Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Take Stock in Children mentoring program pairs students with reliable mentors.
Lynne Mantz didn’t have time to do much volunteering until a couple years ago, when life changes freed up more time to spend giving back to the community. When a friend whom she worked with at the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida went to work for the Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF) as its CEO, she researched the organization’s mission and goals. It sparked a desire to volunteer as a mentor in its Take Stock in Children (TSIC) mentoring program. “I know education is critical and the key to economic stability and mobility and I’m a firm believer we need to use our time, talent and treasure to make the world a better place,” she said.
Mantz now mentors teens at Strawberry Crest High School. Her first scholar, Xiomara Martinez, was a senior last year and Mantz helped her with the transition from high school to college. “She’s at the University of South Florida now and studying to be a forensic investigator,” said Mantz. “We had so many colorful conversations about that.”
She now mentors Briseida Islas-Rubio, a junior hoping to pursue a career in the arts. Mantz, who has a background as a graphic artist, said it’s nice to be able to share her knowledge with someone else. “Because making a living in the art field can be difficult, we’ve talked about backup plans, business foundations with her college coursework to make sure she has a way to pivot if she needs to,” she said. She’s also connected her to two women who work in the field.
During the holidays she met with them over Zoom to talk about finances, creative burnout and developing secondary lines of business outside of a primary job. Their focus now is to make sure she’s preparing for upcoming standardized testing and talking to her parents about finances to pay for school, researching scholarship opportunities and narrowing her choice of colleges. “I’m encouraging her to plan ahead,” said Mantz.
Islas-Rubio’s mom learned about TSIC because she works for Hillsborough County Public Schools. “She encouraged me to look into it so I did and applied and thankfully was accepted into the program when I was in the eighth grade,” she said. Mantz, a.k.a. “Miss Lynne”, is her second mentor. “I think it’s perfectly aligned because we have so much in common and she has a lot of excellent advice on how to get on the career pathway I want and gives me so much clarity,” said Islas-Rubio. “We also sometimes just chill and talk about what’s going on with books, art and life.”
Director of TSIC Joanne Sandoval believes every student should have access to and equity of opportunity to benefit from a high-quality education. “For many of our students, they are the first in their family to go to college,” said Sandoval. “The bond formed between mentors and mentees can have a lasting impact on our students in school and in life.”
Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Take Stock in Children mentoring program, which was established in 1995, has 269 mentors serving 322 students in 46 middle and high schools throughout Hillsborough County. Although a school-based mentoring program, mentors can meet with their mentees at a school site, on Zoom (monitored by a TSIC staff member) or on the TSIC App (monitored by a TSIC state office). “There is always a need for trustworthy role models in our community to serve as mentors,” said Sandoval. Becoming a mentor is a chance to be a role model who encourages the development of a student by providing emotional support, fostering confidence and facilitating academic goal-setting and college-readiness.
Mentors must be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma, complete a 90-minute mentor training, make a commitment to mentor for at least one school year and pass a criminal background check. Mentors meet one-on-one with their scholar several times each month, typically 30 minutes per week. Male mentors are currently needed at Strawberry Crest High School and Durant High School. To learn more about mentoring or to apply to be a mentor visit EducationFoundation.com/Mentor-A-Student.
Students interested in being mentored are eligible to apply for the TSIC program in their 7th and 8th grade year and must be enrolled in a Hillsborough County Public School, must qualify for free or reduced-lunch or qualify based on income and have a minimum unweighted GPA of 2.5. Students accepted into the program attend an induction ceremony and take a pledge of commitment to stay in school, maintain good grades and make positive life choices throughout the remainder of their high school education. Students are then paired with a HEF College Success Coach who helps keep students on the path to academic success. Students are also matched with an adult mentor who will meet with the student at least twice a month (preferably weekly) to provide guidance and support.
Every student scholar in the program has the opportunity to earn a Florida Prepaid Scholarship- on the condition the student meets the criteria set by Florida’s TSIC program.
Students interested in applying for the program can apply online during the open application window from March 1 thru May 15 at EducationFoundation.com/TSIC-Scholarships.