Mark and Lanie Salebra, parents of 2nd grader Max (Class of 2029), are a great example of a family who has embraced the Farragut Experience. Their company, Salebra Family Restaurants, owns six McDonald’s franchise locations and they are active in giving back not only to Farragut, but the community as well. We sat down with Max’s Mom, Lanie, to talk about his experience as a student, their experience as parents, and their experiences giving back.
How long have you been at Farragut?
Max has been attending Farragut since PreK. The summer prior, we enrolled Max in the Little Captains Summer Camp to occupy him for a week or so while we were vacationing in Florida from Delaware. At that time, we had no intentions of enrolling him in school, just summer fun. Luckily, we had a unique opportunity to move to St. Petersburg full time. We’d had such an amazing summer experience that we decided to give the school a try. And here we are today, four years later, proud Farragut parents with one fulfilled, happy kid.
What attracted you to Farragut?
We are from the Northeast and the campus always caught our eye because it reminded us of the independent schools back home. It has that small, college-like campus feel, is beautifully historic, and looks very different than the other schools in the area. Plus, who can resist the intrigue of our waterfront.
The Little Captains summer camp, led by Kindergarten teacher Marilyn Reynolds, certainly sealed the deal. We took the official school tour and were very impressed by what Farragut had to offer. It was obvious that Max would receive a top-notch college-prep education with personalized and individual attention. Combining that with sailing, scuba certifications, and possible flight training made Farragut a win/win for us.
Another important attribute that appealed to us was the diversity of the student body. The Academy represents so many different cultural backgrounds and countries. Private schooling can be such an insulated bubble, and the cultural diversity at Farragut presents an opportunity to expand our son’s complete experience.
Lastly, we were looking for a “forever school”. Farragut can take Max from PreK through graduation. No need to start this search again for middle or upper school. His experience would be seamless and it was important for us to have that option.
Basically, Farragut checked off every item on our education wish list.
What has Max become fond of at Farragut, inside and outside of class?
Well, if you ask Max he would say the Mess Hall and lunch. He says the food is the best he’s ever had, and can’t wait to be old enough to go to the salad bar. Taco day is his favorite.
Max loves his friends, small class size, and teachers. He is an active kid and likes to participate in the many after school programs Farragut has to offer. He plays tennis, takes guitar lessons with music instructor, Gabe Whitney, and joined the Little Jackets Sports program, just to name a few. Max plays Lacrosse and loves going to the upper school games. He even had the opportunity to participate in the Farragut Summer Lacrosse Camp led by Ty Thompson, who is a professional Lacrosse player.
Aftercare is even a hit. He likes staying after school each day so he can continue to play with his friends, and he says they have the best snacks. We’ve even started using after care as a reward.
What do you tell others about Farragut?
First, we tell others that Farragut is a top-rated college preparatory day and boarding school with an outstanding Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps leadership program. The other thing is that it really isn’t your father’s military school any longer. You don’t have to have a military background or military aspirations to attend. You would be surprised how many people don’t know this. In fact, Farragut is about teaching our children important core values such as respect, responsibility, integrity, and patriotism. We have a wonderful STEAM program. It’s the total experience –The Farragut Experience. We always throw in that our kid gets to go to school on Boca Ciega Bay with an average 361 days of sunshine each year. What’s not to love?!?
How has your involvement increased over the years? What motivates you to stay involved?
At first, our involvement was simple and sporadic. We attended a few meetings, went to the school fundraising events to meet other parents, and volunteered when we could in the classroom. Everyone was so warm, welcoming and approachable. We quickly got on board by joining the Parents’ Group. This organization offers a wealth of opportunity to get involved at every level. We have also chaired the One Million for Farragut Fundraising Effort, hosted a fun Glow Party for the Lower School, sponsored a variety of school events, held a McDonald’s dinner for our boarding students, donated to the Capital Campaign for a new performing arts and multi-purpose center, and donated a new and improved water fountain and bottle filling station at the Lower School. This year, Mark is looking forward to participating in the Admiral’s Athletics Club. Nothing is more motivating than having a direct impact on your child’s educational experience.
In your opinion, what is the most important work that Farragut does?
Farragut is constantly improving the academic experience for our kids. We really love that Farragut is investing in infrastructure to help better facilitate the academic experience. The new performing arts and multi-purpose building will bring an increased awareness and programs including music and the arts to our children. We are involved in a fundraising effort to raise funds that will provide seed money to improve our waterfront –The One Million for Farragut Effort. We envision a state-of-the-art multi-purpose marine biology building, a possible crew program, improved sailing facilities, and competitive swimming pool. These are all endeavors we are hoping we can help bring to life and that students will benefit from.
Of what contribution or achievement are you most proud?
We are excited to be a part of a cultural shift we see in Farragut that’s taking place right now. A shift toward much needed strategic capital investments and an increased emphasis on family involvement. Family engagement is growing and essential for the health of the school. We love being a part of this.
Do you have an anecdote about Farragut or personal experience that really moved you?
The first time Max came home from PreK, he called us sir and ma’am. It was so sweet and natural. He continues to show this level of respect to not just us, but others as well. In fact, Max received the Respect Character Trait Award this year in first grade. A proud moment for sure.
What would you say to encourage other families to be more involved and giving?
Involvement isn’t just measured by financial contributions, although giving to the school has an immediate and lasting impact. Also important is helping change our culture by attending meetings, events, and volunteering your time. We need families to understand that they have a strong voice and an opportunity to influence their kids’ overall experience at the school. Hopefully, the things we can accomplish will have an impact on our kids from PreK to graduation.
What do you hope the organization will achieve in the near future? In the long term?
We hope Farragut continues to grow and keeps modernizing and improving facilities while retaining its historic campus atmosphere.
In what other ways is your family philanthropic? Is that a family core value?
Our family has always believed in giving back to our community. As owners of McDonald’s restaurants, it’s been a large part of our history and heritage. It is ingrained in us! We are big supporters of the Ronald McDonald House Charities and the local Ronald McDonald Houses. Last year, Max even played Santa’s Little Elf and distributed presents to families staying at the local Ronald McDonald House. He has helped prepare meals for families, donated his own toys, and even set up a lemonade stand in our neighborhood with proceeds benefiting the Ronald McDonald House. Max always jumps at the chance to participate in collecting books, supplies, and food for local causes. We have been involved in so many programs and events over the years and hope we do a good job of teaching Max the value of giving back and the impact he can have on people’s lives.