Starting a new school year is already expensive, but going back during a pandemic is putting even more stress on the budgets of teachers and parents.

Pepin Academies has created an Adopt-A-Classroom and Adopt-A-Student campaign.

James Jacobelli’s sixth-grade reading class plans to throw a sorting ceremony when they finish reading "Harry Potter." The Adopt-A-Classroom program allows for this type of innovation.

“Things like that would be really hard to do without programs like this because it’s a lot of extra costs but its something the students really remember and it gets them excited about reading,” said Jacobelli.

Pepin Academies is a nonprofit independent charter school for students with learning disabilities in grades 3-12.

“The type of education we provide is so highly customized it just isn’t covered by the funds that are normally allocated to the schools,” said Dan Orrico, with the Pepin Academies Foundation.

“The costs for COVID enhancements and the precautions we need to take have easily gone into the six figures this year,” said Pepin Academies executive director Jeff Skowronek.

The school is looking for the community’s help. For $1,000, you can adopt a classroom and for $250 you can adopt a student for the school year.

“So many students don’t have the resources at home to have the supplies they need so the more we are able to give them as a school community really helps our students be successful,” said Jacobelli.

Pepin has more than 100 classrooms across three campuses. They are particularly looking to businesses to step up, not just by writing a check, but taking a seat at a desk.

“Have our business community and individuals be more engaged with the classroom, be more engaged with the students, understand what it is that is really happening here, why it's so special,” said Orrico.

Julie Weintraub is proud to say her business adopted the library. She says when it comes to education, teachers shouldn’t have to cut corners.

“Those adoptions allow the teachers to get the tools they need to be able to help these children succeed,” said Weintraub.

Pepin Academies' goal is to have every classroom adopted by the end of the year.

For more information, or to adopt a classroom or student, go to

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Pepin Academies has launched its inaugural “Adopt-a-Classroom” and “Adopt-a-Student” campaigns to help equip teachers and students with needed school supplies for the 2020-2021 school year.

Pepin Academies are public, tuition-free charter schools located in Tampa, Riverview, and New Port Richey that serve students with learning disabilities in grades 3-12.

On a recent edition of The Current, Roxanne Wilder chats with Don Orrico, executive director of Pepin Academies Foundation. Please listen to the interview by clicking here

The Pepin Academies Foundation is launching fundraising campaigns to help students and teachers with school supplies. 
Don Orrico, director of development for Pepin Academies said, "We're running two concurrent programs, 'Adopt-a-Classroom' and 'Adopt-a-Student.'" 

The 'Adopt-a-Student' funds will provide students with a backpack filled with needed school supplies. 

"The goal we have at Pepin Academics is to make sure that every student reaches their full potential in the most supportive environment possible," Jeff Skrownek, executive director of Pepin Academies Hillsborough school explained. 

The 'Adopt-a-Classroom' donations will furnish materials for teachers to enhance academic learning for students. 

"It’s expensive to purchase school supplies," Orrico shared. "It's expensive to get the type of specific type of supplies that our teachers need to educate our students." 

This is the first year for the community school drive for students with learning disabilities. 

"This kind of campaign gives us the opportunity to level the playing field for each student, so they can feel comfortable in their environment, not worrying about who has what, and who doesn't and focus on the education that is at hand," explained Skrownek. 

Lea Lewis is a teacher for Pepin Academies and sees the need first hand. "We have a classroom-based business called ‘Tees by Teens,’ where we specialize in customizing spirit shirts," Lewis said. "This campaign will allow us to expand this classroom-based business."  

A call for community help to support teachers and students in need. Pepin Academies has classes for 3rd graders to 12 graders. 

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Pepin Academies Foundation announced it has hired Don Orrico as its director of development to lead the Foundation’s strategic partnership work, including expansion of its community and corporate outreach efforts.

Orrico will be responsible for building and managing a regional and nationwide fundraising network to support the growth and raise awareness of Pepin Academies, a specialized network of public independent not-for-profit charter schools for students with learning and learning-related disabilities in the Tampa Bay area. 

“With Don leading our team we will better equipped to tackle the needs and deliver the support for our students and the schools as they continue to expand and open new campuses,” said Natalie King, Chair of the Pepin Academies Foundation Board of Directors.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Orrico served as the Florida-based director of strategic partnerships at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Prior, he served in a major gifts role, focused on the south Florida area, at the James Madison Institute. Orrico is a graduate of both the Atlas Network’s Think Tank Leadership Training and the Charles Koch Institute’s [email protected] program. He also served on the board of directors of the Catholic Education Awareness Fund and is now a fundraising advisor to the Latin Mass Society of Tampa Bay.

“I am incredibly excited to blend my passion for non-profit charter schools and improving the lives of those most in need in our local community. I believe this year has taught us that tight-knit communities caring for the most vulnerable are the ones best setup for long-term success.” said Orrico.

The Foundation’s reach across the community is already one to be admired; they have partnerships with organizations such as Publix, AdventHealth and Ferman Auto. With annual events such as their infamous Puttin’ for Pepin Golf Tournament that attracts high profile community leaders, the Foundation is able to invest directly into the academic success of the students.

“Pepin Academies has a tremendous track record of success providing a highly specialized form of education for students and helping launch the professional careers of graduates through the Transition Program which has helped foster numerous high-level partnerships in the Tampa Bay area.” continued Orrico. “I want to cultivate those partnerships but also go further in telling the Pepin Academies success story all over the country. As one of the only tuition free schools in the country exclusively focused on students with learning disabilities, Pepin Academies deserve to have their story told nationally and that will happen as we develop more partnerships outside the Tampa area.”

The growth of Pepin Academies Foundation and its established partnerships reflects a simultaneous growth for Pepin Academies, which is set to open its new Pasco County campus in New Port Richey this year and expand its Riverview campus with the purchase of an additional property adjacent to their campus. Pepin Academies also anticipates adding two new campuses in the next five years located in Wesley Chapel and Citrus Park.

HILLSBOROUGH & PASCO COUNTIES, Fla., Wednesday, August 12, 2020 – Pepin Academies Foundation has launched its inaugural “Adopt-a-Classroom” campaign to help equip teachers and students with needed school supplies for the 2020-2021 school year. Individuals and businesses are invited to participate by sponsoring or “adopting” a classroom, with the option to donate to a specific Pepin Academies campus or support all three of its Tampa Bay-area campuses.

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