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Leaving a Legacy: Vocational Training

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By Leonela Tasé Sueiro

Zeke is a 19-year-old recent Sarasota High School graduate. He has been a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties for 13 years. This fall, Zeke plans to attend Manatee Technical College to become a firefighter. He, like so many other Club teens, found his vocation and will attend vocational training thanks to the Tom & Debbie Shapiro Career Resource Center (CRC).

The facility is divided into three rooms, all of which have state-of-the-art technology installed for full, comprehensive trainings, such as a virtual reality suite that offers a new method for hands-on learning, as well as, a soundproof multimedia studio equipped with the latest technology for Club members to edit videos and record podcasts. Ultimately, the CRC prepares teens for and encourages them to secure competitive community employment in Sarasota County or continue their academic career at the collegiate level after high school graduation.

Most notably, the CRC is home to vocational programs designed to help teens find their passion through developing new skills and honing others, as well as two of signature programs: The Pearlman-Price Young Entrepreneurs (PYE) Program and Students Taking Active Roles (STAR) Leadership Training Program. For Zeke, the CRC was an opportunity to be introduced to careers he never thought would interest him.

“I did carpentry, culinary, PYE, STAR, stay smart, money matters, and automotive. I learned how to use tools, save money, to be a leader, and how to start a business, how to make diff foods from diff cultures, Zeke said. “I liked carpentry the best because I build and create things from my own hands.”

Tom and Debbie Shapiro were first introduced to the Boys & girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties in 2003 by Lee Wetherington, they didn’t expect to fall in love with our mission and kids, but as Debbie puts it, from the moment a Club member shook her hand, looked her in the eye, and told her “welcome to the Boys & Girls Clubs,” she was hooked.

A few years later, in 2007, Tom joined the Club’s Board of Directors and eventually served as Board Chair, quickly earning local and national recognition for his visionary leadership. In fact, Tom was named Board Member of the Year for the Southeast Region by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

In 2016, Tom and Debbie launched the CRC with the hope of introducing teens to college and career preparation programs, leadership development, and entrepreneurship programs. And in 2019, they were celebrated as Champions for Children at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota and DeSoto Counties.

The impact of the CRC and its programs is not only evident on campus. Zeke takes his skills home and applies them every day, thus helping to make the Shapiro’s vision and mission come true.

“The CRC has helped me gain skills and other points of view that I wouldn’t have gotten without it. I see myself making the different foods at home for family and building my own furniture for my future home. Without that building and the people working there, I probably wouldn’t realize what I could accomplish and all the fun I could experience in all the different careers out there,” Zeke said.

We invite you to See Yourself Here and recognize the significant impact your support can have on a child’s life. To find out how you can leave your own legacy, contact BGCSDC at or by phone at 941-366-3911.

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