New Horizon Mentor Program Grant Vetoed

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PANAMA CITY New Horizons Learning Center is congratulating its newest graduating class Tuesday, but the celebrations are bittersweet.

School administrators are trying to find a way to continue their mentor program after Governor Rick Scott vetoed their funding Monday.

New Horizons graduate Austin Jones received the school's first Megan Pettis scholarship award Tuesday morning.

He says he couldn't have done it without his mentor.

New Horizons Graduate Austin Jones says, "(He means) absolutely everything. I have never been so thankful."

New Horizons relies on 70 community volunteers to staff their mentor program, which helps 70% of their student body.

All six of this year's graduates were part of the mentor program.

Advisory Chairman Brian Baber says, "The reason they go here is the students that go here, they tend to do better in an environment where there are fewer teachers, fewer students, the classroom sizes are smaller, and they get a lot more one on one help so bringing that mentor in is just one additional point."

Last year, school administrators began working with representative Marti Coley on a 5 year, $500,000 funding proposal.

Late last year Coley reduced the amount to $150,000 to help cover staffing and material.

New Horizons Principal Craig Bush says, "That was basically a bare-bones minimum of what we could have run the program on."

But last week Florida Taxwatch put the project on it's budget turkey list.

Then Governor Scott vetoed it Monday.

Baber explains, "There's no way to measure the impact that they're going to have. We've all had people in our lives who make a huge difference. Like I said earlier, the mentoring is almost a guaranteed way to do that and without funding for that, frankly we're just setting these kids up for failure."

Mentor Coordinator Margaret Tidmore adds, "We don't give up, Governor. We will try again."

Tidmore says she's already working with Coley on a proposal for next year.