Passion — If you are not passionate about the cause you support then stop. Believe in your purpose and your passion will fuel you every step of the way.
For someone who wants to set aside money to establish a Philanthropic Foundation or Fund, what does it take to make sure your resources are being impactful and truly effective? In this interview series, called “How To Create Philanthropy That Leaves a Lasting Legacy” we are visiting with founders of Philanthropic Foundations, Charitable Organizations, and Non Profit Organizations, to talk about the steps they took to create sustainable success.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Krissy Webb.
Krissy Webb is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Student ACES, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and developing young men and women of character, honor, and integrity. Krissy has been in leadership positions in the non-proﬁt sector for over 12 years where she has dedicated her career to inspiring a new generation of leaders. Through Student ACES, she has positively impacted over 50,000 high school student athletes and has taught them leadership skills, values, and character education to be successful men and women in the classroom, the athletic fields and in their communities.
She is a certified instructor of Mental Health First Aid. Krissy lives in Palm Beach Gardens with her husband and twin daughters. If Krissy is not with high school students you will find her on the softball field with her daughters and the 10u ACES Elite softball team, a first-of-its kind travel sports program she founded that incorporates research-driven character education programming into competitive athletics.
Thank you for making time to visit with us about a ‘top of mind’ topic. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
I have always been involved in charity work and giving back to the community has also been a priority for me. It was in the community work that I built relationships and learned the ins and outs of charity work. Fast forward to 2012 I was blessed with two beautiful baby twin girls. A few months after they were born my dad and I were driving a U-Haul across the state of Florida. At the time, my dad was an executive with Florida Power & Light (35 years), and I asked him “who will my daughters look up to”? After a long car ride of talking about what the high schools are doing to prepare student athletes to be leaders Student ACES (ACE = athletics, community and education) was started.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and everyday our students give me hope for the future. The adversity that they overcome and resiliency they build is so inspirational. Everyone always says that Student ACES changes the lives of students in the program, but these students have changed mine. They give me the energy to be the best mom, wife, role model, coach and Executive Director. The inspire me to continue giving back, provide perspective and influence me to put my best foot forward each and every day.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? We would love to hear a few stories or examples.
- Work Ethic — In the 50’s when my parents were 5 years old my grandparents (both sides) fled communism in Cuba. They arrived in the United States with $5 in their pockets, they established a life in the United States becoming proud citizens. My parents and grandparents worked so hard to give my sisters and I an incredible childhood and family support system. They instilled work ethic in me, and I am eternally grateful.
- Integrity — it is extremely important to me to be a person of integrity. I pride myself on being the same person in every situation and doing the right thing when no one is looking.
- Respect — my parents taught me to respect everyone from a very young age and it drives me crazy when people are disrespectful to others. You do not necessarily have to like everyone, but we must respect each person.
Work ethic, integrity and respect are three of the seven guiding principles of our Student ACES program.
What’s the most interesting discovery you’ve made since you started leading your organization?
The resiliency of the students continues to amaze me. Some of these children have faced more in 15 years than any of us will ever see in a lifetime (some of us would never see in multiple lifetimes). It’s imperative that we do not give up on our youth and that we support them however we can.
Can you please tell our readers more about how you or your organization intends to make a significant social impact?
Student ACES inspires the leaders of tomorrow. Through our programs (ACE Flagship Program, Captains Summit, Leadership Workshops, ACES Elite, ACE University) and at The Student ACES Center (The SAC), our one physical location in Belle Glade, Florida, we inspire high school student athletes to become men and women of honor, character and integrity.
ACE Flagship Program: This program is provided to students from public and private high schools in Palm Beach County. Students are nominated by their high schools or peers for exemplifying leadership traits in athletics, education and in their community.
The Flagship Program accepts male and female students in their junior or senior year of high school. Students are excused from school and work together with students from different ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures to discuss values-based leadership. A network of young men and women of character and integrity is created and life-lasting friendships are formed.
Captains Summit: This one-day seminar is designed specifically for high school athletic captains to learn leadership skills, techniques and life lessons that will enable them to lead each of their teams on and off the field. Student athletes have firsthand experience to hear and engage with world-class experts and leaders in their respective professions while connecting with captains from other schools. The student athletes engage in interactive drills designed to incorporate communication, respect, sportsmanship, trust, sacrifice and ethical behavior. The captains also engage in team discussions on challenges facing today’s young students.
Leadership Workshops: Customizable to specific teams, schools or sports. The Student ACE staff works closely with school administration and coaches to create a personalized curriculum to focus on specific needs. During workshops, teams have the opportunity to work together to solve case studies and engage in interactive drills designed to incorporate communication, respect, sportsmanship, trust, sacrifice and ethical behavior. Workshop topics can vary according to specific needs and work to break down the barriers that may be preventing a team or school from reaching the highest level of success. Workshops can be offered in one-day or multi-day series.
ACES Elite: A first-of-its kind travel softball program dedicated to developing softball skills of 10u and 12u girls backed by 10 years of research while instilling values and reinforcing the importance of integrity through character education opportunities while competing at the highest level.
ACE University: ACE University extends the teachings of Student ACES to the collegiate level. Student ACES works with college athletic teams to create a championship culture and drive character values into their schools.
What makes you feel passionate about this cause more than any other?
The idea for Student ACES stemmed from a conversation I had with my dad while driving a U-Haul across the state of Florida a few months after my twin daughters were born. At the time, my dad was an executive with Florida Power & Light (35 years), and I asked him “who will my daughters look up to”? While this was the foundation or the jumping off point, if you will, for what is today Student ACES, it is also what still makes me feel passion about this cause more than any other. Our youth have so much opportunity, however, they face so many obstacles, and they need the tools to learn how to overcome the obstacles throughout life. Character education inclusive of lessons and real-life exercises focusing on character, honor, ethics, integrity, respect, teamwork, leadership are integral for the development of our youth.
Without naming names, could you share a story about an individual who benefitted from your initiatives?
One of our first students was an absolutely amazing football player, NFL talent according to many. He overcame so many obstacles. Hearns knew violence from a very young age. His little brother ‘s father was murdered in front of his home, body dragged down the street, and his little brother shot. At the age of 9, the fourth oldest in the household at the time, he had a decision to make. He could give up or he could choose to harness his anger and sadness from this devastating and life-altering moment to challenge him to become a mentor and positive role model for his little brother while also accepting the responsibilities of being the man of the house, still a child himself. For those that know this person, they know giving up never factors into his equation. He channeled his disappointment and absolute heartbreak and used it as motivation, often hustling selling candy and snacks to contribute financially and saving up for college while never sacrificing his commitment to training for football. He always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
Along his journey, he found Student ACES. It was there that he met me and my dad, Buck Martinez, co-founder of Student ACES and former FPL executive for 35+ years, who he would come to recognize as a role model and who, regardless of what this student was facing, would never give up on him.
Through the Student ACES program, this student learned the value of integrity, leadership, passion and respect. Throughout college he served as a mentor to many in the Student ACES program as a junior board member. He continued on his journey, and while often pressured and even tempted to stray, he never let his commitment to himself, to his family or to his values waver. Throughout high school and college, our family family remained a constant in Gerald’s life and, to this day we still consider him our brother in a household of three girls.
Upon graduating college, this student was faced with another obstacle. Although an NFL draft prospect (more than an accomplishment to be recognized and applauded — only 1.6% of college football players get drafted), his dreams of playing football would have to be put on hold and a new career prospect identified. Student ACES again played a major factor during a pivotal time in his life. It is through the Student ACES program that he was introduced to Florida Power & Light, Moss Construction, Garcia Development and the world of solar energy. After joining FPL as a Construction Manager, he now had the opportunity to again give back to Student ACES, the organization that had given so much to him, this time by sharing his story, his love for his career and the opportunity for others to explore a career in the solar industry through the Student ACES Solar Boot Camp, a four-week boot camp where participants have the opportunity learn about solar-energy construction from executives at FPL (a NextEra Energy company), Moss Construction and Garcia Development while also learning the importance of leadership and respect.
This student never gave up on his dreams or his entrepreneurial spirit, Student ACES and our family never gave up on him, FPL never gave up on my dad after his retirement, and FPL, Moss Construction and Garcia Development never gave up on providing opportunities to build a strong workforce in the state of Florida and beyond with students that many others, unfortunately, had given up on.
We all want to help and to live a life of purpose. What are three actions anyone could take to help address the root cause of the problem you’re trying to solve?
I would welcome a world in which politicians did not use their platform for personal gain, but rather to better the communities in which we live, work and play. Recognize the importance of character education, do things for the right reasons, empower future generations to make decisions that will positively impact their future and do all of it with conviction.
Based on your experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Create A Successful & Effective Nonprofit That Leaves A Lasting Legacy?” Please share a story or example for each.
- A Strong Team — I surround myself with people who are smarter than me! My goal is to learn as much as I can on a daily basis. You stop living when you stop learning. You can learn something from everyone you meet. Take time to talk to people, everyone has a story. One of my favorite things to do is research — I love to do things myself first so I can teach it. When we started Student ACES I filed every document, learned how to start a 501c3 charity, I learned every detail. This was important to me to understand every component of the business so I could run the organization to the best of my ability and beyond!
- The Ability to Delegate — We all have the same 24 hours in a day, that being said some of us are more efficient than others however it is impossible to do everything, especially in the non-profit world where we typically run lean and are doing whatever we can to help even in individual scenarios.
- A Supportive Board — It’s absolutely essential that I recognize that our Student ACES Board is 100% an extension of our team. They help to guide us in the right direction and are amazing partners. I am so very lucky to have the opportunity to work with them. Our board members provide such great insight and always tell us, with full transparency, their perspective. We recently had a strategic planning session and there were differing opinions, which is both welcome and refreshing (we don’t believe in holding anything in, after all, it’s all to benefit the students and our communities). We had to table a discussion since it was taking up valuable time and so we revisited it a few weeks later. After further evaluation, we all landed on the same idea…it just took us longer to get there. In the long run, even though it took longer, it was the right decision not to rush and to really evaluate our options together with our Board.
- Passion — If you are not passionate about the cause you support then stop. Believe in your purpose and your passion will fuel you every step of the way.
- Amazing Supporters and Strong Relationships — We all have to be honest; support and funding is 100% necessary in the non-profit world. Part of our job as an organization is not only to teach our students the importance of strong relationships as well as how to build and maintain them, but it’s also imperative that we have strong relationships (building and maintaining them just like we tell the students). For 35+ years my father, Buck Martinez who co-founded Student ACES with me, was an executive at FPL. Today, FPL is one of our biggest supporters — he never gave up on them and they never gave up on him even after retirement. FPL believes in the Student ACES mission, and they believe in Buck and much of that stems from the strength of their relationship.
How has the pandemic changed your definition of success?
I’ve always been one to roll with the punches, there are just certain things that are out of our control so why stress over the things that are? I faced the pandemic the same way. Like many, I had my girls home from school and was doing my best to keep up with their homework while also keeping up with my daily responsibilities running a non-profit and, on top of that, doing everything in my power to support students in the Student ACES programs from afar.
At our one physical location, The Student ACES Center (The SAC) in Belle Glade, we pivoted and what is typically an after-school center became a distance learning center. Here the students thrived — they had access to computers and Wi-Fi as well as fellow students and alumni of the program who were home from college and also welcoming of the safe, stable and nurturing environment that The SAC provides in an area that is traditionally not known for safety. During this time, just getting the kids to The SAC and doing their homework was a success. We shifted our focus from programming to schoolwork and we utilized the resources available to us to succeed, for us and more importantly for the students.
How do you get inspired after an inevitable setback?
I love a challenge and I relish it even more when someone tells me I can’t, or I won’t be successful that actually makes me want to succeed more for the students so bring it on! Throughout my years in the non-profit world, as well as my years on this earth, I have come to accept that failure is a part of life. If we did not fail, we would never succeed and we would never know just how rewarding success feels. As long as I take the opportunity to learn from the setback, evaluate where I went wrong and use it in my favor to succeed in the future, I am ok with it. In life, we are going to encounter obstacles, setbacks and failures, it’s how you approach them and what you do as a result of them that makes you who you are, your character.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world who you would like to talk to, to share the idea behind your non-profit? He, she, or they might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Derrick Moore, the Executive Director of Character and Player Development South Carolina Gamecock Football. In this role, Moore inspires and develops his student athletes and stands for everything Student ACES works hard to instill in the young men and women we are blessed to work with. His energy and passion for the men he inspires is contagious. We would love to connect with Mr. Moore learn from his experience and share with him what we do at Student ACES.
You’re doing important work. How can our readers follow your progress online?
I encourage everyone to visit our website, www.studentacesforleadership.com, to learn more about our programs and offerings. We also have a YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCICsOtH9J74tUWd_dTLwE9Q) and are active on social media.
LinkedIn: Krissy Webb
LinkedIn: Student Aces, Inc.
Twitter: @StudentACES and @AcesSpotlight
Thank you for a meaningful conversation. We wish you continued success with your mission.