I’d like to add Ryan and Hilary Shore and their 9-month-old son, Joey, to our "New Season Hot List." They paid a visit to my office not long ago, and who wouldn’t admire them on sight alone? Ryan looks every bit the All-American rugby player he was at the University of Maryland; Hilary, toting Joey, has the lean frame of the marathon runner she is and entered with a big smile. Joey, well, he’s just adorable and actually part of what his enterprising parents are doing for the children of Southwest Florida.
Ryan and Hilary had been rising stars as Collier County school teachers (Ryan had won a prestigious Golden Apple for excellence in education; Hilary had coordinated All-County Elementary Honors Courses and served on a statewide government committee for music education). But they felt they wanted to do more—hands-on—to deliver enriched learning in a fun way to schoolkids here.
So they quit their jobs to form a Full STEAM Ahead program, starting with a camp for 11 kids in the summer of 2014. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and music—and Ryan, the idea guy, and Hilary, the music, art and planning person, recruited a mix of youngsters. They weren’t looking just for those who excel in the classroom, Ryan says. “So many children today,” he says, “might struggle with reading or math, but they’re technology wizards or musically inclined.”
There they were in the Steinway Piano Gallery in Bonita Springs, Ryan recalls, “this bunch of kids with tuning apps in front of $100,000 baby grand pianos making instruments out of plastic bowls and rubber bands and cardboard boxes.” The test camp behind them, the Shores forged ahead with the master plan of after-school programs in addition to the summer camps. There are about 150 kids right now in their after-school program at the Sports Club Center on Pine Ridge Road in Naples. They are a for-profit operation, but also have a nonprofit component, raising money for the students who need scholarships. The Shores have partnered with the Southwest Florida Community Foundation in learning the way forward—taking advantage of the foundation’s knowhow in supporting social entrepreneurs.
One measure of their progress is this past summer camp’s enrollment—up from 11 to 200 children. But the ultimate sign of advancement is to look in on the kids in session:
- There’s Matthew, the seventh-grader, creating his own music from computer class, recording his voice and editing it, and learning the science behind it all.
- There’s reserved Mai, 12, who couldn’t hide her smiles after producing her 3-D-printed hollowed-out NASA rocket with LED lighting.
- There’s Anja, 14, in music class—scared on her first day to sing in front of others and get their feedback but belting out Little Did You Know and other tunes by the time the class concert came around.
- There’s Hayes, 5, urging his mom to buy him a circuit board for an invention he had in mind.
- And there’s aforementioned Joey Shore, at 9 months, enrolled in a kindermusik program on Saturday mornings, which helps develop early learning skills through music and movement.
Beyond these particulars, the students learn about robotics, play the Minecraft computer game for team-building and problem-solving, and have their own classroom currency—Shore Cents—for lessons in helping others and financial management.
Ryan and Hilary say they are going from 5 a.m. to midnight to establish Full Steam Ahead (fullsteamaheadfl.com) as a positive force in the community. “It has been a learning experience for us,” Hilary says about the challenges of mastering the business aspects of this. And the more education they get, the better it promises to be for their students. Happy lessons to all.
THANKS TO MY COLLEAGUES
This year’s Florida Magazine Association awards competition brought Gulfshore Life a bronze for Best Overall Magazine, a silver for Best Overall Writing and a bronze for Best Overall Design, among other honors. It is fitting tribute to all the members of our great team here.
A FOND GOODBYE
It is sad for us, but a great new challenge for him as our publisher for nearly the last three years, Ray Paprocki, moves on to a new job as publisher and general manager of Dispatch Media magazines in Columbus, Ohio. He brought the highest professional standards and people skills to our office and left us in far better shape than when he arrived. We shall miss him—and wish him the best of luck going forward.