Melrose students reap rewards


ST. PETERSBURG — The children of Melrose Elementary School are reaping the rewards of a job well done. In conjunction with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast, the school took 23 students who all made the principal’s list on a shopping spree. The grade schoolers received $25 gift cards to spend at Walmart to cap off the end of successful school year.

“They had to use their math skills to get up to $25,” said Nita Smith, president/ CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast. “So if they went over $25, they had to put something back and get something else. And these are smart kids.”

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The trip was followed by a luncheon at the elegant 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House in downtown St. Pete. For many of the children, it was their first time being served by an actual butler Smith said. The third such outing for principal’s list students at Melrose, this one also had by far the highest number of participants.

“As part of the executive task program with the superintendent’s office of the Pinellas County school board, the superintendent asked CEOs in our county to partner with challenge schools, so I asked for Melrose,” Smith explained.

Smith has been working with Nanette Grasso, principal of Melrose Elementary, for about a year, she said. Grasso accompanied the accomplished students on the outing.

“Something that we wanted to do was recognize achievement,” Smith affirmed, “recognize the kids when they do well.”

Smith meets with Grasso about once a month to discuss what they can do to support and encourage the students of Melrose.

“She tells me what she needs and I raise money for it,” Smith said. “We talk and figure out what we can do next, whether it means bringing in stuffed animals for the kids, or whatever we can come up with to encourage them to do well in school and stay in school. And we encourage the parent involvement, which is important.”

She added that besides this luncheon, they raised over $4,000 to outfit every child with a uniform at that school. Smith said the students don’t have to wear their uniforms for such outings, and they can stand out in their Sunday best.

Though the children can pick out whatever they want for themselves or their families at these shopping sprees, Smith said, some opt for necessities such as socks and underwear.

“The kids at Melrose live in some tough neighborhoods,” Smith attested, “so we all need to support them any way we can. They’re our kids. They’re everyone’s kids.”

She mentioned that the initial luncheons had about nine or 10 kids, while the final, year-ending one had over 20.

“We moved the needle,” Smith said. “What happens is that those kids tell their friends that when you do well in school you’re going to be rewarded. Seeing the smiles on their faces, it really made their day!”

To reach Frank Drouzas, email

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