Blog · Aug 31, 2020
When Charles E. Mendez, Sr. established the C.E Mendez Foundation in 1964, he had a mission to support children and families in need in his community. The Foundation gained a reputation for providing critical assistance to charitable education and mental health organizations supporting struggling children and families in Tampa, Florida. Under the second generation of the Foundation’s leadership, Charles E. Mendez Jr., the organization sharpened its focus and pivoted to addressing substance use in the 1970s, forming strategic partnerships, and establishing a new trajectory. The Foundation began developing skills-based prevention education programs aimed at reducing and preventing substance use and its negative effects on individuals, families, and communities. Developed and tested in Tampa schools for many years, the prevention programs gained national attention in the early 1980s and soon, school systems across the nation were eager to introduce drug prevention into their classrooms. In response, the Foundation began to make the curricula available to educators nationwide. This week, we’ll explore the Foundation’s commitment to service in Hillsborough County and the role these direct services play in supporting the development of the Too Good programs in K-12 classrooms across the country.
Today, the evidence-based, skill-building Too Good programs make a positive impact on the lives of students, teachers, parents, and community leaders across the nation.
In 1975, the United States was facing sharp increases in substance use. These troubling trends led Tampa native and president of the C.E. Mendez Foundation, Charles E. Mendez, Jr. to direct the Foundation’s resources to address substance abuse at its core. Recognizing that the most effective means of affecting change was through education, Mr. Mendez set out to develop strategies and courses to educate children and adolescents of the risks associated with substance use and to promote their own internal capacity for setting goals and reaching those goals. The Foundation’s programs were developed with the guiding philosophy that providing children with key skills development, such as critical decision making, goal setting, and social skills will inevitably result in stronger, happier, and more resilient children.
This approach was put into action when the first prevention course, Meology, was taught in grade 6 centers throughout the Hillsborough County School District in 1979. This new partnership with the Hillsborough County School District would form the basis of a decades-long tradition of local service and prevention education in Tampa. The Foundation hired Prevention Specialists to deliver the courses in classrooms across the district, and they’ve been delivered by the Foundation’s trained prevention professionals in Hillsborough county schools for generations since. For more than 45 years, children and adolescents in Tampa have enjoyed the cooperative learning strategies and prosocial lessons presented in the Too Good programs. Over the course of the partnership, the Foundation has delivered countless lessons in K-12 classes in public, private, and charter schools throughout Hillsborough County. In time, Meology would become Too Good for Drugs, forming a comprehensive substance use prevention curriculum for K-12. Today, more than 13,000 students a year receive Too Good lessons led by the Foundation’s team of prevention specialists throughout the county.
Before long, news of the Foundation’s innovative approach to substance use prevention in schools spread beyond Hillsborough County. In 1985, the programs caught the attention of the National Football League, leading to their sponsorship of Too Good program delivery in each of the NFL cities across the country. The Foundation was featured in a prominent documentary spotlighting innovative solutions at work to address the serious substance use problem in the US in the 1970’s. This national recognition prompted school systems from all over the country to implement the Foundation’s prevention programs with great success in their classrooms, after school programs, and beyond. In time, additional partnerships with the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network, the City of Tampa, the City of Tampa Police Department, Hillsborough County, and the University of South Florida have fostered a broad system of support to promote positive youth outcomes throughout the region.
Since the beginning, the Foundation’s curriculum development team has put lesson concepts to the test in classrooms as part of its Direct Services efforts. First-hand experiences with students provide insights needed to fine tune the engagement factor and effectiveness of lessons. Activities are field tested and iterated upon until they prove to be effective, developmentally matched to the student, and relevant to the needs of children and adolescents over time. In addition to the rigorous field testing in the Hillsborough County Public schools, the team continually reaches out to educators, behavioral health specialists, and administrators across the nation to solicit feedback on the curricula and their impact, and use that feedback to advise the process.
Rooted in a commitment to community service, the Foundation has sponsored and hosted events to support environmental strategies including fun-runs and community health fairs in the Tampa area to increase awareness about substance abuse and foster positive societal norms regarding substance use. These activities include the Too Good for Drugs Walk, City of Tampa Summer Parks Program, and the Too Good for Drugs Jr. Gasparilla Distance Classic to provide children and their families fun, free activities they can participate in together. In addition, the Foundation has worked with local community and government agencies to advance policy and services to support strategies to reduce substance use, reduce bullying, and reduce violence. The Foundation’s continued support for the well-being of the children and families in Hillsborough County means that generations of Tampa youth have grown up with the protective factors and resiliency developed by the Too Good programs.
For nearly a half century, the C.E. Mendez Foundation has been delivering on its mission to support the children and families of the Tampa Bay area. The Foundation proudly develops and implements unparalleled K-12 prevention education programs that teach kids they are too good for drugs and violence. Rigorous third party evaluations have shown the Too Good programs to have positive effects on emotional competency skills development, decision-making ability, intentions to engage in substance use, substance use behavior, and intentions to engage in aggressive behavior. Today, the evidence-based, skill-building Too Good programs make a positive impact on the lives of students, teachers, parents, and community leaders across the nation.