After raising five kids and running a full time child care center for over two decades, Martina "Tina" Belotti has dedicated her life to helping all Monroe County children have a bright future. As an Informed Families Ambassador and professional counselor at Marathon Middle School and Marathon High School, Tina works to help students grow up safe, healthy and drug free through Informed Families’ four campaigns and several other initiatives.
“I originally heard about Informed Families over the years at different statewide conferences,” said Tina. “I am very happy to be an Ambassador and gain access to the resources they provide me. As a prevention counselor, I do a monthly presentation to students, in addition to various groups, and I typically have to seek out and be creative about obtaining materials. I want the kids to get excited about prevention on campus so it helps.”
From running lunchtime youth-led pledge campaigns and coordinating activities for Red Ribbon Week to delivering the evidence-based program Project Success and volunteering with a team of students for various events such as the 7 Mile Bridge Run, Tina possesses a seemingly endless supply of energy and passion for her work. However, her budget for programs and activities is extremely limited. Luckily, what Tina lacks in finances, she makes up for in human resources. Tina works with her daughter, Dr. Christina Belotti, an 8th grade Language Arts teacher at Marathon Middle School, to coordinate school-wide activities with 40 student volunteers, or Youth Ambassadors appropriately named the “Keys To Be The Change.”
“We educate and train our 40 students so they become Ambassadors in the school,” said Belotti. “They represent various social groups and meet weekly. By volunteering, creating posters, decorating bulletin boards, organizing flash mobs, talking to other students about being healthy and getting involved in programs outside of the school, these kids roll up their sleeves to get the job done.”
Tina attributes the growth of drug use and abuse in the Keys to the large amount of poverty in her area, among other things. According to a United Way study, approximately 48% of Florida Keys residents live below the poverty line. As a result, Tina developed a program to help students in special circumstances by creating a boutique of gently worn or new clothing, all merchandised by students under the direction of a retailer. The project not only helps kids build self-esteem, but she’s found it effective in helping to promote family bonding by bringing parents and students together to volunteer.
“We want parents to be involved in their kids’ lives from a young age,” said Belotti. “When they push you away, insist on being there. Chaperone the dances. Get them involved in volunteering with you. Parents today are busy – everyone works a lot of jobs – and sometimes they give in to the kids’ push back instead of standing their ground. It’s much easier to stay involved early on then to get back involved when the students are in 9th or 10th grade.”
Tina’s favorite campaign is Red Ribbon because it kicks of the year by educating students about prevention and also informs the students where they can find her for additional support, which enables her to be a resource on campus the rest of the school year.
“I also love the Common Sense posters from Safe Homes Smart Parties,” said Tina. “I like putting those up in areas where a lot of people will see them. I have access to three bulletin boards and a lot of school district staff and parents see what I display.”
Monroe County is tremendously fortunate to have a leader and Ambassador as committed as Martina Belotti, who is working tirelessly on behalf of children and families. Informed Families thanks Tina for her dedication to helping kids grow up safe, healthy and drug free. We look forward to working together for years to come.