Paid for Grades is a program offered at participating high schools in Pinellas County.

Program organizers work with teachers and administrators to identify and enroll students who are performing below grade level. Eligible students will then be asked to sign a participation form before beginning the program.

Students are provided with supplemental mentoring sessions — either in-person or online — over the course of the program. Participants will also be asked to complete a series of online skills workshops focused on topics including study habits, stress management, job interview preparedness, and more. The aim of the program is multifaceted, seeking to help students:

  • Boost their grades
  • Improve their reading comprehension
  • Foster a more confident, purpose-driven outlook
  • Gain invaluable skills that will serve them beyond the classroom

Students who complete the Paid for Grades program materials and maintain satisfactory attendance will receive a $500 cash award at the end of the program term. It’s that simple.

How are Students Selected for Participation?

Teachers and administrators evaluate prospective participants based on students’ academic performance, as well as their performance on the FAST: Florida Assessment of Student Thinking. This is an annual, standardized performance evaluation conducted each year throughout the state.

Students are considered eligible for Paid for Grades if their performance is deemed to be below grade level benchmarks. Administrators then contact prospective candidates and arrange for eligible students to sign a participation form if they’re interested in taking part in the program.

How Do We Gauge Student Success?

Once a student is entered into the program, they are partnered with a school-approved mentor. The mentor and the student work together over the course of the program term to improve the student’s grades and raise the student’s performance according to Lexia Power Up Literacy. The standard is to improve performance by at least two assessment levels in all three disciplines.

The program runs from October through April, meaning the student and mentor continue to work together for more than half of the year in question. In many cases, students may actually improve their abilities by the equivalent of two or more grade levels before the end of the program term.

What about the Life Skills Training Component?

While academic performance is important on its own, students also require the skills necessary to make the most of their abilities in order to find success in their academic career and beyond.

As such, students must complete a series of online training lessons focused on real-life skills, including budgeting, job interview performance, and stress management, as part of the Paid for Grades program. These lessons are not time-intensive, but are regarded as a key component of the program. The skills acquired will help students leverage the gains they achieve as part of Paid for Grades to ensure continued success after the program is complete.

“Students become more interested in investing in themselves, because you’re showing them that they have potential.”

Monica Eaton

What about the Award?!

We believe that learning and growing one’s skill set is its own reward. That said, it’s nice to get a little bonus, right?

Paid for Grades offers incentives for both students and schools. Our philosophy is that the prospect of receiving a cash prize will encourage students to stick with the program. Then, as the program goes on, the knowledge, skills, and confidence they gain will serve as their own rewards.


Students who successfully complete the program will receive a cash prize of $500, which the individual students can use as they see fit. To be eligible for this award, the student must:

  • Meet or surpass the benchmarks outlined above
  • Complete the life skill training courses
  • Maintain satisfactory attendance throughout the program term


The mentors who help instruct students throughout the year are a crucial component of Paid for Grades. To recognize them for their hard work in helping students grow, we offer our mentors a $400 award for each student who successfully completes the Paid for Grades program according to the requirements outlined above. To receive this prize, though, the student must complete all benchmarks for program success within the allotted time frame.


We know that schools operate on tight timetables…and even tighter budgets. That’s why all schools participating in Paid for Grades will receive a $100 cash for each student who successfully completes the program. The school can then use these funds to purchase new technologies and facilitate ongoing learning. To receive this prize, though, the student must complete all benchmarks for program success within the allotted time frame.

Who Organizes Paid for Grades?

Paid for Grades is funded and managed by a coalition of entrepreneurs and business leaders in the Tampa Bay area. Our backers are dedicated to the idea that helping students find success will pay dividends in the future. A more educated, confident, and purpose-driven workforce will be key to ensuring our collective success as a community for years to come.

Paid for Grades works in partnership with the Pinellas Education Foundation.

With the help of our local partners, Paid for Grades is transforming our community…one student at a time.

Find out how your business or organization can play a role today.