Education foundation announces gifts, scholarship ceremony for the Urban Teaching Academy
The Hillsborough Education Foundation announced Wednesday it has raised $236,000 in private money to get the first class of Urban Teaching Academy students through college.
Donors were led by the Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union Foundation, which gave $95,000, according to the education foundation’s announcement. That was matched by $80,000 from the education foundation and nonspecified donations from the Bailey Foundation and the Hillsborough County school district.
The education foundation has pledged to cover tuition and book funds for all 29 students who completed the program successfully at Hillsborough, Blake and Middleton High Schools. In addition to the private fundraising effort, the foundation is arranging to redirect prepaid scholarships under a state-funded program for about 20 lower-income students.
The foundation still needs to raise close to $100,000 more for the first-year students, said Phil Jones, president of the foundation. But, since the book stipends can be spread over the four years, he said he is confident his organization can keep up with the payments.
"The Urban Teaching Academy is one of those great ideas to encourage students to consider a career in teaching," Jones said in the announcement. "What makes the UTA program special is that these same students will return to teach the next generation of Hillsborough County students."
Although a scholarship account for the Urban Teaching Academy existed at the nonprofit foundation for years, fundraising did not begin in earnest until this spring, when the Tampa Bay Times reported that only $18,000 was in the account.
Already, superintendent MaryEllen Elia had been contacted by parents of the graduating students and was working with the foundation to try and find a solution.
At Tuesday’s School Board meeting, Elia publicly thanked the foundation and others who assisted her, including Hillsborough Community College and the University of South Florida.
"I’m glad to say that we did accomplish that goal," she said. "These students met their requirements and they’re on their way to college."
In exchange for the scholarships, the students agree to return to the Hillsborough district after college and teach at inner-city schools.
A scholarship ceremony to is planned on June 25 at the foundation headquarters in West Tampa.
One hundred students remain in the program as rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. Of those, Jones estimated 79 qualify for the pre-paid scholarships, and he has begun the process of having them assigned. Fundraising continues and donations can be made here.