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St. Pete Catalyst: Local program helps elevate students

St. Pete Catalyst: Local program helps elevate students

(Oct. 25, 2022) Like many students at Gibbs High School, Ja’Tanaisha Thompson dreamt of attending college; unlike most of her classmates, she enrolled at the University of Florida at 16 years old.

In addition to Thompson’s hard work and dedication, a program unique to Pinellas County – Elevating Excellence – helped to serve as a launchpad for her accomplishment. The Pinellas Education Foundation, in partnership with the Helios Education Foundation, implemented the program to help area students needing support achieve their post-high school dreams.

Elevating Excellence launched in June 2018 through a $1.3 million Helios grant. The Pinellas County Schools (PCS) initiative provides high-achieving, low-income and underserved students and their families with a personalized pathway to college success.

Thompson, who turned 17 in July, is a first-generation college student. As such, she said the initiative was a vital resource through the application process.

“I didn’t really know how to write an application,” Thompson said. “I didn’t know what to include. I didn’t know what I needed. It did help me foster the ideas I needed for my essay – how to write them, how to make sure that my essay would be very, very good.”

While Elevating Excellence focuses on identifying and helping individual students, program officials also established College Planning Centers in 17 PCS high schools. The goal is to widen the often narrow pathway for students who lack the resources and support to realize their dreams of post-secondary education.  (Read more)