Donor helps city open Doorways
By BRYAN GILMER, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- When Rick Baker wanted help funding a program to mentor schoolchildren in the city, he turned to the man he has often called his own mentor: philanthropist John Galbraith.
Galbraith came through, donating enough money to leverage 300 new Doorways scholarships for St. Petersburg public school students, 100 per year for the next three years. Each scholarship will pay for four years of college or vocational training for students poor enough to receive free and reduced-price lunches.
The students will be designated for the scholarships as sixth-graders. Each must sign a contract agreeing to maintain a C average, stay out of trouble and graduate from high school. If they fail, they lose the chance to use the money.
Each Doorways scholar is assigned an adult mentor, a volunteer from the community. Baker pledged to use his Chamber of Commerce and neighborhood contacts to help recruit enough mentors for all the new scholars and all the current Doorways students who have no mentor. The initiative is Baker's way of fulfilling a campaign promise to boost public education in St. Petersburg.
Thursday morning, Baker handed over the first check from the charitable foundation of Galbraith and his wife, Rosemary, to the Pinellas County Education Foundation, which runs the Doorways scholarship program. A crowd in the courtyard of John Hopkins Middle School -- including 80 current Doorways scholars dressed in new "Mayor's Mentors and More" T-shirts -- watched and cheered.
The check for $162,500 will underwrite 50 scholarships. The education foundation has agreed to raise enough money to match Galbraith's donation and underwrite 50 more each year. State matching funds will be added to the $3,250 raised locally for each scholarship to yield enough cash to buy Florida prepaid tuition plans.
Galbraith, who made his fortune with the Franklin Templeton mutual fund company, said the Doorways program is a marvelous one that he is pleased to support.
"It's great to hold out the challenge for a student that lies out ahead so far," Galbraith said by phone from Bermuda. "It promotes higher education, but also promotes adhering to strong social values."
A man who parlayed his business sense to personal success, Galbraith foresees a huge return on his investment in St. Petersburg students.
"You probably can't get a better investment than that: the output in financial (terms), the output in impact in society that will come from it," he said.
How to get involved
To apply for a Doorways scholarship, call your child's school and ask to speak with the Doorways coordinator.
To donate money toward a scholarship, call the Pinellas County Education Foundation at (727) 588-4816 or visit www.pinellaseducation.org.
To become a mentor for a student, call the Office of Community Involvement at Pinellas County schools, (727) 588-6405.
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