BTAG helping students graduate

BY JEANIE BLUE, Staff Writer

LARGO – The Bridging the Achievement Gap (BTAG) program, now in its 11th year, has been benefiting students academically, and helping retired educators shake off the mental rust.

BTAG also provides opportunities for businesses and other individuals to support this effort to increase academic enhancement in an attempt to eliminate the achievement gap that exists between students in the Pinellas County School District.

Celebrating another year of success at their annual fundraiser banquet held at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church last Thurs., Aug 14, Anne Scofield, who has worked with BTAG has witnessed firsthand the success of this tutoring program with its goal to help students graduate from high school on time.

“What motivates me to continue with BTAG is that I see the success of the program with the students, nearly 1,500 served now, graduate, go off to college and launch their careers,” said Scofield who serves as the corresponding secretary for the BTAG Advisory Board. “It takes a community to care and direct students to realize the value of education.”

Scofield also explained that BTAG provides help to parents with identifying resources such as financial aid for college and guidance on which college a student should attend.

The BTAG program can boast of another year with great successes and an impressive long list of high school graduates from around the bay area. On the list are students from Largo High, Bayside High, Boca Ciega High, Pinellas Park High, Seminole High and Tarpon Springs High.

Since 2003 the program accomplishments include 1,449 students served, 533 students graduated with high school diplomas, 241 students attending colleges/universities, three students graduated from graduate school, six students currently attending graduate schools and 12 students completed Technical/Vocational education programs.

Superintendent of the Pinellas County School District, Dr. Michael Grego attended the banquet and spoke of how BTAG demonstrates a commitment to help students with their education pursuits.

“This is a community that cares where teachers and students come together and work with other people to solve issues and problems rather than just talk or criticize,” Grego said.  “I am interested in eliminating the achievement gap and not narrowing it. I have seen in my two years with the district the graduation rate of the minority and majority increase.”

Jeremiah Harvey, BTAG senior from Tarpon Springs High School served as co-masters of ceremony along with former BTAG participant Jabrae Feazell, PPHS, US Army.  The program was dedicated in honor of recently deceased poet Maya Angelou and her quotes were sprinkled throughout the program.

The theme for this year’s banquet was “Helping Our Students Get There From Here” and the founders of BTAG, James and Gwen Feazell, were honored for leading the charge to reach that goal. According to BTAG advisory board member Freddie Robinson, in addition to the Feazells’ leadership, they have love for the whole community.

“Why such a great and successful program?” asked Robinson. “It’s because of the love that each of you have for boys and girls and for wanting to see them do well in school and life. The love of the founder and co-founder (Feazells) has spread out through the community. With us working together to make this a better place and a better tomorrow, I bear witness of the student’s success and will continue to support BTAG.”

Keynote speaker, Evangelist Dr. Betty Holte, R.N., agreed and added that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to effect change when she spoke on her topic “You can get there from here if you only have faith.”

The audience was treated to uplifting musical selections by the Shiloh Youth Praise Team and dinner was catered by C&J Catering. Several Rotary Club members performed as servers.

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