Tampa, FL boasted of a population of 303,447 in 2000 which grew to 325,989 in 2005. A great percentage of the change in population is children, and many of these children may not have all the tools they need to succeed.
The Staff of the Office of the Public Defender in Tampa understands that Tampa’s children have unmet needs and they have decided to do their part to change this. These public defenders volunteer their lunch hours three times a week in order to drive out to Palm River Elementary Academy to tutor and mentor students in the third grade.
This group of volunteers found fulfillment in what they were doing, but they were not satisfied with the impact they were making as tutors alone. They then became involved in the children's lives by volunteering beyond their lunch hours. Not only have the volunteers given of their time for tutoring, but they have also become responsible for a fundraising event at their office. This event focused upon raising money for a grill for the school to be used for family programming.
In addition to tutoring and raising money, the volunteers have also been active participants for the Strawberry Festival. The group of volunteers has donated their time and money for a booth and prizes.
These Public Defenders have had a profound impact on the students they are mentoring. The emotional support given by this group of professionals has been the biggest factor in facilitating the academic growth observed. The school has seen a positive effect in regard to academic achievement, attitude about learning, and the students' behavior. The students’ performance has improved, especially in reading. They have also been impacted by having consistent quality time with positive role models who they know care for them.