Hillsborough Education Foundation held a livestream luncheon last month to bring awareness to the issue of equity in education.

Over the last few months, disadvantaged students have been faced with more challenges than ever and despite the difficulties of fundraising during the coronavirus pandemic, the Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF) is doing what it can to help.

Following social distancing guidelines, HEF hosted a livestream event last month called EmpowerED which brought together community partners and education advocates for an important conversation centered on Building Equity in Education.

“Thousands of students in Hillsborough County’s highest needs schools don’t have the same levels of resources and support as some of their fellow students,” said Kendra Oestreich, HEF director of communications. “The pandemic has only magnified the deep inequities and obstacles that many students face. Imagine families, who are already struggling to make ends meet, forced to make the tough decision of whether to pay the bills and put food on the table or provide their kids with school supplies, internet access and technology their children need for academic success.”

HEF brought together its speakers, Suncoast Credit Union President Kevin Johnson and Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis; its panelists, former Florida State Representative Sean Shaw, HCPS Chief of Equity and Diversity Dr. Monica Verra-Tirado and 2019 Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year Sandra Misciasci; Take Stock in Children mentee and Plant City High School senior Ankit Patel; its moderator, Florida State Representative Fentrice Driskell; and emcee Mix 100.7 Morning Show Host Lady Laura Diaz to open the residents’ eyes to the problems faced by many local students.

“Through personal stories and panel discussion, we engaged in a courageous conversation about the obstacles that stand in the way of many students reaching their academic potential and what we can do to help remove those barriers,” said Oestreich. “Together, as a community we can help ensure every student has access and equity of opportunity to benefit from a high-quality education.”

The luncheon quickly raised more than $122,000, which will be used for HEF’s wide variety of programs helping students.

“Equity in education is critical for us to have a thriving community. Education is the number one factor that will determine the strength of our next generation of workforce and leaders,” said HEF CEO Kim Jowell.

Established in 1987, Hillsborough Education Foundation is a nonprofit focused on strengthening public education by supporting teachers and empowering students to achieve academic and personal success. Learn more at educationfoundation.com.