As Hillsborough County Public Schools continues to adapt to changes surrounding COVID-19, Hillsborough Education Foundation has remained dedicated to its mission to strengthen public education—even during this unprecedented time.
Hillsborough Education Foundation CEO Kim Jowell said her team is focused on helping to provide digital resources and supplies to some of the county’s most vulnerable students, so they are not left behind due to a lack of resources and an increased digital divide.
“This is a challenging time for all families, but especially those who have limited resources, lack of ability to purchase supplies as well as lack of technology,” Jowell said. “We feel there is going to be a gap in technology resources to our students.”
In addition to addressing the issue of digital equity for students who are now e-learning, Hillsborough Education Foundation also set out to provide students with necessary school supplies. HEF employees assembled packets and supply kits and Hillsborough County Public Schools staff joined the team to distribute the learning tools to Achievement Schools and other high needs schools during the district’s “Set Up for Success Week.”
“We are adapting to make sure we still have a delivery system,” Jowell said. “We had to close our Teaching Tools Resource Center for those reasons of limitations of crowds, but we’re adapting and going on the fly to make sure students get what they need. Our highest priority are those highest needs schools.”
Jowell explained that the Foundation rented three vans, one box truck and utilized staff members’ vehicles so they could make deliveries to as many schools as possible—a feat that did not go unnoticed by school and district leaders.
“We’re really excited about the supplies from Hillsborough Education Foundation,” said Dr. Michelle Fitzgerald, Achievement Schools Area Superintendent. “To have that extra special care with the packets—students already know these packets because they have received them in schools before—I think will give them that feeling of being back at school and being with their teachers and their friends who they are going to miss tremendously during this time.”
Dr. Fitzgerald said the partnership between Hillsborough Education Foundation and Hillsborough County Public Schools has always been top-notch, and she’s grateful for the work HEF is doing to ensure students and teachers feel supported during this time.
“The Education Foundation is always calling us asking ‘how can we help you?’ They are always helping us and always helping our kids—wanting to do what’s right,” Fitzgerald said.
Though Hillsborough Education Foundation’s efforts this week have resulted in more than 19,000 students and 90+ schools being served, Jowell said there is still more work to be done. HEF has provided packets and kits to 47 elementary and middle Achievement Schools and more than 50 Title I schools and the Foundation will continue to focus on providing resources to even more schools with the highest needs.
“Clearly, there’s more to give and they’re not the only ones who will have needs, but we know they have the highest levels of poverty in their schools, so we wanted to make sure we got those first,” Jowell said. “The greatest need is financial support. We are buying a lot of bulk so we are able to have a good pricing point where we can get these items in and quickly be assembling.”
To make a contribution that will help ensure at-risk students have the resources and supplies they need to prevent a further divide in the achievement gap and help Hillsborough Education Foundation continue to advance our mission, visit educationfoundation.com/donate.