HEF mentor Jazheel Lenegar and her mentee, Deisy. Deisy attends Durant High School.

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, 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.

Jazheel Lenegar, supervisor for academic programs at Hillsborough County Public Schools, has been a mentor with HEF since 2015.

“I go back to when I was a student and having those adults who showed an interest in me were my cheerleaders. It helps to have an extra person in their corner and listening to them, giving them a different perspective. It’s really great to share my life with [Deisy],” said Lenegar.

Deisy, one of Lenegar’s mentees, joined the program in 2018 as a sophomore and is entering her senior year at Durant High School. Lenegar previously mentored Deisy’s sister, who is now in college, and their cousin, who attends Strawberry Crest High School.

“I was able to get an amazing mentor. With her guidance and experience, I’ve been able to make good choices for myself,” Deisy said. “I get to talk to her, tell her about things that are on my mind. Just having her around and having someone who is there and wants you to achieve your goals is pretty amazing. I just think it’s a great resource for everyone. There are people who want you to succeed in life.”

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

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Kate Quesada
Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.