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. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics


    Winner of the week 1: 'Liquor wall’ proponents. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill to allow Walmart, Target and other big box stores to sell liquor was a victory for an array of groups, from smaller merchants and Publix (which has stand-alone booze shops near its stores) to those who feel the hard stuff …

  2. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  3. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  4. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  5. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.