With deep ties to Jacksonville that go back generations, Susie Mashour Rawlins brings a local’s knowledge of the First Coast and a former elementary teacher’s love for kids, learning and exploration to her role as co-founder of Fun4FirstCoastKids.com – a website she manages with her sister Terri Mashour.
You have deep roots in the Jacksonville area. Tell us about your connection to the First Coast.
My husband and I were both born and raised in the Arlington area of Jacksonville. My great grandparents on my dad’s side, Shumsie and Thomas Allen, owned a grocery store in Riverside on Oak and Osceola. My mom’s parents, Sadie and Moses Meide, later purchased the store and operated it from 1937 to 1977. My sister and I grew up visiting their beautiful neighborhoods of Riverside and San Marco and every March you could find us at 1516 Marco Place cheering on the runners in the River Run. My dad loved fishing, so every summer we were at the various beaches in Jax or spending time in Vilano Beach. We grew up loving and appreciating the large but small town of Jacksonville. I went away to school at Florida State University. It was just a little too far from my roots, so after two years I transferred to Flagler College, to be closer to home with sun, sand and family that I missed. Soon after graduation I found myself right back at home working at Arlington Heights Elementary – where I attended growing up – working alongside my own second grade teacher. We now enjoy raising our son on the First Coast.
You previously enjoyed a career as a teacher. What drew you to education?
Growing up, my mom was a teacher and you could always find me in her classroom helping her. I knew I wanted to have kids and really liked that my schedule would be the same as theirs. After my first few student teacher experiences in elementary classrooms in college, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. My team and mentors at Arlington Heights gave me enough experience to help me move on to help open Bartram Springs Elementary, where I again was surrounded by an awesome third grade team and great principal. After five years at Bartram, during which I finished my master’s degree in Educational Leadership, I decided to stay home with my son, now almost 3, and mentor other moms through Fun4FirstCoastKids.com. I’m thrilled with the opportunity to teach him, explore Jacksonville, and help other parents find fun things to do for families in Jax.
How does your teaching experience inform your current role with Fun4FirstCoastKids.com?
As a teacher, you sometimes get bogged down with tests, goals and lesson plans. If a teacher is getting bogged down, you can imagine parents and students are, too. Families need to be able to set schoolwork and homework aside and just have fun with each other. As a parent, I know now the importance of family time not just on the weekends but during the week, too. Fun4FirstCoastKids.com is able to provide families with all the fun events going on around town. I also think that if I were to go back into the teaching profession, I have a better understanding of how valuable that time is and would be sure to keep that in mind when assigning homework to my students.
How do you and your sister divide up responsibilities for the site?
My sister and I divide responsibilities by our strengths. I’m better with planning the festivals and crafts and events because I know what kids will enjoy and what ages will match well with activities. I’m more of the creative one, so I make graphics. Don’t tell her, but I’m more logical! So, I help make sure operations are running smoothly and make sure we are not committing to too many activities when we plan our schedule. I also am the director of our content management system, so I update the calendar as well as holiday events, camps and more. Terri works with our partners to help them advertise on our website. She connects partners with other small businesses so they can grow their businesses, and she updates our directory content. For example, we just added all 60 food trucks in Jacksonville to our parties page! She also operates our Facebook, social media and enjoys writing so she works on our blog. There are many jobs for this large business and we are thrilled that even though we fought growing up, we are able to manage our business, families and social lives without fighting!
What are some of your personal favorite First Coast activities for kids and families?
I really love all of the festivals that the First Coast has to offer. They are really good at incorporating activities, the outdoors, music and food that are fun for the whole family. My son and I like attending events at Sweet Pete’s Candy. I am also always looking for free events and activities. The Jacksonville Public Library provides such fun and enriching activities for kids and families. We like their story times, art, and music and movement classes. Jacksonville is also really lucky to have so many fun sporting events! We have been going to THE PLAYERS Championship since we were kids and we’ve been attending Jaguars games since their inaugural year. And of course we always love just heading to the beach on the weekends. Nothing beats a relaxing day on the beach with family!
Are there any charities with which you’re involved that you’d like to highlight?
Terri and I have been able to use our website Fun4FirstCoastKids.com to give back to the community in many ways. We put together the first annual Book It Jax 5K to help raise money for the Jacksonville Public Library summer program. We also are able to use our website as a platform to help highlight great nonprofits located in Jacksonville. During the Back to School Artwalk every August, we sponsor the Kids Zone and help collect backpacks and supplies for kids in need at the Children’s Home Society and Youth Crisis Center, where our dad worked early on in his career.