Friends of the Children – Tampa Bay will bring its long-term mentoring model to Lealman Avenue Elementary School in St. Petersburg, a Title I school. While Friends – Tampa Bay has worked with students in Pinellas County since its inception, this will be the first school partnership in Pinellas County where the organization enrolls a brand-new group of children to initiate Friends – Tampa Bay’s unique and impactful 12 ½ year commitment.
Friends of the Children – Tampa Bay is part of a national organization which pairs paid, professional mentors (called Friends) with children facing multiple obstacles, including those who are in, or at risk of entering, the foster care system. The Friend walks alongside the student from kindergarten through high school graduation for 12 ½ years no matter what. Friends are often the only consistent adult in these youths’ lives.
The Tampa Bay chapter will hire two new Friends to mentor selected students at Lealman Avenue Elementary. Beginning in 2023, Friends will spend several hours each week with each of their students, both in and out of the classroom. While each Friend focuses on their students, the positive impact of the Friend’s presence spreads throughout the student’s entire classroom, as well as their family or foster family.
“We’re extremely pleased to expand our presence into Pinellas County and work with Lealman Avenue Elementary,” said Rick McClintock, Executive Director of Friends – Tampa Bay. “These are children and families who are impacted by systematic inequities, including poverty, foster care, the criminal justice system and other traumatic experiences. We know that our long-term, “power of one” model brings much-needed stability to a child’s life, helping them overcome obstacles, and eventually break the cycle of generational poverty.”
Friends – Tampa Bay has had a similar partnership with Foster Elementary School in Hillsborough County since 2020 and also works with other individual students at schools throughout Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas County. The Pinellas County partnership with Lealman Avenue Elementary School is made possible, in part, by a $1.1 million grant from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
Founded in 2014, Friends – Tampa Bay has already achieved outstanding results:
· 95% of youth with Friends exited the foster care system;
· 98% of youth with Friends advanced to the next grade in school (2021-22 school year)
Nationally, the Friends of the Children model, executed throughout the 26 chapters including Friends – Tampa Bay, produces life-changing results:
· 83% of youth with Friends graduate high school, while in some communities, graduation rates are as low as 27% for youth without a Friend;
· 93% of youth with Friends avoid the juvenile justice system, compared to 74% without Friends;
· 98% of youth with Friends advanced to the next grade in school
· 92% of program graduates go on to enroll in post-secondary education, serve our country, or become employed in a living wage job.
For more information about Friends of the Children – Tampa Bay visit www.friendstampabay.org or Follow us on Facebook or Instagram.