By Kathy L. Collins

When a community embraces art, in all its forms, the community flourishes in many ways. On Thursday, April 4, the result of the greater Brandon community’s support of the arts, specifically the 5th Annual Winthrop Arts Festival, was demonstrated. Festival organizer and Winthrop Town Centre Artist, Bryant Martinez, presented a check in the amount of $2,000 to the Hillsborough Community College Scholarship Endowment.

The funds will be used to provide firefighter students at the Fire Academy located at the Ybor Campus of Hillsborough Community College with book scholarships. Each scholarship will average about $250.

Dr. Carlos Soto, President of the Brandon Campus of Hillsborough Community College said, “This is a very focused donation. A lot of students can use the assistance and will be able to plan ahead.”

Martinez said, “This community truly embraces the arts, and I am so grateful.” Martinez added, “HCC was the first school I went to when I got out of the service. In addition, I am happy to help firefighters and future firefighters. In 2006, I was involved in an accident and woke up at Tampa General Hospital. I am happy and grateful that I am now able to really thank those who helped me many years ago.”

Ronnie Rivera, Public Relations Officer for the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue said, “I think this is a great start. There are a lot of people who want to be firefighters, but cannot afford the cost of the school.” The need for trained firefighters in Hillsborough County is great.

The 5th Annual Winthrop Arts Festival was held over the weekend of Saturday, March 23 and Sunday, March 24. Despite less than perfect weather, over 5,000 people attended the festival.

Dr. Soto said, “I have worked with Bryant for many years, and I appreciate his passion for art and his willingness to step out and work for the community. I also appreciate the vision of John and Kay Sullivan to develop a sustainable, livable community that includes both art and education. ”

For more information on the Winthrop Arts Festival, please visit For more information on the HCC Fire Academy, please visit



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