TAMPA, Florida – The Hillsborough School Board voted unanimously to add Thaddeus M. Bullard Titus O’Neill Academy to Sly Magnetic High School, reflecting recognition for service to the Hillsborough County public school system, as well as a rebranding of school work towards creativity and immersive student mentoring.
Bullard Academy at Sly Magnetic High School will be a beacon to the community where Bullard and his Bullard Family Foundation have changed the lives of students, families and educators in the community.
“I was once called a ‘bad’ kid and was told that by the age of 16 I would die or go to prison,” said Thaddeus Bullard, aka WWE Global Ambassador Titus O’Neill. “This is the highest and most respected award I could ever receive, given that I was never expected to be a great success in life. Hopefully this proves to any student in the underprivileged community that anything is possible if you believe. “
It all started in 2016 when Ballard walked into Sligh High Magnetic High and asked if he could throw a birthday party for the students who were celebrating this month’s big date. He never had birthday parties as a kid, and he knew there were other children in similar situations. Bullard bought a cake, the kids got together at the gym, and he sang happy birthday greetings to them. They played basketball and celebrated. In August 2018, with the creation of the Bullard Family Foundation, Ballard saw an opportunity to pave the way for Sly, which is within the zip code that records the sixth highest percentage of children living in poverty in Florida. Sly will serve as a model for the world of what transformative impact looks like at the intersection of corporate and community donation.
Today, the Bullard Family Foundation, along with its partners, are generously donating their time and resources to Sligh. Students are empowered to develop through programming based on leadership, arts, technology, and sports. Teachers and administrators feel supported and grateful. And parents receive advanced training and comprehensive support services.
Just a year later, Sly posted an overall 67-point increase in state estimates in the spring of 2019, making it the first high school in Hillsborough County. During 2020, total attendance rose, student misconduct and suspension rates fell, and teacher retention was at an all-time high. Prior to the cancellation of 2020 government assessments, Sligh was on the verge of surpassing the previous year’s results.
In addition to Sligh, the Foundation provides free backpacks, school supplies, haircuts, and medical, dental and ophthalmic services each year at the annual Back to School Bash event. More recently, 1,000 volunteers helped fill 30,000 backpacks for distribution. Throughout the year, teachers in underserved communities are surprised at meals to thank them for their hard work. Students received laptops and technology to help move towards e-learning during the pandemic. The foundation distributes food throughout the holidays and has stepped up significantly during the pandemic, even delivering food directly to families in need. The foundation has built 5 innovation laboratories in schools in the Tampa Bay area that serve as stimulating rooms during the school day and a safe place after school. During the annual Joy of Giving event, students receive gifts and their parents connect to support services.
“We have over 150 corporate and community partners who donate generously,” Bullard said. “This renaming creates a legacy that we can all be proud of.”
Before the vote, Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis called Bullard a “public hero.”
“He continues to do whatever he can to help children bridge significant gaps in our communities,” Davis said. “And he just doesn’t stop at Slaya. He grew up in many high schools in our transformation network. I’ve never met a more incredible person. “
“Other community leaders are looking at you to see what you are doing, how you are doing it,” Deputy Chairman of the Board Stacy Khan told Bullard. “You have undoubtedly done great things for Sly. But you really changed the community. “