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Silhouettes profiles Dontrel Hall

Dontrel Hall

By: Tiffany Razzano
Published January 12, 2024

Hillsborough County educator and YMCA staff member Dontrel Hall has a new title to add to his belt: children’s author.
The Pompano Beach native was a student-athlete growing up, which offered him many opportunities, and ever since college, he hoped to one day write a children’s book series to help inspire and motivate other young athletes.
His parents were both “very active” and supportive of his goals. Hall grew up playing football and his mother, a nurse, always stressed that academics came first. Meanwhile, his father, an entrepreneur who owned janitorial and detailing companies, was “a huge football fan” who encouraged his son’s athleticism.
It was the perfect combination for him as a child and he saw the importance of focusing on both facets of his life. This helped him as he went on to play football in college at the State University of New York in Morrisville, then a two-year junior college, and later at Concordia University, a Division 3 college in Wisconsin, just south of Milwaukee.
“Where I’m from in Pompano Beach, Florida, so many people play football, but they’re never able to make it out of high school (to play) because of eligibility – their grades, their SAT scores, ACTS, NCAA clearinghouses, maybe they didn’t get their high school diploma,” Hall said. “There are some phenomenal athletes but they never make it because they put football ahead of academics.”
Even as a college student himself, he knew he wanted to influence young people to make better decisions. “I had this idea of writing a book and had all this material written down, but I didn’t know what to do with it,” he said. “I was in my college dorm and would start writing poems, little materials, events that happened in my childhood, stuff like that, but I didn’t have any true direction on how to publish a book.”
He created a character named Dynasty who had experiences similar to his growing up as a student athlete. “I wanted to bring to the forefront that no matter how good you are athletically, if you’re not good academically, you’re just someone who was good in little league or good in high school,” he said, adding, “It’s called student athlete, not athlete student. School is first and athletics are second. So many superb athletes think they’re going straight to the NFL, but when the report card comes out, the academics don’t match the athleticism.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business, Hall played professional arena football in Greenville for the South Carolina Force. After a few years, he decided to get into teaching after his family and former teachers encouraged him to work with children.
He returned to Florida and worked at football camps and other community events before he started working at the YMCA of South Florida. There, he taught and oversaw after-school sports activities and eventually was named a site supervisor at YMCA Summer Camp at the TigerTail Recreation Center. “It was a very unique camp,” one that offered canoeing, rock climbing, surfing, speed boating and other fun activities, he said. “I was blessed to have a director at the time who believed in me and gave me the position.”
At the same time, Hall was also hired as a business education teacher at his former high school in Pompano Beach. There, he taught mostly college readiness to teens.
With some experience under his belt, he decided to put his resume out to other schools in Florida and landed at an AMIkids location in Tampa in 2017. The nonprofit organization works with “at-risk kids, alternative kids,” he said. “Some kids may have court orders; some needed credit recovery. All different types of things.”
Today, he works for Hillsborough County Schools and is a teacher at Giunta Middle School in Riverview. There, he teaches electives in topics like business, careers and research, and career technology.
He recently earned his master’s in educational leadership from Grand Canyon University with a goal of becoming a school principal for the district. “I’m always trying to elevate myself so I can do better,” Hall said.
He also continues to work for the YMCA. Since moving to Tampa, he’s worked at the Central City, South Tampa and, now, the New Tampa locations. He’s been in New Tampa for the past two years.
He started as a site supervisor for basketball when he first moved to Tampa, running practices, games and community events. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they stopped holding practices, focusing just on noncompetitive games, and even got rid of referees, briefly, he said. “Once they cut the referees, I was doing games and reffing, anything they need me to do. They call me a jack of all trades.”
He also never forgot his dream of publishing a book. During a reading at his school during Black History Month in 2020, he began wondering how he might be able to get Dynasty’s adventures published.
Hall connected with a children’s book illustrator who previously read at his school through one of his coworkers. This led him to Cocoon to Wings Publishing, the company offered him everything from literacy coaching to help identifying and communicating his audience and vision.
His first title, “Reach for Your Goals,” was released in November. The book features a number of themes he thinks are important for young student athletes, including setting better study habits, preparing themselves for their academics, and setting and working toward goals.
“It’s important that kids learn these things,” Hall said. “You can do the football stuff, you can go to the gym, you can play basketball, but in your off time, you guys need to prepare for Florida state tests, prep for the SAT and ACT, get the grade point average where it needs to be so you can get to the level you want to be at.”
He plans to write more books about his character, Dynasty, and start his own nonprofit organization that will focus on providing student athletes with the educational tools they need for success.
“I’m a former student athlete myself. I played football and basketball my whole life,” he said. “I can relate to the kids so much. I went to the YMCA myself, the Boys and Girls Club year-round. It’s embedded in me, and I know that if you didn’t get the scores you needed to get, you didn’t get the diploma and you couldn’t play (sports) beyond that. For me, being one of the few able to do a little bit with my talents, I’d like to help even just one or two kids or whoever it is, just help somebody reach their full potential.”

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