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Reformer Star of the Week: Glenton “Glen” Gilzean

• Joanna Hassell

Everywhere I go, people know and love Glen Gilzean.  He is a man of character, fighting the good fight on education reform.  As an education advocate, Glen is on a mission to bring hope and opportunity in the form of educational scholarships to families who otherwise can’t afford their school of choice.

His mission is personal.  Glen, whose family emigrated from Jamaica, grew up in the Lauderdale Lakes area of Broward County, Florida.  He was an average student, but Glen’s parents felt he wasn’t achieving his full potential in his neighborhood school.  So, his mom pulled a fast one on him at the age of 11.  She asked Glen if he’d like to earn an allowance.  Of course, like any 11 year old, he said yes.  She immediately put him to work handing out AVON catalogues in the neighborhood, and promised him all the proceeds.  She just didn’t tell him that the proceeds weren’t going to be in the form of cash.  Instead, the money he earned went to the private school his mom sent him to in 7th grade. Glen was given the opportunity for a better life, even if he had to pay his way there.

It is only fitting that the boy who paid for his own private school tuition by handing out AVON catalogues is now the Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach for Step-Up for Students.  Step Up for Students, a nonprofit based in Tampa, administers Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which currently provides educational opportunities to approximately 60,000 students from low-income families.

For Glen, the opportunity for a better education was the key to his success.  Now, each and every day, he brings that same opportunity to more families. Through these scholarships, families have the chance to make the best educational choices for their children.

Glen laughed at me when I called him a B.M.O.C. In fact, he didn’t know what it even was!  Instead he describes himself as, “a little guy—an average Joe who made good choices because choices were available.”

I can’t help but to disagree.  He’ll be a year older next week—reaching the ripe old age of 32, and in my opinion, he is a big man on the education reform campus.

So, B.M.O.C. or the Average Joe?

You decide.  Glen Gilzean’s resume speaks for itself:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Science.  FIRST in his family
  • Master’s degree in Business and Entrepreneurship while working full-time.  FIRST in his family
  • Regional Field Director for the Florida Department of Education
  • Founder of Educate Today, Inc.,  a non-profit organization
  • Former Pinellas County School Board Member, appointed by Governor Rick Scott
  • Former Member of the Board of Trustees for Florida A & M University
  • Vice President of Advocacy and Outreach for Step-Up for Students

About the author

Joanna Hassell

Joanna Hassell is the Deputy Director of Policy and Implementation at the Foundation for Excellence in Education. Before joining the Foundation, she served for over six years in the Florida House of Representatives as a legislative attorney in Education and, most recently, in the Rules and Calendar Committee.