There is often a similar thread between Odyssey Spirit Award winners—having children growing through the program, with roles growing as well, long-time volunteerism, selflessness, and enthusiasm for creative problem-solving. Being in awe of what children can accomplish when allowed to explore their creativity and combine it with learning. But each Spirit winner also adds their unique touch to the program, which is what makes our volunteers so special. Anna Long has all of these qualities and more. She was her daughter’s Primary team coach, which was 17 years ago, and continued within the program ever since! She coached for 10 years then wanted to have an even better understanding of the program, eventually becoming Assistant Regional Director (RD) for two years (while still a coach) and RD for 6 years. The Magic Center Region has shown incredible growth during her tenure and she has helped other regions around the world grow through her talks about the subject at Association Directors meetings. She also serves on the Florida State Board working on the By-Laws Committee, as well as the Tournament Committee, and has volunteered at World Finals in the Homestay Program and other positions. She was beyond instrumental in making this year’s in-person World Finals possible. Using her own creative problem-solving skills, great tenacity and countless hours of hard work she helped keep the wonderful tradition of WF alive and well. Her reason behind the hard work is simple, “The kids, hands down. At first it was the experience as a coach watching my daughter and her friends growing with the program from scattered and enthusiastic Kindergarteners to amazingly creative and resourceful young adults. After my daughter and her team were well on their way, and I stepped up to being the Assistant Regional Director for the Magic Center Region, it was still the kids. Now it was kids from all over the region. Watching teams develop their problem solution and watching the kids develop into their own. Finally, as regional director, it is and will always be the kids. As my kids are grown and now part of Odyssey in their own ways, my daughter as a Regional Problem Captain and my son occasionally a ‘drafted’ spontaneous judge, I selfishly revel in the hugs (pre-Covid), the smiles, the thank you cards and pictures, all of it from the kids. They make me feel appreciated, happy, young—it will always be the kids,” said Anna.
In her “non-Odyssey time” she puts just as great effort into her endeavors. She grew up in Greensburg, PA and attended the University of Pittsburgh for both undergraduate (B.S. Biological Sciences) and graduate school (Graduate School of Public Health in Biostatistics/Human Genetics). She has worked in the electric utility industry, the semiconductor industry, and in environmental consulting. She went on to attend Lewis and Clark Northwestern School of Law in Port-land Oregon, where she received her JD Degree, then moved to Florida where she served as the Environmental Protection Division Manager for Orange County, FL. After that she went into private practice and is currently employed by the law firm Dean Mead. “Dean Mead has been a big supporter of the program for the past five years, providing me the time it takes to facilitate workshops, training and the tournaments, as well as providing financial support and volunteers!”
Another similarity between Spirit winners is that they all believe someone else is more deserving of the award! Anna shared in that sentiment, “I am overwhelmed and humbled in receiving the Spirit Award. It was very unexpected. I was speech-less and for those that know me, well that is quite a telling statement. I think that Odyssey has given me a whole lot more than I have given to Odyssey. It has given me an additional purpose. Yes I am a wife and a mother. Yes, I am an attorney, but when I am with the kids in the Magic Center Region, I am “Mrs. Long,” crazy Mrs. Long. Funny Mrs. Long. Sometimes scary Mrs. Long. The Mrs. Long who tears up with every scholarship awarded, because that’s one more team member graduating and moving on. I love the program because the program allows me to continue to be in awe of the next generation. It allows me to meet and watch the kids on our teams as they grow and mature— So many kids from so many different backgrounds. And they are all amazing. Each and every one of them. I am so lucky.”
Odyssey of the Mind is lucky to have Anna as a volunteer as well. Her Odyssey spirit shines through in her tireless efforts to help kids explore their creativity and in the same way, grow Odyssey of the Mind in Florida—and all around the world! Her impact is obvious in the happy kids in her region, the great growth under her leadership, and now giving kids the opportunity to participate in World Finals when so much has changed in the past year. Thank you Anna!