Celebrating our mentors during National Mentoring Month

Every month, hundreds of volunteers from our community are taking time out of their busy schedules for a very important reason: to serve as a mentor and change the life of a student in Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough Education Foundation has one of the largest mentoring programs in Tampa Bay—serving more than 300 students in our Take Stock in Children mentoring program.

Students like Katherine, a freshman at Lennard High School.

“I was interested in getting involved in this mentoring program because I found it as a great way to really prepare for my future,” said Katherine.

Katherine’s mentor is Joanne Sudman. They meet several times each month during school hours at Lennard. The retired speech and language pathologist says she felt called to make a difference in a student’s life.

“After I retired, I said I need to start giving back again,” said mentor Joanne Sudman.

“I think it’s an incredibly fabulous idea. It’s probably the best way we can touch the lives of students who are in need.”

January is National Mentoring Month—a chance to thank our mentors for the incredible impact they make throughout the year. It’s also an opportunity to show our community the need to connect more caring adults with students.

“I really enjoy working with her and talking with her because I feel it’s a great way to make sure I’m on track with all my work and everything I do here to make sure I’m the best possible student I can be here,” Katherine said.

A Hillsborough Education Foundation mentor is a role model—someone who encourages the development of a student by providing emotional support, fostering confidence and facilitating academic goal setting and college readiness. It’s a chance to introduce a student to a world of opportunities he or she may not know exists without a mentor’s guidance.

“Katherine is wonderful. She blows my mind away every day that we meet. I’ve never seen a child at the age of 14 who is so determined and focused and knows where she needs to be in order to get where she wants to go,” said Sudman.

The dedication and commitment that mentors have to shaping, guiding and encouraging students’ academic and personal growth has a lasting impact on students in school and in life.

Every scholar in our mentoring program has the opportunity to earn a Florida Prepaid Scholarship—on the condition they meet our program’s requirements.

Katherine says the program takes some of the financial stress off her family and provides hope for a brighter future.

“I really want to go into nursing or any medical field. It really has opened a lot of doors because now I won’t have to really worry—can I do this? I knew I was going to have to figure out some way because college was always a thing. I’m going to go to college. Now that I have this opportunity, I’m definitely going to take it,” said Katherine.

Last year, caring volunteers in our community spent 5,442 hours mentoring our students. Sudman hopes the time she’s spending with Katherine will make an impact long after graduation.

“I have no doubt it’s going to lead her to where she want to go,” Sudman said. “This is probably the best way to help these kids. I hope that our relationship continues throughout college and the rest of her life—as long as I’m here anyway. I want to be her friend and mentor for a very long time.”

At HEF, it’s one of our core beliefs that success relies on relationships and the bond created between a mentor and mentee will undoubtedly serve as a foundational element of their lifelong success.

If you’d like to help empower our students to succeed, learn more about becoming a mentor.