Lunch Pals program offers mentoring to students

Hines Mooney and Bobby Griffin look forward to catching up during lunch at Mount Vernon Elementary in St. Petersburg where Hines attends school.

"I can talk to him and we play games sometimes," said Mooney.

"He beats me most of the time," said Griffin.

Griffin is part of the Lunch Pals program with Pinellas County Schools, which pairs an adult mentor with a student.

"What really keeps me coming back is seeing how excited he gets when I show up for lunch, seeing him tell me the stories about how he's doing in school and outside of life," said Griffin.

"Most friends laugh about it, but he listens," said Mooney.

Ron Diner of Raymond James Financial has been a lunch pal himself.

He's been instrumental in the partnership with Pinellas County Schools. He's encouraged other businesses to get involved over the years.

"We had a thousand children who had a pal over lunch and we had more than 60 organizations who were partners in lunch pals," said Diner.

"It's tremendous. We give kids an opportunity to connect with an adult who comes to school every week to have lunch with them and just talk to them and build a relationship," said Mount Vernon Elementary Principal, Robert Ovalle.

Griffin is helping Mooney socially and academically.

"This semester we set the goal to get honor roll and last week we found out Hines earned honor roll in the first quarter of the school year," said Griffin.

For information about how to become a lunch pal, visit