Name: Debbi Stone
LT Class Year: 2009
Company Name: The Florida Aquarium
- Tell us, why LTA?
The immersive Leadership Tampa experience is so impactful, that I wanted to keep the experiences and connections going. Over the years, I’ve had a number of new connections form specifically because of the LTA network, and some acquaintances I’d made in my LT ’09 days became trusted friends due to ongoing involvement in LTA. Our community is always changing and growing, and LTA has provided ongoing links that are vital for the growth of community leaders as well. As Tampa thrives, our relationships can also thrive. LTA keeps us all connected, and this is an important foundation for the respect and trust that enable communities to flourish.
- For you, what separates LTA from other business leadership programs?
The local focus of LTA provides experiences and growth that directly impact where we work, live, and play. What we learn through this network is not abstract nor conceptual. It has relevant, real-time application and significance. Another benefit of LTA is that it brings together so many disciplines. Many of our career paths and professional development opportunities connect us with people of similar interests and expertise, and LTA brings together a more diverse network of community leaders.
- Describe a time when the LTA experience impacted your life or career?
There have been several. The one that stands out for me, though, is meeting Rebecca Jacobson through LTA. She chaired the Community Outreach Committee when I joined, and we remain friends to this day. She has become the kind of friend with whom I have weighty conversations about what matters. We all need people in our lives that we trust with fears, aspirations, and questions we may not even know how to articulate. I know I can mentally and verbally stumble without judgment, even if we haven’t seen each other for a few months or more. You never know what Committee, holiday party, or annual luncheon may connect you with someone like this!
- What is a LTA benefit you wish everyone knew about?
LTA’s structure of Committees provides a built-in mechanism for discovering new ways to engage with our community. We often gravitate toward what we know and are most comfortable doing, so in my case, I’ve naturally found myself at environmental clean-ups, in education-focused volunteering, and other activities that align with my job and with my personal interests. Thanks to the Community Outreach Committee, I once spent a Saturday painting a house alongside other members of LTA. I had heard of Paint Your Heart Out, and I appreciated its value, but I am not sure I would have sought out that particular opportunity if not for LTA. It would not have occurred to me as organically as planting mangroves or removing invasive plants from a shoreline. Nor would it have occurred to me to share financial literacy concepts with middle school students were it not for LTA partnering with Junior Achievement and providing the training and logistical planning. There was definitely team-building and bonding among the LTA Members who shared this experience with me. While I taught middle school for several years (a lifetime ago!), teaching about balancing a checkbook, making a budget, comparing career salaries? That was quite far outside of my comfort zone, but since that was the case for my fellow LTA volunteers as well, we stepped outside of our comfort zones together.
- Describe how the leadership journey will continue to shape you?
My leadership journey has been, and will no doubt continue to be, shaped by people. I have met extraordinary individuals through LTA, and they have inspired and motivated me every step along the way.