University of South Florida

College of Education

Tampa | St. Petersburg | Sarasota-Manatee


Students and participants speaking around poster presentations

Celebrating Exceptional Student Education: Richardson Showcase of Promise

In a vibrant celebration of achievement and inclusivity, the Richardson Showcase of Promise emerged as a beacon of support for Exceptional Student Education (ESE) majors, uniting alumni, mentor teachers, donors, and partners in a symphony of appreciation and encouragement.

Crafted through a collaboration between the Office of Development and the ESE Program, this event was designed with a singular goal: to elevate students majoring in ESE and the ESE program while fostering an environment that embraces every facet of the ESE community. From the generous scholarship donors to the dedicated faculty across both Tampa and St. Pete campuses, and the invaluable district mentor-teachers, every contributor found a place of honor and recognition.

“At its heart, the Richardson Showcase of Promise served as a testament to the power of community affinity,” exclaimed Dr. Ann Cranston-Gingras, ESE Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, who served as event emcee. Supported by the benevolence of the Richardson Family, whose generosity made this event possible, it underscored the unwavering commitment to the advancement of ESE education.

ESE faculty presenting a certificate to a student and mentor teacher

ESE program faculty Dr. Betsy Doone (R) and Dr. Hope Zikpi (L) presented certificates of appreciation to students and their mentors.

ESE Professor of Instruction Dr. Betsy Doone noted, “The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the presence of two outstanding alumni who graced the occasion with their wisdom and inspiration.” Dr. Erica McCray, a shining example of excellence in the field, delivered a keynote address that resonated with hope and aspiration. Her journey from student to scholar served as a guiding light for the next generation of ESE leaders. Dr. McCray serves as Professor of Special Education and Associate Dean for Personnel Affairs and Community Engagement at the University of Florida and she is a director of the CEEDAR Center, funded by the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs.

Additionally, the event welcomed another remarkable alumna, Yaritza Jefferson, who presented a stirring "Welcome to the Profession" speech. Her words echoed with warmth and encouragement, embracing newcomers to the field and reaffirming the significance of their role in shaping the future of ESE education. Ms. Jefferson is an ESE high school English teacher for Hillsborough County Public Schools. In addition, she serves as a site-based Teacher Talent Developer supporting new teachers to the field.

Yaritza Jefferson and Dr. Erica McCray in front of USF backdrop

Inspiring alumni speakers stressed the promise of a future filled with impact and fulfillment for USF ESE students. Yaritza Jefferson, ESE high school educator for Hillsborough County Public Schools, featured on the left, and Dr. Erica McCray, Professor of Special Education and Associate Dean for Personnel Affairs and Community Engagement at the University of Florida, on the right.

The Richardson Showcase of Promise demonstrates a community coming together in support and celebration of its brightest stars—the exceptional students who embody the promise of tomorrow.

Return to article listing

About the USF College of Education:

As the home for more than 2,200 students and 130 faculty members across three campuses, the University of South Florida College of Education offers state-of-the-art teacher training and collegial graduate studies designed to empower educational leaders. Our college is nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), and our educator preparation programs are fully approved by the Florida Department of Education.