Have you always wanted to make a difference in the life of a teenager? The Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF) is looking for at least 80 adult mentors for its Taking Stock in Children program (TSIC) that connects residents with middle and high school students at local schools.

According to TSIC Program Manager Anna Laird, there are currently 350 students from sixth to twelfth grade involved in the program and only 270 mentors.

“The purpose of the mentor relationship is to give these students someone on their side to guide them and help them improve their academic and life skills,” said Laird.

All students in the program have been awarded a college scholarship through TSIC after meeting criteria set by the state program.

“The students all have risk factors that make it statistically less likely for them to graduate from high school and then go on to something post secondary,” said Laird. “But they are all highly motivated and eager to do well and just need someone on their side.”

Mentors meet with their assigned student weekly, at the school, for an hour. Every mentor is trained and must pass criminal history background checks and abide by all Hillsborough County Public School policies and procedures. They are also given a grade specific road map to guide during the weekly sessions.

“We look for our mentors to be honest, caring, patient, flexible, reliable and open-minded,” said Laird. “This is such a great opportunity for anyone who really wants to make an impact on a teenager, because with the weekly meetings for at least a full school year, they can really get to know and really help the person they are set up with.”

Residents who do not have the time to commit to a full mentor position can help the Foundation in other ways, including volunteering at the Teaching Tools Store which offers school supplies to teachers at Title One schools throughout the county.

The Foundation is funded by community and personal donations that are matched by the state.

For more information or to make a donation, visit www.educationfoundation.com. Contact Laird at 463-4283 or email alaird@educationfoundation.com.

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Kate Quesada is the Multimedia Manager for the Osprey Observer Newspapers. She has been working for the paper in various positions since 2005 when she graduated with her Masters degree in mass communications. She lives in Valrico with her husband Mike and son Dylan.