Pinellas looks to Hillsborough program for homeless students
Pinellas school officials are meeting with the organizers of a program for homeless students in Hillsborough County, seeking to start up the same in Pinellas.
"Starting Right, Now" is a non-profit that connects homeless students with jobs, apartments, furniture, bus passes, computers, printers and Internet access. They also assign students mentors, help them open bank accounts, register for food stamps and obtain records like birth certificates and social security cards.
According to the program's website, the organization has also paid for students to attend homecoming dances, the prom and graduation, as well as participate in extracurricular activities that can be costly.
Donna Sicilian, the executive director of student services for Pinellas, wrote in a July 29 email to other administrators, "I had the pleasure of speaking to Vicki Sokolik this morning. She is the Founder and Director of 'Starting Right Now' the program that [Superintendent Mike] Grego spoke to us about last week which we want to start here in Pinellas."
Sicilian said she and Sokolik want to have an "initial meeting so that she can tell us more about the project and how we can support her in identifying schools and students in Pinellas."
Pinellas already has some services available for homeless students, though they don't appear to be as extensive as the offerings of Starting Right, Now.
About 40 percent of Pinellas's homeless population is under 18, according to U.S. Census data.