News Columns & Blogs

13th Avenue kids ‘Go Green’ for mentorship program

BRADENTON — If William Lowe becomes a corporate tycoon one day as he wants, he might look back to what he learned this summer.

That would please Danielle Smith and Marla Watts.

Drena Green, too.

Lowe was one of 18 teenagers from the 13th Avenue Community Center who participated in Tropicana’s Summer Mentorship Program: Experiencing Entrepreneurship, co-chaired by Smith and Watts.

The mentoring partnership, now in its 10th year, concluded Wednesday.

Carrying out a “Going Green” theme, two teams vied over six weeks to make an eco-friendly product.

They followed a hypothetical business model that involved them in budgeting, logistics, marketing and sales.

Lowe was on the team with the winning product — a “Friendly N’ Green” cotton rally towel — based on boardroom presentation, net profit, logo, etc.

“A very good learning experience,” said Lowe, 15. “Taught me how to make deadlines, time management, make eye contact during presentations.”

Alexis Henri’s team’s product — a mousepad — didn’t win, but the program paid dividends, regardless.

“It gave me self-confidence, kept me motivated week after week,” the 15-year-old said.

Brittany Simpson thought her team’s mousepad should’ve won, but said, “I learned how to stay focused, budget my time and work with a team.”

Tropicana officials acknowledged the youths’ progress.

“We definitely saw growth,” said Smith, a customer logistics/supply chain analyst.

Watts credited 29 Tropicana mentors who worked with the teens.

“We professional people go through a lot of things and we want to prepare them to get ready for the future,” the technical manager said. “We want the kids to know we care.”

Octavia Ferrell, who works in manufacturing quality systems, was one of those mentors and believes the teens understood the program’s purpose.

“Not only are these skills important for what they’re doing right now, but later on when they’re trying to get into college, get jobs,” said the Tropicana employee.

About 250 13th Avenue Community Center teens have gone through the program.

“If they just give it a chance, they find out they have skills, talents they didn’t know they had,” said Green, the center’s executive director.

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or e-mail him at