Originally posted by: Herald-Tribune

Specifically, the school is looking for black and Hispanic men.

When students return to Manatee Elementary in August, they will attend a community partnership school — the first in Manatee County.

In partnership with the University of Central Florida, the school will provide students and their families with on-site health, social, medical and educational services. The goal is to remove barriers so students can focus on their education.

For its new model, the school is looking for mentors to spend time with students. Specifically, the school is looking for black and Hispanic men.

“Male mentors and male mentors of color are extremely helpful to these kids,” said Shawn Naugle, Children’s Home Society of Florida regional executive director. “It gives them an opportunity to see themselves in these mentors.”

About half of the students at Manatee Elementary are Hispanic, and would benefit from having bilingual mentors, said a spokeswoman for Children’s Home Society of Florida, one of the four core agencies in the school’s partnership. About 39% of the students are black. All students were deemed “economically disadvantaged” last year, according to the Florida Department of Education.

“We can find (female mentors) but just not a lot of males,” said Principal Tami VanOverbeke. “We’re looking to get as many mentors as possible in here to get lunch with kids or read with them.”

The school still needs 20 to 50 more mentors.

“As a mentor, you’re there to talk and listen and help them find solutions to some of their problems,” Naugle said. “The experience is incredible and what the kid gets out of it is incredible.”

As the lead nonprofit, Children’s Home Society of Florida will provide trauma-informed counseling. Manatee County Rural Health and Sierra Health Services, a federally qualified health center, will facilitate the free dental, vision services and mental health services. Manatee Elementary already has an extra empty building, which will be used as the clinic.

Sarasota County planned to follow in Manatee County’s lead and open its first community partnership school, but the district abruptly pulled its application in November, citing the lack of a superintendent.

To sign up to be a mentor, visit www.manateeschools.net/Page/2657.