Andrea Eliscu bridges neighborhood hole by means of rowing

Andrea Eliscu bridges neighborhood hole by means of rowing

Yearly, the Orlando Sentinel asks neighborhood members to assist us determine the heroes who make the largest distinction in native lives: Those whose management, innovation and braveness present an inspiration to others. And from these nominees, we select a bunch, these whose abilities and dedication demand recognition, to honor as Central Floridian of the Yr finalists. In previous weeks, now we have launched you to those outstanding people — and shortly, we’ll introduce you to our alternative for Central Floridian of the Yr.

Andrea Eliscu’s biggest present is in bringing folks collectively to perform a objective. It’s her superpower: She’s a connector.

If she sees an issue that wants fixing, or one thing that can enhance the Orlando neighborhood, she’ll discover the best folks and put them collectively to perform her objective.

That’s how she got here to kind the Dueling Dragons rowing membership in 2011, bringing collectively inner-city youth and native law-enforcement officers to kind a mentoring program that has led to raised relations between police and the Orlando neighborhood. That legacy has made her a worthy finalist for the Sentinel’s 2024 Central Floridian of the Yr award.

Eliscu, who has owned a medical-marketing agency for 40 years, has a historical past of serving to others. A registered nurse, within the Seventies she labored volunteer shifts to assist staffing points at what’s now Orlando Well being, donating her paycheck to a nursing scholarship fund. Later, she teamed up with the late Harriett Lake, a legendary Central Florida philanthropist, to endow one of many first scholarships to the UCF College of Drugs in 2008.

“After I didn’t have cash to provide, I wished to provide again with the abilities that I’ve,” Eliscu mentioned. “Harriett was very influential to me. If I had what I assumed was sufficient cash and I may give it again, that’s how I wished to make a distinction at the moment. She helped me to do this at UCF with the scholarship, educating college students to provide care.”

Within the early 2010s, Eliscu’s thoughts was on serving to downtown-area younger folks. She heard then-Orlando Police Chief Val Demings consult with “invisible children,” those that weren’t overachievers in anyone space however wanted mentors to information them in the best path. A ship fanatic, Eliscu as soon as watched a bunch of about 20 feminine most cancers sufferers paddle a 40-foot dragon boat throughout Orlando’s Lake Fairview. One thing about the way in which they labored collectively sparked an thought.

“These women I noticed, the one factor that they had in widespread was that that they had breast most cancers,” Eliscu mentioned. “By the point that they had spent 45 minutes in a ship collectively, they weren’t ladies with most cancers, they had been teammates, lifted out of that darkish place.”

Perhaps, she thought, the boat could possibly be a spot the place regulation enforcement and “invisible children” may discover widespread floor.

A connection, if you’ll.

So the never-shy Eliscu referred to as Demings, who despatched 10 officers. She contacted the Metropolis of Orlando Parks and Recreation Division, who despatched 10 high-school-age youth. And she or he put them on the water, shoulder to shoulder, rowing collectively towards a standard objective of understanding one another.

Right now, the Dueling Dragons have 4 boats and a complete of 48 members, together with regulation enforcement and younger folks.

Every rowing “season” lasts 10 months, with practices each different week. Orlando Cops and Orange County Sheriff’s deputies commit their time all year long. Contributions from people, companies and municipalities hold it afloat, paying for gear, nourishment and journey to out-of-town aggressive meets, usually in opposition to all-adult groups. The Dragons took residence a gold and two silver medals at a meet in Sarasota final month and raced in Denver final season.

Eliscu mentioned in the course of the lifetime of this system, 172 folks have participated.

“Fourteen years have flown by,” Eliscu mentioned. “I’ve had a lot assist. If I really wanted one thing, if I wanted the mayor, I’d name him up and wouldn’t assume twice. ‘Buddy, how can I do that?’ He’ll get me involved with somebody.”

Most significantly, crew surveys have proven elevated belief between the officers and college students who take part. Marty McClain, a retired OPD officer who’s now the overall supervisor of the Dragons, mentioned the police mentors can get simply as a lot reward out of this system because the mentees.

“The officers would take a step again and see the nice they had been doing in these children’ lives,” mentioned McClain, who was a police participant in this system since 2012 earlier than changing into a frontrunner. “A few of them mentioned it made them a greater father or mother, realizing that not each child has the identical alternatives that theirs have and with the ability to cross that lesson alongside.”

McClain mentioned Eliscu’s ardour to assist is contagious.

“I’ve by no means seen a girl so detail-oriented in my life,” McClain mentioned. “She at all times has the most effective pursuits of the youngsters in thoughts, whereas additionally making the adults accountable. The way in which she leaves no stone unturned in getting one thing achieved affected the way in which I labored as a police detective.”

One scholar helped by this system is Chris Durant. He mentioned he signed up for Dueling Dragons at Rosemont Recreation Heart as a 12-year-old simply to have enjoyable along with his pals. An admitted introvert, Durant mentioned Eliscu instantly made him really feel welcomed.

“I used to be nonetheless blended on the concept of assembly all these cops,” mentioned Durant, now 23, who nonetheless volunteers with this system. “After I got here to the lake for the primary time, Miss Andrea got here and launched herself to all of us. The very first thing she mentioned to me is, ‘You seem like a quiet one.’”

Durant mentioned even after he began this system, he struggled with spending a lot time round regulation enforcement, when he and so many in his neighborhood had discovered to not belief the police. However one OPD lieutenant modified his thoughts.

“(The officer) actually acquired to know me,” Durant mentioned. “She got here to birthday events, honor roll assemblies at college, all kinds of issues. She helped me imagine these officers actually care about us.”

The officer’s title was Debra Clayton.

Durant was in tenth grade when Clayton was shot and killed within the line of responsibility in 2017. Durant was devastated, but it surely additionally gave him a ardour for public service, one which Eliscu cultivated. Right now, Durant is an American College alumnus, a member of the Orange County Citizen Corps Council and an Orlando Parks & Recreation volunteer coach. And he’s something however quiet. In truth, he mentioned he needs to be mayor of Orlando at some point.

“Miss Andrea noticed me develop since I used to be 12,” Durant mentioned. “After that occasion occurred, I wasn’t fairly the particular person she as soon as knew. However she took me below her wing. She knew what I wished to be, and she or he took me on as a mentee. That may have by no means occurred with out Dueling Dragons.

“Miss Andrea is such a connector, an influencer and a champion.”

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