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Help Launch LILLY: The Little Learning Village That Can

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Dear Friends, Family, and Community Members:

My name is Lexa, and earlier this year, I founded LILLY Education Foundation, an organization I pray will soon get to the heart of our local community to fulfill a real need for safe learning spaces that welcome learners who don't fit neatly into a single box--and whose physical, social-emotional, and/or cognitive needs move beyond the scope of the traditional brick and mortar school system.

We created LILLY so that these bigger-than-the-box learners, their families, and the educators and specialists that steward them, find the support and sanctuary they seek; right here, close to home, is a community that sees and hears them clearly, and at our doors, they may lay down their burdens. At LILLY's doors, those old boxes may be left behind.

Our Story

I am a Florida certified teacher; it is a title and credential I carry as a gift; teaching is what I was born to do. Yet, in 2020, I felt the call to move beyond the brick and mortar, and within months of leaving behind my position as fifth grade teacher, I'd find my life had changed irrevocably; I started a tutoring business, graduated with a Master’s degree in Reading Education, and welcomed my daughter, Annalucia, into the world.

Becoming an entrepreneur, I grew in skill; receiving my Master’s, I grew in knowledge; and in becoming a mom, I suddenly knew what it meant to look at a child - at my child - and crumble into complete vulnerability and helplessness, and yet simultaneously, expand in absolute fortitude. And so, perhaps most importantly--because of Annalucia, I grew immeasurably in heart.


Then, a higher degree in reading education took my tutoring business in a new direction. I found myself steeped in the current research on dyslexia and learning disabilities. What is the trick?

Which strategies, which approaches, which programs will help my learners learn to read? While some seemed to serve more than others, the actual ‘trick’ had much less to do with academics, at least at first. In fact, I found that - almost always - before nourishing brains, I had to nurture hearts.


Because to nurture their hearts meant to get down at eye level to witness each student as they were; it meant recognizing their battles and how those battles had shaped their fight (or flight). It meant that, before any skill was taught, I acknowledged each learner as a whole being with unique needs, potential, and gifts.


Before I knew it, my tutoring business evolved with a heartbeat of its own. Our programs and services were on demand and we continued looking for new, and more, spaces to house our learners, educators, and families. Why? I wondered.

Our team’s Speech Language Pathologist, now the Vice President and Advocacy Chair at LILLY, helped me see why we had become a magnet to families and learners across the Tampa Bay Area, seemingly overnight.

We say “Yes.”

In a world cluttered with “no’s”—no room, no resources, no staff—we seek ways to open doors for learners, families, and teachers. I recall a conversation that opened my eyes to our community’s real and urgent need: A mother, voice tinged with hope and hesitation, inquired about our programs for her seven-year-old son, recently diagnosed with high functioning ASD. Accustomed to rejection, her relief at our “yes” was palpable, a stark reminder of the barriers too many families within our local community face.

While important to acknowledge the limitations of our own experience, knowledge, and training, if we wait for someone else - some other program, school, or educator - to serve the learners who don’t fit perfectly into a mold, we are wasting time.

Take care of each other.

This was our motto in my fifth grade classroom. It was printed on a banner that hung above our whiteboard. It was present in our daily conversations, and it was the simple reminder my students needed when it was time to look beyond themselves, to the child standing before or behind them, in need of a helping hand.


Take care of each other. This is the core of LILLY’s mission. We refuse to let a lack of resources, staff, or training be the reason a child doesn’t receive the support they deserve. We adapt, we grow, we ensure every child finds a place with us.


Our call now is to you, our extended family and community, to support us in building the “Little Learning Village that CAN.” On April 1st, we signed a lease for a new space which will become the first LILLY Learning Center, a home away from home— where all of our programs and services will unite under one roof.



Your donations, both monetary and in-kind, will enable us to transform this space from a building to a learning community, including

  • Exterior updates to our Zephyrhills learning center to ensure a safe, nurturing environment, including necessary updates like a back fence and a security system.
  • Interior updates and additions, including painting, storage and shelving, new lighting, and ceiling repairs.
  • Furniture to ensure our space is both warm and accessible to meet diverse learning needs.
  • Purchase essential learning materials, from books to assistive devices, to creative supplies, ensuring every child has access to learning resources that allow them to explore and grow.

Sharing this with your family, friends, and community network amplifies our voice and extends our reach. Every act of sharing, every conversation about LILLY, opens new doors, provides a new ‘yes’ and supports our mission as the Little Learning Village that Can. ♥️



With a heart full of gratitude,

Lexa Duno, M. Ed
President, LILLY Education Foundation
“The Little Learning Village that CAN”




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Donations 

  • Jeannemarie Hock
    • $20 
    • 2 d
  • Emily M
    • $20 
    • 3 mos
  • Sonja Wanner
    • $100 
    • 3 mos
  • Lauri Vanderka
    • $100 
    • 3 mos
  • Rebecca Coogan
    • $100 
    • 3 mos
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Organizer

Lexa Duno
Organizer
Dade City, FL
Lilly Education Foundation Corp
Beneficiary

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