TEMPLE TERRACE - Having her hand in educating children is in Gwen Mora's blood.
For more than 40 years, the Temple Terrace resident has made it her business to ensure that youngsters are given the best possible learning environments and tools to help them succeed.
Her retirement in 1999 from her 30-year career as a Hillsborough County teacher, assistant principal and elementary education curriculum administrator was by no means a signal she'd had her fill of guiding the educational paths of school-age children.
The difference was that she opted to volunteer her time outside the classroom as a member of the Temple Terrace School Support Committee to specifically benefit students in the community she's called home for 35 years.
It's a position she held for three consecutive three-year terms until her tenure ended on June 30 because of term limits.
Mayor Frank Chillura recently honored Mora at a city council meeting with a certificate of recognition for the positive impact she made during her time on the committee.
"You've been a great asset to our community, and we really appreciate that," he told her.
In turn, Mora thanked him and mused that she served under the auspices of three mayors during her terms. Fran Barford and Joe Affronti were the other two.
Mora said communication among school administrators in Temple Terrace, as well as those as the district level, was something that had been lacking until the committee formed in 2004.
In the years since, Mora said, she's noticed a marked improvement on both fronts.
"I think now the district sees we are a city concerned about our schools," she said.
Mora also believes the committee's implementation of the Temple Terrace Reads program almost eight years ago has brought students together from schools throughout the city in a manner never before seen.
The program is an annual fall event in which teachers and students from the University of South Florida, Tampa Bay Tech, King High and area middle schools come together at Temple Terrace Elementary to read to and interact with youngsters in the lower-level grades. They also donate gently used books that others can enjoy for the taking.
Mora has chaired the event since its inception.
"I think it's one of the best things we've come up (with)," she said. "It has really brought our schools together."
Now that she's no longer eligible to serve on the committee, Mora has turned her attention to Riverhills Elementary Magnet School, where she's been appointed as an advisory board member.
She said her two young grandchildren from her two offspring who also live in Temple Terrace are the impetus that keeps her involved.
"I want to ensure they have quality schools to go to," Mora said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.