HEF mentor Joe Gross and his mentee, Diego. Diego just graduated from Brandon High School and is going to HCC this month.

The Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF) is offering residents a wonderful opportunity to change lives. The foundation is looking for 100 adults to mentor students, virtually or in person, for the 2020-21 school year.

“In the last quarter of the 2019-20 school year, the pandemic inspired HEF to develop creative ways to continue to support the 359 students in its Take Stock in Children mentoring and scholarship program, one of the largest mentoring programs in Tampa Bay,” said Kendra Oestreich, HEF director of communications. “Lacking the structure school provides, students needed guidance from their mentors more than ever. With HEF’s continued support, 100 percent of the seniors in the mentoring program graduated with a diploma.”

Mentors must be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma. They are asked to complete a 90-minute mentor training and make a minimum of one school year commitment. They must also pass a criminal background check and follow all Take Stock in Children policies and procedures and abide by all Hillsborough County Public Schools policies and procedures.

Students enter the program in eighth grade and, in addition to other criteria, must qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch or qualify based on income.

Joe Gross has been a mentor for Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program since 2004. In that time, he’s had five mentees. His most recent, Diego, who he worked with since 2015, graduated recently from Brandon High School and is going to HCC to pursue computer engineering.

“The more you give to it, the more you give back. It’s a very small commitment to give back. It’s very rewarding,” said Gross. “You’ll get more out of it than you put into it.”

Diego encourages any one considering mentorship to take a chance.

“A mentor can change someone’s life. If someone’s struggling academically or personally, he can come in and motivate him—that happened in my case,” he said. “I learned how to have more confidence seeing him. He’s helped me as a man and a student too.”

Take Stock in Children, funded by the Florida Department of Education, foundations and donors, was established in 1995 and is celebrating 25 years this year.

If you’re interested in signing up to become a mentor, visit educationfoundation.com/mentoring. For additional questions, contact Anna Corman at acorman@educationfoundation.com or 463-4283.