Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

With volunteer hours down, Pinellas schools recruit mentors

Colt Martin of Largo cradles his son Cody, 3, during last week’s mentoring workshop. Martin said he is signing up to be a mentor at either Seminole or Largo middle or high school.


Colt Martin of Largo cradles his son Cody, 3, during last week’s mentoring workshop. Martin said he is signing up to be a mentor at either Seminole or Largo middle or high school.

With her last child in high school, Kathy Cason could cut back on her involvement in the school system. The bake sales and classroom visits. The field trips.

Instead she signed up to be a mentor at Melrose Elementary.

"There are a lot of underprivileged black kids that attend that school who need support," she said. "I also know that's an F school."

Cason, whose 16-year-old daughter attends Boca Ciega High, was one of 303 people who signed in last week at the Pinellas County School District's mentor fair. Of those, about 270 people went through the full training.

With the school year starting Monday, district officials had hoped to register 500 people at the fair to volunteer in the schools or serve as mentors for children. They still will be accepting mentors and volunteers as the year gets under way.

The school district has seen a decline in the number of volunteers and volunteer hours in the last three years. The number of volunteers is down 23 percent, while volunteer hours were down 28 percent, according to the district. Hillsborough County Schools, in contrast, has marked a 29 percent increase in volunteer hours during that time.

Some of the decline in Pinellas could stem from greater enforcement of a background check policy, which requires some volunteers to pay about $50 for stricter screening.

The eight-hour mentor fair, which was held at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater Hotel, provided one-stop shopping for participants. They could register, get fingerprinted, attend training and even be matched with a student, said Sandra Hopkins, a district coordinator.

Maps of the county showed school locations to make it easier to find a convenient fit.

Each school had a table with representatives to talk about volunteer opportunities. Hopkins said the district also encouraged people to look at particular programs, such as Take Stock in Children, Girlfriends of Pinellas County, and 5000 Role Models of Excellence, among others.

Lizz Singh, family and community liaison for Jamerson Elementary in St. Petersburg, said volunteers run the library, a school store and work in classrooms as well as front offices. Unlike the countywide trend, Jamerson Elementary has seen an increase in volunteer hours.

The school had more than 250 active volunteers who clocked more than 10,000 hours last year. That's a 10 percent increase over last year in both categories, Singh said.

"Our school really welcomes volunteers," she said.

Felita Grant Lott, principal of Bay Point Elementary, told attendees that they're looking for a one-year commitment. Ideally, mentors will stay with their students from year to year, she said.

"We have some who are still mentoring students who are in college," she said.

Cara Fitzpatrick can be reached at or (727) 893-8846. Follow @Fitz_ly on Twitter.

How to volunteer

People who want to volunteer must fill out a registration form and provide a copy of a government-issued identification, such as a passport, driver's license or identification card. Volunteers must get a background check. A stricter background screening is required for volunteers who will be around children without direct supervision.

For more information, call Michelle Roberge, the district's volunteer coordinator, at (727) 588-5050.

Source: Pinellas County School District

With volunteer hours down, Pinellas schools recruit mentors 08/16/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 16, 2013 3:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Shooting sends man to hospital in St. Pete


    ST. PETERSBURG — Police were investigating a shooting that occurred around 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday and sent a man to the hospital.

  2. Police: Man tries to lure child with puppy in Polk County


    Times staff

    HAINES CITY — A man was arrested Sunday after he tried to entice a young girl into his camper to view a puppy, according to police.

    Dale Collins, 63, faces a charge of luring or enticing a child under the age of 12. [Photo courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Editorial: Coming together to reduce car thefts


    The simple, knee-jerk response to the juvenile car theft epidemic in Pinellas County would be to crack down on offenders with an increased police presence and stiffer sentences. Thankfully, local community leaders did not stop there. As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its 
As detailed in a recent Tampa Bay Times follow-up to its "Hot Wheels" investigation into youth car thefts, a variety of ideas from multiple directions increases the odds of actually solving the cause and not just treating the symptoms.

  4. Editorial: Floridians' health care now at risk in Washington


    The health care for millions of Floridians is now at risk. The U.S. Senate's dramatic vote Tuesday to begin debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with no idea what will happen is a dangerous gamble with American lives and the national economy. Barring an unexpected bipartisan compromise, a handful of …

    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., dramatically returned to the Senate for the first time since his brain cancer was diagnosed and cast the key vote that enabled Vice President Mike Pence to break the 50-50 tie and allow the health care debate to proceed.
  5. Former Marine from Florida dies fighting for Kurdish militia

    ORLANDO — A former Marine who secretly traveled to Syria earlier this year to battle the Islamic State was killed while fighting for a Kurdish militia, his father said Tuesday.

    David Taylor, with his father David Taylor Sr., was killed earlier this month in Syria while fighting for a Kurdish militia.