diversions that almost led me to drop out. My experiences led me to a career where I can help alleviate some of those barriers, making it easier for students to complete.”

Carlson also is passionate about developing the potential of women to be community and civic leaders. She focuses her efforts as president of The Junior League of Tampa. “The League has given me opportunities to grow my skills as a volunteer and leader while contributing to lasting community impact,” she says.

Carlson grew up in Tampa, graduated from Chamberlain High School, obtained her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of South Florida, a master’s degree from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education and a doctorate from the University of Florida in Educational Leadership and Policy.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?
My family is phenomenal. I can’t imagine how three boys from the same parents could be so different and amazing. I am divorced, and while many women would say that with a hushed voice, my family is still intact. As husband and wife, we are no longer together, but we will always be parents to our boys. At the center of our success is mutual respect. My ex-husband and I are very respectful of each other. We also manage to keep our kids at the forefront of our decisions and planning. We are very successful juggling all of our busy lives while celebrating the successes and overcoming the obstacles together. I also have very supportive parents, brother and former in laws. We all work together to make sure the busy train stays on the tracks and no one skips a beat.

What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is taking for granted all that is wonderful and beautiful and possible by being so busy I don’t slow down long enough to appreciate all that is around me.

My latest realization of my tendency to not slow down was when Trey turned 13. I realized: five more years and he may move out forever. I struggled with guilt for a little while and then focused on how to make little changes to my life to increase my time with him. For example, I drive him to school without my phone, so I can focus on listening to him. I also try to spend time with just him—whether at dinner, a show or a short trip. I take similar one-on-one strategies with my other boys.

What advice would you give to other women?
I saw this post on Facebook recently on advice women were giving to other women: “If you focus on the 50% of people that will always disagree with you, you lose focus on providing leadership to the 50% of people who are on your side.” We can’t waste our energy on negativity. We have such precious time that it is wise to focus it on those that make us better, not tear us down. Women aren’t quitters.

What is your proudest moment?
Probably my happiest moment was each time I gave birth to one of my boys.

What is your biggest achievement?
Besides my three kids, I think it was getting a fellowship to pursue my doctorate and receiving my PhD. I recall looking up into the stands where my family sat looking at me and I saw my mom cry. My mom and dad didn’t go to college. I knew at that moment, they knew what an accomplishment this was. A doctorate was never a lifetime goal for me, but a challenge. Completing my doctorate after three kids, a full-time job and The Junior League was an immensely huge achievement.

What makes you happy?
I love traveling with my family and friends. I need a “trip” to unplug from my busy life. It makes me so happy to spend that time with people I love while exploring new cultures and having new adventures.I also get great joy from watching my kids gain a new skill or have a new experience. Appreciating life through the eyes of someone who is seeing things for the first time can’t be replicated. I love when my kids read a higher level book, get to ride a new ride and perform in theater. Their boundless, uninhibited happiness is infectious.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?
There is something very therapeutic about being in the sun. So whether it is relaxing on the beach, paddle boarding, kayaking or riding my bike, enjoying the outdoors is a good start. As I mentioned before, a trick to actually get me to relax is to go away. I love travel and I seek out every opportunity to go to new places. I also find going overseas to new countries gives me an appreciation for what I take for granted. I return refreshed and renewed.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the community?
Women’s importance and relevance in all aspects of community are improving. We are better educated, earning more money, making more financial and household decisions, and have unique skills and attributes to bring to critical decisions being made in the community. Now we have to continue to figure out how to capitalize on these attributes to build greater opportunities for women and our community at large. Whether it be in politics, nonprofits or the business board room, we need to work with other women to take a hand up and offer a hand back to make sure there is a pipeline of women in positions to add their voice to critical conversations and decisions in the community.

Who is your role model?
My biggest inspirations are women who identify a problem and create a unique way of solving it. The Junior League of Tampa is a membership full of these types of women. Whether it is passing legislation to help human trafficking victims, providing food over the weekend to families who are struggling, or mentoring other League members to develop their potential, I am inspired by the women who are spending their time to make this community a better place while making sure the next generation of women who will come behind them is prepared to find success as well.

Extraordinary Woman: Dr. Jennifer Cook

Posted on: September 1st, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

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Dr. Jennifer Cook has been an achiever from the beginning. A valedictorian in high school in her 400-person class in Great Falls, Virginia, Cook went on to graduate summa cum laude with a degree in engineering from the University of Michigan. She then earned a Medical Doctorate degree from both Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology through the two institutions’ joint Health Sciences and Technology Program. She was Chief Resident at the Harvard Combined Orthopaedic Program before completing the Insall Scott Kelly Fellowship in adult reconstruction and sports medicine in New York City.

Now 41, Cook has been practicing for the Florida Joint Care Institute in Trinity for nine years. Two years ago, she and her husband added their daughter Calleigh to the family.

Her calm demeanor comforts patients who are facing surgery, and her smile is bright enough to light up even the darkest room. Although she is quiet, she is not timid and when it comes to helping the 120 patients a week that she sees on average, she is confident and calm. When she is not in clinic, she can see up to 40 patients a day, sometimes operating on five or six cases a day. Her work load does not stop her from building a strong rapport with her patients and the rest of her office staff as well.

Cook also has been busy with two important initiatives. In November, 2009, Cook co-founded a nonprofit called Women Orthopaedic Global Outreach with a handful of other female orthopaedic surgeons, an organization that provides free orthopaedic surgery to women in underserved global communities to restore disabled joints. WOGO also trains in-country surgeons and other healthcare professionals in orthopedic skills and technologies.

She is also active with Florida Joint Care’s involvement with the Perry Institute, an organization dedicated to increasing the involvement of girls and woman in engineering and orthopaedics. Cook is part of the team that does hands-on, day-long programs to introduce high school girls to the world of science, medicine and engineering.
Cook is also a two-time recipient of the prestigious Frist Humanitarian Award, which recognizes physicians who show outstanding volunteering and humanitarian involvement.

One of the things that Cook is excited about is the new patient care portal at the Florida Joint Care Institute in Trinity. Her patients now have the ability to manage their care online while also checking appointments, paying their bill, and communicating with the office staff. This is just one of the many exciting things happening for Dr. Cook and the Joint Care Institute in Trinity.

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success?

The secret to my family’s success is communication and doing activities together as a family.

What is your biggest fear?

My biggest fear? That I will only live until age 100.

What is your proudest moment?

The day I delivered a beautiful healthy baby girl, Calleigh, was my proudest moment.

What is your biggest achievement?

Organizing a surgical mission trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, to do free knee replacement surgeries for needy patients was my biggest achievement.

What makes you happy?

Knowing I had a positive impact on a patient gives me great joy.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

I love to exercise, travel, and read.

What kind of message would you like to give women in the area or in this community?

I would say my biggest piece of advice is this: Take care of yourself so that you in turn can take care of others.

What else would you like to share with our readers?

You can never have too much help!

What is your favorite thing to do with your kids in Tampa Bay?

We love to visit Lowry Park Zoo!

Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?

Larry Dorr is the founder of Operation Walk. For over 25 years, he has spear headed numerous international trips around the world to provide free joint replacement surgeries to those in need. He also founded Operation Walk, USA which provides free surgeries to qualified patients in the United States. The impact of his work is immeasurable.

Speaking Engagement at The SSW National Conference

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Suncoast Credit Union 8th annual Back To School Fair from Angela Ardolino on Vimeo.

Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair at WestShore Plaza! Over eight thousand Bay Area families, from parents and teens all the way to tots arrived early to be one of the first 500 kids to receive a backpack full of goodies from Suncoast Credit Union.

From there, event guests got all of the best information to start the school year right from over 70 vendors. Fruttare®, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, hosted the Fruttare Fruit Farm. Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine Founder and Editorial Director Angela Ardolino partnered with Fruttare and demoed how to make Fruity Iconic Tampa Minarets. St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital held their Safety Stop where families had the opportunity to purchase low cost safety products and learn how to keep the whole family healthy amid the back to school germs.

Parents learned about all of the best technology to help the kids succeed this school year, and techie teens and tweens and even toddlers enjoyed learning about and playing with robots with America’s largest 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless. The excitement revved up at the Mix 100.7 nonstop entertainment stage. Families got to rock out with the music from School of Rock, learned how to reduce injuries from Florida Orthopedic Institute, saw mad scientists perform experiments from MOSI, watched the students of the Patel Conservatory perform, and more.

Families also got to enjoy the world class dining options and stores at WestShore Plaza. Best of all, they got to shop all day tax free as part of Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday.

This year’s event would not have been possible without the Event Presenting Sponsor,Suncoast Credit Union. As a supporter of many different initiatives, outreach programs and charitable organizations, Suncoast Credit Union prides itself on being an active and responsible member of the Tampa Bay community.

Angela Ardolino Fruttare Fruit Farm

Tampa-Parenting-Mag-1

Presenting Partners for the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair were Tampa Bay ParentingWestshore PlazaFruttare, the Florida Orthopedic Institute and the America’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless.

For additional information, video and media photos, visit http://www.BackToSchoolFair.com

SUNCOAST CREDIT UNION 8TH ANNUAL BACK TO SCHOOL FAIR A HUGE SUCCESS!

Posted on: August 14th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Suncoast Credit Union 8th annual Back To School Fair from Angela Ardolino onVimeo.

Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair at WestShore Plaza! Over eight thousand Bay Area families, from parents and teens all the way to tots arrived early to be one of the first 500 kids to receive a backpack full of goodies from Suncoast Credit Union.

From there, event guests got all of the best information to start the school year right from over 70 vendors. Fruttare®, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, hosted the Fruttare Fruit Farm. Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine Founder and Editorial Director Angela Ardolino partnered with Fruttare and demoed how to make Fruity Iconic Tampa Minarets. St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital held their Safety Stop where families had the opportunity to purchase low cost safety products and learn how to keep the whole family healthy amid the back to school germs.

Parents learned about all of the best technology to help the kids succeed this school year, and techie teens and tweens and even toddlers enjoyed learning about and playing with robots with America’s largest 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless. The excitement revved up at the Mix 100.7 nonstop entertainment stage. Families got to rock out with the music from School of Rock, learned how to reduce injuries from Florida Orthopedic Institute, saw mad scientists perform experiments from MOSI, watched the students of the Patel Conservatory perform, and more.

Families also got to enjoy the world class dining options and stores at WestShore Plaza. Best of all, they got to shop all day tax free as part of Florida’s back to school sales tax holiday.

This year’s event would not have been possible without the Event Presenting Sponsor,Suncoast Credit Union. As a supporter of many different initiatives, outreach programs and charitable organizations, Suncoast Credit Union prides itself on being an active and responsible member of the Tampa Bay community.

Presenting Partners for the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair were Tampa Bay ParentingWestshore PlazaFruttare, the Florida Orthopedic Institute and the America’s largest and most reliable 4G LTE network, Verizon Wireless.

For additional information, video and media photos, visithttp://www.BackToSchoolFair.com.

FUN WITH FRUIT KABOBS AND FRUTTARE

Posted on: August 12th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Back-to-school shopping is finally underway, and as you consider your family’s lunch boxes it is a great time to start thinking about how you will fill them. Will you include gummy bears and quick fixes in their lunches? Or will you strive to keep the family excited about having fun with fruit?

Getting the whole family to enjoy fruit can be as simple as including tasty fruit in their lunch boxes — and don’t forget your own too!

I’ve partnered with Fruttare®, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, to bring fun with fruit to your whole family. Not only are Fruttare® Fruit Bars delicious and made with real fruit you can taste, the brand is also working towards sustainably farming every piece of fruit that goes into a Fruttare Fruit Bar by year’s end. My favorite flavor is pineapple and I love that everyone in the family can enjoy their favorite flavors like coconut, strawberry, and mango, just to name a few.

One of the great ways that we have been able to have fun with fruit was when the Fruttare Fruit Farm came to Tampa this summer. We made our final stop at The Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair. This gave me the chance to share my favorite flavors of the delicious Fruttare Fruit Bars with families from all over the Bay Area. We also made the famous University of Tampa Minarets with real fruit, which are recognizable in the Tampa skyline. This fun and simple activity is a party favorite, and everyone who made it was proud of their tasty and adorable treat.

Families also were able to get their own strawberry plant to take home at the Fruttare Fruit Farm, as a way to grow their own delicious fruit. I loved seeing families come learn about how to plant their strawberry seeds and of course enjoy a Fruttare Fruit Bar!

Having fun with fruit is just one of the easy ways to encourage your whole family to eat more of it. An easy way to do this, is allowing your children to come shopping with you and pick out a new fruit to try. This will encourage them to try new fruits. They are also far more likely to eat it if they chose it themselves. Take those same fruits and mix them into a smoothie, or let your family get creative with it so that they can enjoy their creation.

After they’ve selected their favorite fruits, a great way to get them to enjoy it is to make fruit kabobs. They make an easy snack to include in a lunch box and, most importantly, taste yummy!

Fun with Fruit Kababos

Letting your kids use their unique personalities to create something crafty and fun can be a great opportunity to let them shine! And, when you let them pick which fruits they like, their tastes might be as different as their unique selves. Making kabobs is a great way to let everyone use the fruits they like, while allowing the kids to showcase their colorful personality and style.

Here is what you will need:

  • Kabob sticks
  • Assorted fruits (strawberries, mangoes, bananas, cherries, and pineapples are great for this)
  • Small cookie cutters in varying shapes

Instructions:

  • Layout the fruit your family selected, and use the cookie cutters to create a variety of shapes. Note: Cookie cutter won’t work on citrus fruits
  • Stack the fruit onto the kabob stick

When you want to let your kids show their unique personalities, creating something crafty and fun can often be a great time to let them shine. And, when you let your kids pick which fruit they like, their tastes might be as different as their unique selves. Making kabobs is a great way to let everyone get something they like, and to let you see the colorful attitudes of each of your kids.

For this craft, you will need (2 servings):

About two cups of Assorted fruits (strawberries, mangoes, bananas, cherries, and pineapples are great for this).

All you will need to do is have your kids cut their favorite fruits into fun shapes, like hearts or stars, using cookie cutters or a Pop Chef which cuts fruit into fun shapes.

Have your kids stack and layer their favorite fruits onto the kabob stick, and you are done! They can save their kabobs for lunches during the school year, or for treats at home.

I am Angela Ardolino writing on behalf of Fruttare Fruit Bars.

FUN WITH FRUIT AND FRUTTARE COMES TO BACK TO SCHOOL FAIR!

Posted on: August 7th, 2015 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

As summer winds down, the countdown for going back to school begins. To get ready for back to school, the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fairis taking over WestShore Plaza on August 8. The day will start off bright and early at 10 a.m. and will have live entertainment, hands on activities, workshops, speaker sessions, a scavenger hunt and so much more. In addition, local exhibitors will be providing all sorts of back to school related information with everything from health & wellness and safety to private and public schools, resources, childcare, after school programs, school supplies, tutors, children’s retailers, finances and much more!

I’ve partnered with Fruttare, a delicious line of frozen fruit bars, to bring the Fruttare Fruit Farm to the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back-to-School Fair. I’ll be demoing fun fruit activities for families there from 11am – 1pm. Stop by to learn how to make Fruity Iconic Tampa Minarets!

One of the great things about going back to school is getting back on track when it comes to eating more fruit. Packing more fruit into your family’s lunches can be one way to get them to eat more fruit—but wouldn’t it be better to get them excited about fruit?

One of the best ways to get the whole family to have fun with fruit, is to involve them in grocery shopping. Have them help you make a shopping list with their favorite fruits. Take them to the market and encourage every family member to choose a fruit they want to try—whether it is something they already love like mangoes or trying something new like a coconut, let everyone pick something. You can also let them get involved in choosing their favorite Fruttare Fruit Bars. My favorite is pineapple, and my family loves the variety of flavors available, so we like to try a new flavor each time we shop.

Once you have the fruit and the Fruttare Fruit Bars, the family will have fun making the Fruity Fruttare® Bowl!

Fruity Fruttare® Bowl

Serves 2

Create a special treat that everyone will love to make and eat!

Here is what you need:

  • 1 Strawberry Fruit and Juice Fruttare® Fruit Bar

  • ½  cup chopped fresh strawberries

  • ½ cup low fat granola

  • ½  cup plain low fat Greek yogurt

  • 3 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut

 

Instructions:

  • Remove the stick from the Fruit Bar by poking it out of the wrapper and pulling it out.

  • Once the stick is removed, put the bar in the wrapper back in the freezer for a few minutes.

  • After the bar has chilled, unwrap it and lay it on a cutting board and cut it into cubes or shapes using a cookie cutter.

  • Place the Fruttare® cubes or shapes in a bowl, add the strawberries and granola and gently stir.

  • Top with yogurt and coconut.

Nutritional Information 1 serving:

Calories 220, Calories from Fat 45, Total Fat 5 g, Saturated Fat 3 g, Trans Fat 0 g, Cholesterol  5 mg, Sodium 110 mg, Total Carbs 37 g, Dietary Fiber 3 g, Sugars 20 g, Protein 8 g, Vitamin A  8 %, Vitamin C 60 %, Calcium 8 %, Iron 6 %

Don’t forget to come to the Suncoast Credit Union 8th Annual Back to School Fair on August 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at WestShore Plaza in Tampa! We will be having more fun with fruit at the Fruttare Fruit Farm and there will be something for the whole family!

This post was written on behalf of Fruttare Fruit Bars.