Mark Puskarich is Equality Florida's new
Tampa Development Officer
Bullied in middle school, he wants to help other youth
As Equality Florida gears up for its next challenge, a new person has joined its Tampa Bay development team.
Mark Puskarich, who most recently served as volunteer chair of Equality Florida’s wildly successful 2015 Tampa Gala, is now a full-time Tampa Development Officer. Mark also will manage Equality Florida's statewide corporate sponsorships.
Mark joins local Equality Florida veteran Ed Lally, who is transitioning into the role of Tampa Bay Development Officer with a focus on introducing new supporters throughout the region to the work of Equality Florida.
"Ed Lally has played a key role in gathering support for Equality Florida's mission in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and beyond," said Deputy Director Stratton Pollitzer. "Ed has done more than raise donations; he's also recruited a great team of volunteers whom we rely on a great deal.
"Now one of those volunteers, Mark Puskarich, is ready to take up the work that Ed has so energetically begun.”
Mark is a communications graduate of the University of Miami. Most of his work has been in the education and corporate sector, most recently for St. Leo University. He also worked for Tech Data, one of Florida's major employers, developing cooperative marketing campaigns for vendors and customers.
There's a reason he's especially drawn to Equality Florida.
As a teen attending school in Plant City, a small town 25 miles east of Tampa, Mark often was bullied.
"Not as bad as some people," he says, "but it was still painful."
Today, Mark serves as a volunteer "TrevorChat counselor" for The Trevor Project, a national organization devoted to counseling young people who are questioning or struggling with the implications of their sexual orientation or gender identity. He works four two-hour supervised shifts a month, talking online with people between the ages of 13 and 24.
As for Equality Florida, Mark identifies particularly with its work to extend anti-bullying protections to more Florida school districts.
Equality Florida helped pass the state's anti-bullying law in 2008 and worked hard to add protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity to local policies covering more than 60% of Florida students. But two-thirds of Florida’s school districts still do not have specific anti-bullying policies.
Similarly, half of Floridians live in communities where discrimination against LGBT people is now prohibited, but half do not. Equality Florida has been gathering bipartisan and business support for a statewide anti-discrimination law but is still looking for its first substantive legislative hearing.
"Some people may think that marriage equality was the end of all our struggles, but it's not," Mark said.
"We need to make sure that all LGBT people in Florida can live without fear of losing their jobs, being denied a place to live, or being discriminated against when they go out in public.
"We still have a lot of work to do."