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Laura Bush Applauds Teen Mentors

When Florida Trend's NEXT team got together with the Florida Mentoring Partnership to plan the first Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentor summit in 2002, we had high hopes for the new program.

FIRST LADY LAURA BUSH joined Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Trend's NEXT Publisher Lynda Keever at the Teen Trendsetter Reading Mentor Summit in Orlando.Our involvement was in keeping with the goals of Florida Trend's NEXT, a magazine we produce and distribute to nearly 750,000 high school students each fall. I thought it was a great success that 30 teens took part in the program that first year. Then when Gov. Jeb Bush took time to be personally involved in the training summit, it was obvious that the program had the support it needed to grow.

It's now grown to the point that at the 2005 summit in July, Gov. Bush brought along some powerful backup. And when his sister-in-law, first lady Laura Bush, joined him on the stage as the keynote speaker at the summit's closing luncheon, it was obvious that Teen Trendsetters had made the big time.

As many of you know, Laura Bush is passionate about the importance and pleasures of reading. Her passion really shows, and along with Gov. Bush, she praised both the program and the nearly 200 Teen Trendsetters for the positive impact their mentoring is having on the lives of young children.

The Teen Trendsetters I talked to after hearing Mrs. Bush's encouraging words were obviously energized as they prepared to head back to their high schools to recruit other teen mentors and establish reading programs at an elementary school in their area.

It was especially inspiring that Carmella Sease, a member of that first group of Teen Trendsetters (now a student at Emory University), was selected to introduce the first lady.

This year, Teen Trendsetter programs will be operating in 50 of Florida's 67 counties. Students are selected to be Teen Trendsetters through an essay process that requires applicants to tell why they want to become a mentor and the qualities they feel they bring to the program.

Several outstanding companies help fund the annual summit and deserve recognition for their generous support: AAA Auto Club South, the Florida Lottery, Cingular, Comcast, Universal Orlando, Golin Harris, Cooper DDB, Wyndham Orlando Resort and Scholastic.

The Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentor Program is a partnership formed between Florida Trend's NEXT and the Florida Mentoring Partnership, a program of the Volunteer Florida Foundation headed by Liza McFadden as president. The program is operated in cooperation with the Florida Department of Education's Just Read, Florida!

A new application process for the next class of Teen Trendsetters will begin soon. Information is available online at FloridaNEXT.com. For a county breakdown of Teen Trendsetter high schools, please visit flamentoring.org.Lynda Keever can be reached by e-mail at LKeever@floridatrend.com.