Paid for Grades is a not-for-profit organization based in the Tampa Bay area. We are partnered with the Pinellas Education Foundation to facilitate this program and coordinate with participating schools.
Why Did We Start Paid for Grades?
Paid for Grades began in 2013 as a program aimed at supporting students and educators. Our goal is to provide students, teachers, and administrators with resources to help them succeed. We believe that investing in education is essential to build a stronger community with a more competitive, dynamic workforce.
Paid for Grades founder Monica Eaton-Cardone created the program based on her own recognition of a clear need in Pinellas County. As the COO of a fast-growing tech company, she hired several local students for entry-level positions, such as data entry. However, she found many of these students lacked confidence, as well as key fundamental skills that were vital to performing their roles.
“It became evident that this is a problem growing by leaps and bounds, right in our own back yard,” Eaton-Cardone explained. In response, she set out to create a program that could help at-risk students excel academically, boosting the confidence of students who needed it the most in the process.
Why Do We Offer Cash Awards?
Paid for Grades began as an informal scholarship program in 2013. In that first year, the program offered students either a $1,000 college scholarship, or $500 in cash. More than 80 students enrolled that first semester, but only ten completed the program.
Eaton-Cardone found that the term “scholarship” tended to keep away those students who really needed the extra support most. She also realized the school and the mentor would have to see some benefit to make the program a success.
A revised program debuted the next year that did away with the scholarship angle, instead providing direct cash incentives for participating students, mentors, and the school. Of the 22 Clearwater High students who participated that year, 16 received the money. Introducing the cash incentive resulted in the program’s success rate growing from 12% to 73% in just one year.
“Every kid loves cash,” Eaton-Cardone explained simply.
Who Funds Paid for Grades?
Paid for Grades was initially financed entirely by Eaton-Cardone’s company, Chargebacks911®. Our organization operates at an extremely low overhead ratio; thanks to an endowment from Chargebacks911, 100% of all funds contributed by our community partners go directly to support students and schools. In 2019-2020, Chargebacks911 contributed more than $100,000 to student literacy in Pinellas County through our program.
Paid for Grades has grown each year since 2013. We’re looking forward to continued expansion as well as finding additional community partners interested in supporting our mission. We’re looking for more business leaders and philanthropists in the State of Florida interested in helping us grow Paid for Grades into a countywide program.