May 2018
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In Hillsborough County,  1 in 2  public-school students qualifies for free or reduced-price lunch.  If lunch is difficult to afford, it's unlikely school supplies are in the family budget.

Could you imagine starting your first day of school without even a pencil?

With your help, we can ensure that every child is prepared to learn and succeed in the classroom by providing free school supplies to students most in need.

Click here to sign up as a supply drive host, see a list of public drop-off locations or to support the Virtual Supply Drive.

Questions? Contact Denise Becker at

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May's Mentor of the Month
Susan Denney

1. How did you become involved with mentoring through the Hillsborough Education Foundation? 
The student that I mentor now was a student whom I mentored previously through Metropolitan Ministries. My mentee was accepted into the Take Stock in Children program and needed a mentor through the twelfth grade. I decided to apply through the Hillsborough Education Foundation to become her mentor again.

2. What  has been the most rewarding part of mentoring?
Just seeing my mentee mature and blossom throughout the years is rewarding in itself. We have recently put more emphasis on her academics, and watching her gain momentum and potential through academics is an enriching experience. Every time I meet with my mentee she surprises me with her growth and her understanding of the world.

3. What do you believe is the key to being a quality mentor?
I think that listening is very important. To show the student that you are not judging them or disappointed in them will help them open up to you and trust you as a mentor. When you guide the student gently is when you both reap the most reward. 

4. When you are not working with students, how do you prefer to spend your free time?
I have been retired for a few years now, so in my free time I like to volunteer for other programs in the area, such as the Judeo-Christian Clinic. Another program I volunteer for is the N68 Hours of Hunger, which provides students who would not normally have food over the weekend with meals to sustain them until the school week starts again. My husband and I also enjoy traveling together.

5. What do you hope your mentee will learn from you?
I want her to learn to always be humble and kind. I also think it is important that she strives to be the best version of herself that she can be. I often convey to my mentee the potential that I know she possesses, and I am just honored to see her constantly achieve and exceed my expectations.  

Mentor of the Year Nominees

Back row: 2018 Mentor of the Year nominees at the Mentor Appreciation Party last month. Front Row: Take Stock in Children staff members.

1. Stacy Wrenn is an outstanding mentor! She demonstrates responsibility and compromise through her consistent weekly meetings with Emily. Stacy has been an essential support for Emily in her extra-curricular activities, academics, and personal matters. She has helped Emily through tough times and attended many of her volleyball games to cheer for her. Emily considers Stacy a best friend that understands her and motivates her to have a more positive outlook in life. 

2. Janette McElwain is a committed mentor to Tania, both throughout her high school career and supports every extracurricular event she pursues. Janette goes beyond her mentoring role by helping Tania study for Calculus class and prepare for the SAT's. The most positive aspect of their relationship is that Janette believes in her mentee's success. Tania believes that her mentor has influenced her to develop more academic goals and to celebrate her own accomplishments. 

3. Brigitte Sheppard has made a profound positive impact in her mentee's life. Through her advice on professionalism, grit, and personal life, she has developed a strong bond with Lizett. She really knows how to make her mentee feel special with small details such as bringing a bottle of water and a candy to each session. Additionally, Brigette has given Lizett a more positive outlook in life by finding beauty in the day to day routine.

4. Bob Grieb is considered a second parental figure by his mentee Giovany. Although they both come from different generations, Bob relates to his mentee's teenage struggles. Their relationship is so powerful, that Bob's pep talks can make Giovany feel fearless and sure of himself. Giovany is a mature, respectful, and an outstanding young man, who is undoubtedly influenced by his wonderful mentor. 

5. Margaret Kanter is a compassionate, committed, and supportive mentor. She helped Georgia achieve a great score in her SAT math section! Her willingness to help in her mentee's classes make Georgia appreciate her greatly. Thanks to Margaret, Georgia found a school that caters to her intended Culinary Arts major.   

Skills For Life Report

May:  Leadership

To lead is to know oneself and one's strengths and weaknesses. It is to establish a common goal with those around them, encourage others, take initiative, and have humility. A leader strives to make the right decisions, set a positive example and rise above. A leader thinks big. 

Leadership is a social skill that requires knowledge of one's own merit and value, along with their faults and weaknesses. A person cannot expect to lead others if they do not know themselves first. Leadership requires thinking about the well being of both themselves and the group that they are leading. Sometimes leaders make unpopular decisions and that's okay. Facing challenges head on and making mistakes will enable someone to become a better leader. Leadership is a learning process.

The  Skills for Life   Toolkit has four activities related to leadership to aid in your discussions. These activities explore subtopics related to leadership, including self reflection, guidance, practice, and making difficult choices. 

If you have not taken advantage of the Skills for Life toolkit, we recommend contacting  William Dailey ( to receive a hard copy .  Otherwise, please refer to our digital download option list below. If you decide to use it or are currently doing so, please provide us your feedback so we may continue to refine and improve this resource for our mentors and mentees.

Mentor Resource Alert
Summer Engagement and College Preparation

Summer Engagement:

As the school year comes to a close, your mentees are probably excited to get out of school and start enjoying their summer break. While students are well-deserving of this break, it is still important that they stay engaged in something over the summer. Often times when students are not engaged in any activities during the summer, it leaves them unmotivated when the beginning of the school year comes around. As mentors, it is recommended that you facilitate your mentee's involvement in their own success, especially if they are not involved in any summer programs. 

It should be noted that your mentee should not feel like they have to be engaged during the summer months, and you as the mentor are not responsible for the mentee's actions. However, as mentors, you should try to facilitate your mentee's growth during the summer. As a mentor, you can help keep your mentee involved by engaging them in their interests. Some suggestions are:
  • Reading the same book or following the same blogs and sharing your thoughts on them (only if they seem interested, remember this should not feel like an assignment to the student)
  • If you both are sports fans, you can discuss the World Cup or any other sports
  • Doing the same crafts and sharing each other's creations: scrapbooking, cooking, artwork, etc.
  • Don't be afraid to share with your mentees! If you find something that you think they would be interested in, share it with them. You may inspire them to start a new hobby.
Mentors and mentees are encouraged to keep in contact during the summer. Summer contact is something you should discuss with your mentee during your last meeting together, and agree upon a way to keep in contact (email, text, phone calls, etc). Ideally, you should keep in contact with your mentee twice a month over the summer. Remember, these contacts with your mentee should act as check-ins: make sure they are doing all right and gently encourage them to be involved during the summer. You don't want your mentee to feel like you are just another parent to them. 

Students are NOT required to meet with their mentors over the summer.
Meeting with your student without HEF's approval or supervision is strictly prohibited.
Under NO circumstances should you drive your mentee.

College Preparation:

For those of you with mentees who are preparing for college, congratulate them on a job well done! They have successfully graduated high school and are pursuing higher education, you both should be very proud. As these students are getting ready for college, keep in mind some concerns they may have:
  • Moving to a place that is unfamiliar
  • Living by themselves (financially or otherwise)
  • Making friends
  • Failing out of school (many of these students are the first in their family to attend college, they may think that they aren't capable of higher education)
Make sure your students know that their concerns are valid, and that you are there to help them make the transition from high school to higher education (within the restrictions of HEF). If they have any questions, encourage them to reach out to you! Convey to them that you know that they are capable of higher education, and that their hard work is just about to pay off. 

Mentor Survey:
Please complete the mentor survey if you can! Your input is very important.  Click  here to take the survey.

Mark Your Calendar!

June 4
Senior Workshop at the University of Tampa
Class of 2018 only
June 22
Metropolitan Ministries Volunteer Opportunity
Students and Mentors
July 14
Tampa Museum of Art Event
Students and Mentors
July 21
Take Stock In Children Shopping Day
Open to all Take Stock In Children Students
July 25
Financial Literacy Workshop
High School Students only

For more information, contact Anna Laird via  email

New Staff Members!

Wildens Cajuste 
Wildens Cajuste graduated from Florida A&M University, with his Bachelors of Science degree in political science with a minor in public administration. Wildens is the middle child of nine children and a first generation Haitian descent to attend college. When he attended VanBuren Middle School, he became an active member of the Men of Vision as a 6th grader.  Wildens became an officer as a 9th grader and is only 1 of 2 members that was voted by his peers to hold the position as president for two consecutive terms. Wildens has become passionate about seeing students achieve a high level of success while in high school and at the collegiate level. Men of Vision has helped Wildens develop a passion for public education and has gained much experience through coaching his peers academically, developing personal discipline, and community involvement; like his work with the Youth Chapter of the NAACP.   Wildens will continue his passion for seeing students achieve as a College Success Coach with the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

Marimar Velaz Rivero 
Marimar Velaz Rivero is one of our new College Success Coaches here at the Hillsborough Education Foundation. Marimar often goes by the nickname "Mari," and was born and raised in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Mari will be the main contact for our Spanish speaking students and families within the Take Stock in Children program here at the Hillsborough Education Foundation. Mari earned her Master's in Applied Linguistics for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at the University of South Florida. Mari has also tutored at the University of South Florida and taught Spanish and Academic English to undergraduate students there as well. Even though Mari has only been working with the Hillsborough Education Foundation for about a month, she has been an extraordinary asset to the foundation. In her free time, Mari enjoys cooking and runs her own food blog.  

Jayson Blunt
Jayson Blunt is a local college graduate from HCC and the University of South Florida, and has also attended Northern Arizona University. He holds a degree in International Studies, Electronic Media and Film, and College Student Affairs. Originally from Staten Island, New York, he relocated with his family to Tampa at the age of six where has lived for the past twenty-three years, with the exception of three years spent in Flagstaff, Arizona from 2013 to 2016. His passion is to help youth and college students recognize that education is not only important to bettering themselves professionally and financially, but that having an education teaches a person how to live better in a way that promotes healthier relationships, physical and mental health, and an understanding of society and how their place in it is not fixed. Jayson is an easy going guy and enjoys watching most sports, good food, good coffee, traveling, hanging out with friends, and spending quality time with his wife, dog and cat.
If you know someone who is interested in mentoring, 
have them visit our website for more information: