Real Heroes Have Back-Up Plans - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Real Heroes Have Back-Up Plans

Real Heroes Have Back-Up Plans

Apollo Academy Founder, Beth Ann Valavanis  

Beth Ann Valavanis, Founder of Greater Tampa Bay’s Apollo Academy, had a vision for her family and her community. Despite the many challenges, she has seen it through with vigor and heart.  

The Back Story  

The former COO of GA Foods, who once lived in transit between Atlanta, Chicago and St. Pete, told her husband shortly after having their daughter, “Whatever I do next, it’s going to impact our local community positively.”  

With the desire to be in one place, Beth Ann and her family put down roots in Greater Tampa Bay, and from there, Apollo Academy was born. 

“First and foremost, I am a mom. I started this school for my daughter. There are many wonderful private schools in the GTB area. However, they are all traditional based schools, and I knew that just wasn’t going to work for my family,” Valavanis said.  

As an Acton Academy affiliate, this learning model puts the students at the center of every decision. It operates under the premise that children are far more capable than they are given credit.  

“With this intense focus on our learners, we can provide a magical and real place for children and their families to thrive.”  

Challenge Accepted  

In 2020-2021, Beth-Ann and her husband poured their time and life savings into creating Apollo Academy. They found a beautiful, old home that fit her vision for the school and its students that would soon be attending.  

“We renovated it, and it was charming and ready to go until five days before school was supposed to start, we learned that the building wasn’t going to meet certain city or fire codes. I reached out to everyone I could think of for a short-term solution under the premise that all heroes have a backup plan,” Valavanis said.  

Fortunately, The Tampa YMCA had an empty five-classroom schoolhouse for Apollo Academy to move into.  

“We asked for eight weeks and never really moved out. They were so welcoming to us and our learners,” Valavanis said.  

Due to their use of the YMCA, The Apollo Academy was able to qualify for the Florida Step-Up Scholarship program and there are students who participate and benefit from the scholarship program today.  

“I never thought we would be able to receive those scholarships during our first year. I wanted this school to be a school for everyone, so among all the trials, this is a major win,” Valavanis said. “I remember standing up in front of our school community and saying, ‘Me, just like all of you, had a vision of what this school would look like, and while it’s not what we envisioned, what makes a school is not the building, it’s the students and families that go there.” 

See Also

Fast and Fierce  

Beth-Ann shared that there were days when she wanted to give up.  

“I was frustrated and wanted to give up, but then I would walk into the learning studio and remember my why. Why I started this, and how strongly I felt about creating this school for my daughter and our community,” she said 

Apollo Academy is growing and enrolling for K-6th grade, with plans to add a grade each year. Beth-Ann is also securing a larger location for the school and its growing population in the Hyde Park area. 

“Resilience is a real-life lesson. I won’t give up. We need this school.”  

By Meredith Beisinger.

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