Upon induction into Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Take Stock in Children program, students are paired with a mentor whom they meet with regularly to help guide them in their academic pursuits. Now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hillsborough Education Foundation is finding creative ways to keep mentors and students connected.
By providing virtual mentoring opportunities, the Foundation is working to meet the needs of students who participate in our mentoring and scholarship program while adhering to the CDC’s recommendations for social distancing.
For students who rely on their mentors for guidance both academically and personally, continuing to participate in regular mentoring sessions is imperative, explained Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Director of the Take Stock in Children Program Anna Corman.
“Now more than ever, the students in our Take Stock in Children program need us,” Corman said. “They’re particularly vulnerable at this time and we want to ensure that we have that constant contact with them to make sure that they’re doing okay, that they’re adapting to eLearning and that we can meet any needs that they may have.”
In an effort to accommodate students and mentors, Corman said Hillsborough Education Foundation has taken its entire mentoring operation online—allowing volunteer mentors to connect with students as well as offering group mentoring sessions that are topic based.
Britnee, a Take Stock in Children Program scholar and junior at Blake High School, said the transition to virtual mentoring has been smooth. While she misses in-person sessions with her mentor, Bailey Shaw, Britnee said the pair are still able to effectively communicate.
“I kind of vent to my mentor sometimes about what’s happening in my life and stuff, so that didn’t change,” Britnee said. “I feel like I have another big sister. Bailey’s very helpful. I’ll tell her stuff that’s maybe happening at home, stuff that’s happening at school, and she always has some resources to pull out. She’s just an extra big push in leadership as far as me just navigating through life.”
To ensure at-risk students who participate in the Take Stock in Children program have the online access and critical technology necessary for successful eLearning and virtual mentoring, Hillsborough Education Foundation, in collaboration with Hillsborough County Public Schools and other business and community partners, has made vital resources available to help bridge the digital divide.
“We’ve provided some laptops to some of the children in our Take Stock in Children program and we’re also working with some of our families who are having issues with getting access to Wi-Fi at home,” Corman said. “That’s really important to make sure that the next few weeks they’re successful and studying but also to ensure they’re getting all of the mentoring that they need.”
Though Britnee has access to the technology needed for virtual mentoring and eLearning, she said adapting to the new learning structure has still been a major adjustment.
“I’m fortunate enough to have my own laptop, so I’m okay with the eLearning—it’s actually easier for certain subjects,” Britnee said. “But it is still a huge difference for everybody.”
To help ensure students in our Take Stock in Children program have the digital resources necessary for successful eLearning in the wake of COVID-19, you can make a contribution at www.educationfoundation.com/donate. If you’re interested in volunteering as a mentor to a Hillsborough Education Foundation Take Stock in Children scholar, visit educationfoundation.com/mentor-a-student for more information.