Hillsborough Education Foundation selected Judith ‘Judy’ Woolheater as its 2022 Mentor of the Year.

Judith ‘Judy’ Woolheater has been named the winner of Hillsborough Education Foundation’s (HEF) 2022 Mentor of the Year at its Mentor Appreciation Party. Woolheater is a mentor in HEF’s Take Stock in Children mentoring program, which provides more than 300 underserved youth with caring, adult volunteer mentors and role models focused on the development of life skills and academic success.

Woolheater, who has been a mentor for four years, has devoted her time to not one but two mentees: Aryian, a Newsome High School graduate, and Esmerelda, a Durant High School student.

During the awards ceremony, students shared stories about the tremendous impact their mentors had in their lives.

Aryian, her first mentee, credited Woolheater with changing the course of her life and helping her achieve her high school graduation and gain acceptance into college.

She helped Aryian research college and career opportunities, worked with her high school to ensure she was on track to graduate and collaborated with HEF’s college success coaches to connect her to valuable resources.

“She definitely deserves this honor because she’s more than a mentor to me,” she said. “She’s the one person I could always count on anytime to talk to and give me good advice.”

Woolheater asked for Aryian’s approval, which she readily gave, before taking on a second mentee. “Aryian has come through some very difficult things,” said Woolheater. “I joke and tell her she makes me look good.”

Joanne Sandoval, director of HEF’s Take Stock in Children program, said Woolheater is an extremely flexible mentor.

“She met with one of her mentees in person and the other virtually,” said Sandoval. “She really bends over backwards to meet the needs of her students, and we’re beyond thankful to have [her] as a mentor in our program.”

Sandoval recognizes the selfless dedication of the hundreds of volunteers in the community who spend thousands of hours mentoring Hillsborough County students and empowering them to succeed in school and in life.

HEF is currently seeking new mentors to meet one-on-one with mentees several times each month, typically 30 minutes per week. Mentors must be 18 years of age or older, have a high school diploma, complete a 90-minute mentor training, make a minimum commitment of one school year and pass a criminal background check.

Interested in becoming a mentor? Learn how at https://educationfoundation.com/mentor-a-student.

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MIchelle Caceres has been writing for the Osprey Observer for seventeen years. She enjoys writing human interest pieces about inspiring members of the community who are working to better our community. She lives in FishHawk Ranch with her husband and recently became an empty-nester. When not writing, Michelle is serving her church community, reading and enjoying Florida's weather.