Pepin Distributing Company President and CEO Tom Pepin, Tampa campus Principal Monika Perez, Riverview campus Principal Geri Henry, New Port Richey campus Principal Celeste Keller and Executive Director Dr. Jeff Skowronek at the 20th anniversary gala.

On March 2 at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre, Pepin Academies—a public, independent, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit, tuition-free charter school consisting of three campuses—held a gala with a silent auction in celebration of its 20th anniversary, and all those years have been in support of students with learning and learning-related disabilities. The funds raised, thanks to many sponsors like SRD Engineers, will greatly help its mission.

“Twenty years ago, Pepin Academies was created because of the lack of an educational foundation for children with disabilities in our community,” said Tom Pepin, Cofounder of Pepin Academies and Chairman Emeritus of the Pepin Academies Foundation. “We would not be where we are today without the enormous support and passion from our community partners like SRD Engineers. It amazes me every day to see how far we’ve come and what the future holds.”

Pepin Academies will be dividing the funds equally towards its campuses in Riverview and Tampa in Hillsborough County and New Port Richey in Pasco County. The funds will allow improvements such as expanding its Pepin Transitional program for more workplace opportunities, purchasing new technology, classrooms trying new initiatives and improving curriculums.

“We had quite a few sponsors donating anywhere from five to 10 to even 25 thousand dollars,” said Dr. Jeff Skowronek, Executive Director of the Hillsborough campuses. “Projections are suggesting it will be one of our best galas ever, but we really don’t have all the numbers calculated yet to know the exact numbers.”

The school has grown immensely since its start in 1999, having around 25 students in a single schoolhouse only for high school. Now, Pepin has three larger sites with over 1,100 students collectively for 3rd through 12th grade with a transition program for students up to age 22.

“Pepin Academies is the only public charter school of its kind…A lot of our students are gonna go on to colleges, technical schools, military; some of the other schools in the community may appear to look like a similar population, but they don’t have the diploma options that we have,” said FTE Coordinator M’Liss Ferlita. “We have a program that is like no other that’s available in the community.”

As such, Pepin’s mission is of great importance, and through events like the gala it can go farther for its students.

Although there are no plans yet, it is open to starting additional campuses to reach more students who might struggle in typical school environments. “Not in the immediate future, but I think as we enhance what we already have in place, there’s always that mindset of looking to where else we can help students that could use a program like ours,” said Geri Henry, Principal of the Riverview campus.

Pepin Academies’ campuses are located in Riverview at 9304 Camden Field Pkwy., Tampa at 3916 E. Hillsborough Ave. and New Port Richey at 9804 Little Rd. For more information, visit pepinacademies.com or call 533-2999 (Riverview), 236-1755 (Tampa) or 727-233-2961 (New Port Richey).