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Published: April 01, 2024

Sociology Student Brings Care to the Classroom

Camden Hetrick isn’t looking for an easy A.

The senior sociology and criminal justice double major mentors low-income charter students in her internship at Tampa Heights Elementary.

Sociology Student Brings Care to the ClassroomHetrick ‘24, a sociology and criminal justice double major, mentors low-income charter students at Tampa Heights Elementary. Photo by Lena Malpeli '25

She’s one of dozens of local college students placed as tutors, mentors and support staff in Hillsborough County’s Transformation Fellowship Program, working to fulfill its mission to “bolster support of our most vulnerable students and schools.”

What she hopes to bring to the classroom, Hetrick says, is hope and care.

Hetrick wants to go into social work, so this internship was the perfect opportunity to dive in, headfirst. She could have chosen to conduct research or do an independent study, but she felt called to do something more hands-on. “I’m interested in working with the kids,” she said.

Her job hasn’t been easy. Hetrick was supposed to split the internship half in the classroom and half in the social work sector. But the social worker she was supposed to shadow has been out on maternity leave, so Hetrick spends all of her hours in the classroom.

“(Kids), they need more love. More attention. I’m willing to give these kids a chance, well, maybe 10 chances,” Hetrick said.

In class, Hetrick’s work is more than what’s on paper. One time, the students took a standardized test. The average score, Hetrick remembers, was 20%.

“They see that they're getting 7%, and they think everyone's getting 100. That's really damaging to their self-esteem,” Hetrick said. So Hetrick sat down and took the test, and she got an 86.

The kids were amazed. A teacher — a cool, young teacher — even she didn’t get a hundred.

In the students’ eyes, Hetrick is more than a regular teacher. They listen to her. Hetrick will chat with the football prodigy, running free on the playground, about why it’s important to keep up his grades, so he can go to Alabama. Parents tell her how happy their kids are when Miss Hetrick says they did a good job today. Each morning, she gets 20 little hugs lined up before the bell rings.

“I had about 50 options of schools. The reason I picked Tampa Heights is because of the kids that go there,” Hetrick explained. “I think I will be able to impact them more than a kid who has everything.”

On the 10-minute drive from her apartment complex to the elementary school, Hetrick thinks about the day ahead. She’s got a recap of The Bachelor to tell the kids, who ask who’s been eliminated each week. She’ll tell her fourth-graders about her weekend when asked, the opportunities she has because she works hard in school, and together, with her students, they’ll take steps toward the brightest future.

Story by Lena Malpeli '25


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