Click the arrow above to listen to St. Pete Catalyst publisher Joe Hamilton’s interview with Think Big for Kids founder Tony DiBenedetto and executive director Amy Alley.
As a tech executive and entrepreneur, Tony DiBenedetto is a natural problem solver. After successfully selling his company Tribridge to DXC Technology in 2017, DiBenedetto turned his attention from day-to-day business operations to systemic community problems.
In his meetings with other area CEOs, DiBenedetto heard the same refrain time and again: Tampa Bay is short on talent, and retaining good talent is getting harder. In his volunteer life with the Boys and Girls Club, DiBenedetto was seeing another problem: most kids he spoke to had no idea what they wanted to do after high school, and they weren’t prepared for the future.
DiBenedetto realized that these two problems were connected, and from those experiences, Think Big For Kids was born. Think Big for Kids is dedicated to bridging the talent and opportunity gaps, two seemingly disparate problems, with one solution. DiBenedetto, in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay, is helping underprivileged kids with their career path development. Using a three-pillar approach, Think Big for Kids offers career exploration, mentoring, and job readiness/placement.
With the help of partner companies like Bank of America, Haneke Design, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Tribridge and many more, Think Big for Kids targets kids from 6th grade through high school, exposing them to career paths in the middle school years, providing mentoring through high school, and post-high school job readiness support into their first real job.
The program is taking off. Think Big for Kids started its pilot program in 2016 with six Boys and Girls Clubs reaching 500 kids, and this fall increased to 10 clubs reaching 750 kids. The organization is hoping to reach 2,000 children by 2022.
Mentors from partner companies spend time with students once a month talking about their careers, helping students pick high school classes, or connecting them to internships. Partner companies range from tech companies to banks to trades like electricians or painters. For DiBenedetto, it’s important to remind students that not all jobs require a four-year degree. Rather, many companies are willing to hire and train students out of high school, and trade schools are often an in-demand, affordable option.
If you or your business are interested in giving back to at-risk kids and securing your future workforce, sign up to volunteer or donate to Think Big for Kids here.