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Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy to honor six teen mentors

By Staff | May 15, 2015

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy will honor six mentors from Lee County with Teen Trendsetters Excellence Awards for leadership and service. Students mentoring in the Foundation’s program assist first through third graders with reading during weekly tutoring sessions.

The Teen Trendsetters Excellence Award is given to mentors who provide outstanding leadership and service, particularly with helping get their mentees to read on grade level. In Lee County, mentors from Caloosa Middle School, Challenger Middle School, Lehigh Senior High School, Ida S. Baker High School, and Veterans Park Academy lend their reading expertise to mentees.

This year’s honorees are:

* Anthony DeJesus, Grade 9, Lehigh Senior High School

* Kiara Freeman, Grade 6, Veterans Park Academy

* Pedro Nieves, Grade 8, Caloosa Middle School

* Tomi Parisi-Spencer, Grade 12, Ida S. Baker High School

* Tiffany Ramphal, Grade 9, Lehigh Senior High School

* Katelyn Stewart, Grade 7, Challenger Middle School

One of the award recipients, senior Tomi Parisi-Spencer, has been instrumental in getting the Teen Trendsetters program off the ground at Ida Baker High School. As president of Teen Trendsetters, she has served as a great role model and leader, and she actively recruits other mentors into the program. She also has promoted the program at a community awareness booth at the Southwest Florida Fair.

“Tomi is a highly responsible individual who has helped not only her peers, but the younger elementary students as well,” said program advisor Claudia Cascione in a prepared statement. “Her support and dedication have impacted the lives of these students, and I am thankful for her leadership with Teen Trendsetters.”

“On average, participating first graders started the school year seven months behind their peers in reading, but more than half ended the year on grade level,” said Liza McFadden, president and CEO of the Foundation, in the statement. “We couldn’t be prouder of these teen leaders, who are positive role models to our next generation of learners.”

Teens are the true champions of this volunteer program, spending one-on-one time each week bonding with their young mentees while teaching them to read better and enjoy books, organizers said. Since the inception of the program in Florida in 2002, more than 40,000 teens and elementary students have benefited. These outstanding teens have logged more than 314,000 volunteer hours and their mentees have received more than 230,000 books for their own “at-home” library.