Cynthia O’Connell didn’t intend to create a profession in education, however as she displays now on her work, she sees a distinct pattern. “Helping young people realize their greater destiny and achieve for themselves is something I see now has been my career theme.”
After a profession spanning from promoting and model improvement to championing scholarships for at-risk youth and managing worldwide tourism efforts at three Olympic Games, she has been named as one in every of Tallahassee’s 25 Women You Need to Know.
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O’Connell got here to Tallahassee from Lake City to attend Florida State University, incomes a diploma in Communications in 1978. She started a profession in advertising and marketing, working in monetary companies and banking. “It has always been my desire to develop brands that bring positive change to lives, and I’ve seen a lot of progress,” she mentioned, “for the better!”
During the final a number of a long time, she achieved new heights, serving as a governor-appointed trustee for the University of Florida. “Serving as a University of Florida trustee for 10 years taught me a great deal about the significant economic impact created by Florida universities. In my view, they serve as the life-blood to Florida’s thriving economy.”
In 2011, she was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as Secretary of the Florida Lottery, main the skilled workers to attain record-breaking progress among the many U.S. lotteries via branding, operational transparency, and income positive factors.
“We had a series of exciting “firsts” once we launched in 1988, once I was the Lottery’s first Director of Promotions,” she says. “When I returned later as Secretary, I was honored to be able to champion a “refreshed” model for the Lottery and to create applications for extra safety for gamers and construct broader entry to video games via know-how.”
O’Connell now serves because the inaugural Director of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation, mapping the Foundation’s technique and route to offer extra kids with the chance of a lifetime —a school education.
“We are reaching thousands of kids, many who are first-generation students and without the financial means to attend college. I hope for this Foundation to serve as many deserving students as possible who have a desire to attend college,” she mentioned.
O’Connell appears to the Foundation’s Path to Prosperity Scholarship program, a new partnership with the Florida Chamber Foundation, to bridge the hole of instructional inequity for youngsters in pockets of poverty.
“Educational inequity is one of the root causes of generational poverty, as identified by the Florida Chamber Foundation. Over 800,000 children are in zip codes of poverty, and we’re committed to helping them up,” she mentioned. “A debt-free pathway to college education would allow students to make a difference in society, improve their own circumstances, and improve their communities. Private industry, government, educators, and the public all need to be at the table for this to happen.”
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Her volunteerism displays her dedication to increased education. O’Connell was appointed to the Florida Commission on Community Service in 2015 by Governors Scott and DeSantis and has served as a Board Member of the University of Florida Foundation since 2001. She serves as a member of the Florida Tax Watch, the Volunteer Florida Foundation Boards and as past-chair of the Florida House Board in Washington, D.C.
For a long time, O’Connell has continued to assist and interact with college students via her position on the alumni advisory board for UF Florida Blue Key pupil management honorary society.
She is a Florida Chamber Foundation Trustee and served as president/chairman of the Economic Club of Florida from 2018 to 2020, main the group via the peak of COVID-19.
She finds inspiration in those that have gone earlier than her. “My mother understood the importance of a college education. So much so that when I graduated from Florida State University, she also graduated the same year. But, she had gone for nine years part-time to get there through FSU coursework at then Lake City Community College while raising a family and with a demanding career in city government,” O’Connell mentioned.
That household legacy of education led to the creation of two scholarships for ladies returning to school named for each she and her mom, Faye Bowling Warren, at Gateway Community College, initiated by her brother Marty Bowling, a 1968 West Point Graduate.
“I have sought a life of public service, and with it the opportunity to serve the higher good of all Floridians,” she mentioned, with a nod to the general public service profession of her late husband, University of Florida president Stephen C. O’Connell, and the distinguished navy service of her present husband, Dan McCarthy.
The lifetime of her late godmother, Tallahassee’s Royce Meier, impressed O’Connell to dive deeper into her Catholic religion. As O’Connell displays on her profession and appears ahead to what she nonetheless has forward of her, she encourages us to maintain the “faith” and be true to ourselves in work and life staying centered on the lengthy view.
“Tell your own story,” she mentioned. “If you have a perspective that you know is right and strong and represents who you are, be authentic to it. We all have ups and downs, but if you ever lose the long view, you don’t grow and become the full and complete person that you are intended to be.”
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