PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Right now, 400 students in Pinellas County are on a waiting list in need of mentors.
The Pinellas County School District is looking for adults interested in spending 30 minutes every week meeting virtually with a student.
The program used to connect kids with mentors who would come to school during their lunch period.
COVID has now shifted the program online to Zoom.
The Pinellas County School District says nearly half of all students in Pinellas County come from socially disadvantaged homes with single parents, economic challenges or other emotional barriers.
8th grade student Davion Garcia Ramos says the program has changed his life.
“It’s like a friend that you’ve been wanting for a long time and you get to have that chance,” he said with a smile. “When stuff was going on at home, I didn’t really feel comfortable saying it to anyone else but with a lunch buddy I felt more comfortable like a friend was helping out.”
Ron Diner is Garcia Ramos’ mentor. He works at Raymond James and helped recruit hundreds of mentors into the Lunch Pals program.
“The importance of reaching out, although it’s got to be virtual now, is even more important than it was before,” Diner said. “We hear comments from people who say this changed their life and now they see the world differently,” he elaborated.
Pinellas County School District leaders are hoping to launch the next mentorship program in October.
To volunteer, you need to take a one-hour training session and pass a background check. You don’t need to live in Pinellas County to take part.
This semester, all mentoring will be online. District leaders hope to pair up students learning from home with the MyPCS online program with mentors by October 5 and students who are currently learning in brick and mortar schools by October 25.
Dr. Valerie Brimm, who works in the Pinellas County Schools Office of Strategic Partnerships, says the need for mentors is even greater in the era of COVID-19 when many students are isolated from their peers and teachers.
“The need is so great and I think virtual mentoring is going to open up windows allowing us to more students partnered with mentors. 30 minutes of investment a week is an impact that lasts a lifetime,” she elaborated.
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