TAMPA — The Hillsborough Education Foundation says 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 an announcement the education foundation issued this week.
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 is working to cover tuition and book money 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 these incoming college freshmen, said president Phil Jones. But, because book stipends can be spread over 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 to 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," Elia said.
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 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. Jones said he has already begun arranging prepaid scholarships for those who qualify based on income, and fundraising will continue for the others.
Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or firstname.lastname@example.org.