By Gary Nager

When you see WFLA-TV (News Channel 8) news anchor Gayle Guyardo reading the morning news, I’m sure you’ll agree that she always looks glamorous, so it might be hard for you to believe that she was once, “so shy no one who knew me as a little girl can believe I do what I do today.”

Well, maybe one person believed Gayle could become a star — her mom and former TV personalty herself Joann Torretta. Joann, the director of First Impressions Tampa, an etiquette, poise, manners, model placement and on-camera training school which is hosting three camps this summer, ironically hosted a fashion & beauty show on the same TV station Gayle’s on now more than 30 years ago.

Joann says she knew that unlike Gayle’s brother Paul (today a top marketing executive with DirecTV), who was very outgoing and personable as a child who took very well to their mom’s seemingly endless lessons on etiquette, poise and public speaking, Gayle would be much more of a “project.” Even though it may be hard to believe Gayle was ever anything less than beautiful and confident, mother and daughter agree that Joann’s firm hand and unquestionably professional instruction played a major role in making Gayle the polished TV personality she is today.

And, although they can’t guarantee your child will go on to become a popular local TV personality, Gayle, Joann and Gayle’s friend and First Impressions employee Mary Ann Cucuzza all agree that the type of training Joann and her fellow First Impressions instructors can provide at any of the company’s three separate “Impress” camps this summer — all being hosted (for the time being) at the Northdale Recreation Center (only a 15-20-minute drive from most of New Tampa) — can be invaluable, no matter what your child(ren) plan(s) to do in the future.

“Most parents today want their young children to be well-behaved,” says Cucuzza, a friend of Guyardo’s and former top business development executive for Sony Digital Music who gave up her full-time job to become a full-time mom when her own mother passed away from cancer. “Joann has been so successful for more than three decades at training youngsters proper poise, etiquette and broadcast skills at her own First Impressions schools (on Davis Islands and in Brandon), that I knew that I wanted to open a First Impressions School in or near the Westchase area where I live. These camps are the first step for us to see if there’s a demand for it up here.”

She adds that Hillsborough County Parks & Recreation director Rick Valdez, “was very open to the idea and found us the Northdale location, which is easy to get to from New Tampa, Lutz, Wesley Chapel and Land O’Lakes.”

Here are the three First Impressions camps your children can attend this summer:

Manners & Etiquette – For ages 5-8, this series of three one-week camps will help children develop social skills, such as poise & posture, dining etiquette, conversational Dos & Don’ts, telephone etiquette and more. It will alternate with the Poise, Fashion & Modeling Camp (see below) every other week in the mornings from the last week in June through July.

Poise, Fashion & Modeling – For ages 9-12, these unique one-week camps (in July and early August) teaches wardrobe colors, skin care & makeup, fashion modeling skills and of course, poise, personality and proper etiquette as well.

“I have been surprised,” says Gayle, “that kids who are smart and polished enough to win the state (Department of Education) “Battle of the Books” competition still don’t know how to make eye contact or converse with adults. If these camps can help one shy, awkward kid like I was learn how to overcome that, it’s well worth it.”

Broadcast Camp – For middle and high school-aged youths, learn how to be “camera-ready,” with proper on-air performance, voice projection, body language and more. This camp will run in the afternoons all six weeks from the week of June 24 through the week of August 5.

It’s important to note that although Gayle, as part of her community outreach for WFLA, will be helping out with every aspect of the Broadcast Camp, she will not be involved with the other two camps and, she says, “make no mistake, mom (Joann) will be overseeing and running all three camps all summer long. I’m just helping out.”

“I’ve trained more than 70,000 students the importance of proper poise and manners, body language and other non-verbal communication, eye contact and how to carry on a proper conversation,” Joann says. “Even the Broadcast Camp still has poise and presentation skills at its core.”

Speaking of broadcast skills, Gayle says her success story is a product of both the skills she learned from her mom and hard work. She worked her way up the ranks from an unpaid TV station intern in Montgomery, AL, while the Tampa native was still attending Auburn University (in Auburn, AL). She eventually was promoted to news anchor at that station before getting hired at an independent station in Sarasota and then coming to WFLA more than a decade ago.

And, Joann’s background is just as impressive as her daughter’s. She graduated from prestigious Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, with a B.S. degree in Speech and Theater before moving to Tampa and starting he first First Impressions School. Since then, she has been named a “Leader in Fashion Education” by New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology and also has been named “Outstanding Career Woman of Tampa Bay.”

In other words, your kids are in good hands at Impress Summer Camps!

For more information about the First Impressions Impress Summer Camps for 2013, call 926-9196 or visit

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