ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Paid for Grades? 

Yes, as in paying students for good grades. It’s a literacy initiative for ninth graders, and like the name implies, students get paid for completing it.

Freshman at three Pinellas County high schools: Lakewood, Boca Ciega and Hollins, all received $164,000 for themselves, their schools and their mentors.

What You Need To Know

  • Paid for Grades is a nonprofit organization that provides the financial incentive to students who raise their overall GPA, reading level, and who maintain good attendance and behavioral standing.

  • Each student who completes the program receives $500, their school receives $100 per student, and their mentors received $400 for each student

  • Lakewood High School, Boca Ciega High School, and Hollins High School participate in the program

Hollins High School rising sophomore Urijah Conklin is starting his summer with some extra spending money. Conklin is one of 81 students at Hollins High School who completed the Paid for Grades program and received $500 for it.

The winning schools also received $100 per student, and their mentors received $400 for each student.

“The dangling of the money gets them interested, then once they see how much the teachers in the program care, then they start to buy in,” said Brenda Hankin, a teacher at Hollins High School.

Hankin is Conklin’s reading teacher.

She’s taught for 39 years and said money is a good motivator for students, which Paid for Grades recognizes. In partnership with the Pinellas Education Foundation, the nonprofit organization provides the financial incentive to students, like Conklin, who raise their overall GPA, reading level, and who maintain good attendance and behavioral standing.

“We teach them how to work in study groups, we teach them to use their words," Hankin said. "If you don’t understand something, raise your hand, write it on a sticky note if you don’t want to talk to the teacher let somebody know you need help, come to tutoring after school, it’s free, we’re all in there waiting for you."

Hankin said she has seen the changes in Conklin: “He’s got a voice for himself now. I think it’s also helped Urijah realize that you can get involved in things here at school and be super successful, you just have to decide what it is you want to do.”

And he’s seen the changes in himself, too.

“I started doing my work," Conklin said. "Getting it over with and not letting any other people stop me in that class.”

All skills that are even more valuable than $500, and will certainly last longer.

Paid for Grades has donated approximately $1.5 million to Pinellas County students, their mentors, and their schools in the last 11 years.