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Students want to make a difference in local elementary school

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Courtesy of Carlos Childs Four members of the Lunch Pals program meet at Campbell Park Elementary School with Ron Diner, director of strategic community partnerships for Raymond James Financial (far right). The club members are (from left) president Kevin Erickson, secretary Claire Graham, liaison Sasha Rambo and vice president David Thompson.
Courtesy of Carlos Childs
Four members of the Lunch Pals program meet at Campbell Park Elementary School with Ron Diner, director of strategic community partnerships for Raymond James Financial (far right). The club members are (from left) president Kevin Erickson, secretary Claire Graham, liaison Sasha Rambo and vice president David Thompson.

Lunch Pals Mentoring Opportunity.

David Thompson is just a freshman, but he is already involved in a new campus club that aims to help students at a struggling elementary school who come from troubled homes.

The club, called Lunch Pals, was started by sophomore Kevin Erickson. It pairs USF St. Petersburg students with youngsters at Campbell Park, an elementary school at 1051 Seventh Ave. S that has some of the worst reading and math scores in the state.

Each mentor from the university spends a half hour a week with a Campbell Park student during lunch time at the school. The mentors and students are matched according to their interests, such as sports or art.

The weekly meetings offer the children an older friend to chat with and make that day of the week special.

“We take the weekly commitment to be there very seriously, because these kids look forward to it,” said Thompson, who is both secretary and director of communications for Lunch Pals.

As of now, Lunch Pals has 25 volunteers. Its goal is to have 60 volunteers in order to have a ratio of one volunteer for every 10 children at Campbell Park.

According to state education officials, Campbell Park is one of five St. Petersburg elementary schools that rank among the 25 worst in the state. In a series of stories this fall, the Tampa Bay Times labeled those five schools “Failure Factories.”

Since the summer of 2013, the university has had a partnership with one of the other struggling schools, Fairmount Park at 575 41st St. S.

Students from the College of Education volunteer in classrooms there, lead field trips and host summer camps on the USFSP campus. This summer’s camp included some students from Campbell Park.

Lunch Pals will hold monthly training programs for new volunteers. Its student mentors are not obligated to bring the children gifts. All that Lunch Pals asks is that students give their time.

“It’s a really meaningful experience being able to connect with someone and learn,” said Thompson.

Lunch Pals will hold its first mentor training session from 3 to 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 28, in the ballroom of the University Student Center. If you are unavailable that day but still want to get involved, use the information box below or visit the Lunch Pals booth during Harbor Walk.

For more information email projectlunchpalsusfsp@gmail.com

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