The Horizon Scholars Program is searching for volunteer mentors in the Central Florida community.
The program, out of Valencia College, aims to "increase post-secondary education access for high school students in Orange County Public Schools," according to the program's website.
It is a partnership with Take Stock in Children, a non-profit that seeks to break the cycle of poverty for low-income students and provide them with educational opportunities.
The program model follows four main pillars of progress that include scholarship, mentorship, leadership development and civic engagement.
"We have many children in our county that are dreaming of going to college, and we are committed to making that dream a reality," President of Valencia College, Dr. Sanford Shugart, said. "This program will provide our children with a chance to obtain a higher education and will help them get there with the guidance of a caring mentor through middle and high school."
Lindsay Regruit, assistant director of the Horizon Scholars Program, said due to COVID-19, the program has been unable to do their normal recruitment efforts and many of their mentors changed jobs or moved during the pandemic.
The program currently has about 350 mentors and are looking to add a little over 100 to serve all of the students in need.
Regruit said for students to qualify for the program they must be at or below the federal poverty line at the time they apply. She said not only does the program provide mentorship, but they also provide engaging workshops for items students may not have the opportunity to learn in the classroom like financial literacy or understanding sports in college.
If a student completes the requirements and obtains a qualifying GPA, they earn a two year Florida prepaid scholarship that can be used at any college or university in Florida.
"The students come into high school knowing that there's something after high school and the question for them changes from 'If I can continue my education after high school' to 'Where will I go and what will I study after high school,'" Regruit said. "Seeing students that at one point never thought college would be an option transform into having hopes and dreams for their future is really a huge part of what we do."
Mentoring sessions take place twice per month and range from 30-45 minutes in length. During the sessions, students are encouraged to discuss careers, school, financial aid, or anything else that they have questions about relating to their present education and future.
Although sessions were originally at schools and work places, the mentor sessions are currently being conducted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those who wish to volunteer as a mentor or to obtain more information, please contact the Horizon Scholars Program, at
407-582-3008 or at [email protected].