The head of the Hillsborough Education Foundation said Tuesday he remains optimistic that the school district can keep its scholarship promise to graduates of the Urban Teaching Academy.
"I'm encouraged," foundation president Phil Jones said. "We're on the eve of getting some really nice donations."
While money has been coming in, Jones's estimate of the current fund was $18,000, not including matching money he expects from Hillsborough Community College. A spokeswoman for the college said HCC's foundation will soon meet with Jones's organization to pinpoint what kind of aid HCC can offer.
At last count, 29 students are finishing the program this year at Hillsborough, Blake and Middleton high schools, Jones said. About 75 percent of these students appear to qualify for need-based aid that could include federal and state grants. The rest are "middle-class," he said, meaning they'll need cash assistance coming from donations to the foundation.
There also are 100 more students in the freshman, sophomore and junior classes who came into the program with the expectation of scholarships, he said. Of those, 56 appear eligible for need-based aid. He's trying to accommodate these students through the nonprofit Take Stock in Children.
While reluctant to speculate about the delay in arranging these scholarships, Jones said he is encouraged by the response that has come from HCC, the University of South Florida and St. Petersburg College. He also expects to report good news about private-sector donations.
"Mark my words, we will solve this and these kids don't have anything to worry about," he said.