Lunch Pals: Mentors dish advice, fun to students

By Cait McVey, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 6:38 PM EST

Even though National Mentoring Month is wrapping up, Tampa Bay-area school leaders hope volunteers continue to step up for students in need of guidance.

  • Lunch Pals is a Pinellas County Schools program
  • Program brings mentors, kids together during lunch
  • 950 Pinellas students benefit from Lunch Pals

Melrose Elementary School in St. Petersburg is just one of many participating in “Lunch Pals,” a Pinellas County Schools districtwide program that pairs students with mentors during their lunch period.

Fourth-grader Jamari Rembert meets with his mentor, Dzuy Nguyn, every Tuesday.

“Say it's Sunday. I'll be counting the days down until he comes,” Jamari said. “Then yesterday, when I woke up, I was so happy he was going to come because he inspires me."

It’s exactly why Nguyn got involved in the program. As CTO of local marketing company Big Sea, the 36-year-old stays busy.

But more recently, Nguyn said finding a way to give back to the community became a priority.

This fall, Nguyn began mentoring with the Lunch Pals program, and his friendship with Rembert has blossomed.

"I don't want him to not tell me he got in trouble for fear of judgment or anything. Because this is kind of a judgment-free zone,” Nguyn said of their lunches.

“He’s my friend,” Jamari said. “I like him because he’s funny.”

Not to mention the good advice Nguyn has ready whenever it’s needed.

"Like what should I do if someone keeps messing with me?” Jamari asked. “Should I fight them or not?”

The answer is a simple no. But because it’s said over lunch with a pal, Nguyn said the advice seems to resonate more with the young student.

Altogether, 950 students throughout Pinellas are mentored through the program. Organizers said they are still looking for more volunteers. If you would like to donate your time, visit lunchpals.org.