Volunteer team targets Pinellas students' achievement gap

ST. PETERSBURG — The goal is ambitious for all parties involved.

It includes recruiting 100 people for each of three schools in Pinellas County to "stand in the gap."

The "Dream Team" goal is to help schools with high minority enrollments close the achievement gap by providing community assistance. In Pinellas last year, 42 percent of black students graduated in four years with a standard diploma. In contrast, the graduation rate for Hispanic students was 57 percent, and more than 70 percent for Asian and white students.

Thursday night more than 100 volunteers gathered at Pinellas Technical Institute to discuss the program's goals for the next year. The project, organized by the PACT, a Pinellas-based group that focuses on closing the achievement gap, has representatives from some 110 community organizations.

The idea is to help students at all levels. Schools participating in the initial program are Maximo Elementary, Baypoint Middle and Gibbs High School.

Success will depend on the mobilization of a huge volunteer effort from businesses, clergy, educational groups and other community organizations.

Michelle Dennard, one of the "Dream Team's" founders and a former president of the Pinellas County Teachers Association, said the group will rely on an expansive database of community organizations to fit individual students' needs.

Some volunteers will be tutors and mentors while others will give families one-on-one support to identify specific needs and provide encouragement.

Right now, there is no county funding for the program. It will rely on community sponsors, although the group is looking into fundraising options. Families will be contacted through targeted direct mail and phone calls.

Volunteer team targets Pinellas students' achievement gap 02/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 21, 2009 3:31am]

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