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Family and friends came together on Thursday, June 7 at the SFSC Highlands Campus to celebrate and recognize Take Stock in Children mentors and to honor the accomplishments of 31 Take Stock student scholars who had just graduated from high schools in DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties.
The 31 graduates completed the journey to receiving their high school diplomas with the help of their Take Stock mentors. Many of the Take Stock scholars began participation in the program when they were in middle school.
Take Stock in Children is a statewide program that provides children with a mentor and a two-year state college tuition scholarship. The Take Stock staff also help the student obtain financial assistance for housing, transportation, and other expenses. In return, the student signs a contract to earn at least a grade of C in every class, graduate from high school with good attendance records, maintain good behavior in school, and have no involvement with law enforcement or drugs. The SFSC Foundation serves as the lead agency for Take Stock in its service area of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties. The district Take Stock in Children has graduated 438 students since its establishment in 1996.
“This ceremony is a tribute to the Take Stock mentors,” said Jamie Bateman, executive director for Institutional Advancement at SFSC, who also heads up the SFSC Foundation. “You’ve dedicated your time, energy, and love into making sure students are on the right path to what they have and will achieve.”
“Our volunteer mentors are the heart of this program,” said Irene Castanon, student services coordinator for Take Stock in Children. “They give the very best of themselves by sharing their experiences and knowledge. It is one of the reasons our students are successful, and we cannot thank them enough for their time, effort, and dedication.”
Bateman recounted the students’ achievements. “The average grade point average (GPA) for the 31 graduates was 3.75,” she said. “The highest student GPA was 4.85.”
Bateman indicated that, collectively, the students earned $198,183 in college scholarships, and explained that they had earned 820 hours of college credit toward their undergraduate degrees by participating in SFSC’s dual enrollment program.
Take Stock student Shauna Norwood was a Take Stock Leadership 4 Life Fellowship winner, receiving a $40,000 scholarship to college. She graduated from Hardee High School in December 2017 and earned her associate in arts degree from SFSC in May 2018.
Each graduate approached the stage to introduce themselves to the audience, mention their mentor’s name, and say what college they would attend and what they will study. Many of the Take Stock graduates plan to complete their first two years of college at SFSC.
“Truly, time has flown by,” Castanon said. “Five years ago, we were signing up the Class of 2018 and getting ready to provide them with mentors, a college success coach, and the start of many college readiness workshops. Now, they have all successfully completed our Take Stock in Children requirements and are ready to further their education. It has been an honor to oversee this class and see them grow to become the young women and men they are today.”
Take Stock mentors typically meet with their assigned students each week during the school year, offering encouragement and advice. A Take Stock college success coach provides support and guidance to the mentor and the mentee.
The 31 Take Stock graduates were:
From Desoto High School: Lorena Lara, Katelyn Jordon, David King, Kalyn Murray, Brenda Perez, and Destiny Pelham
From Hardee Senior High School: Graciela Silvan-Macedo, Yisselle Mier, Nubia Gomez, Shauna Norwood, slicia Ruiz, Alex Paulino, Jose Aleman, and Garbriela Montoya
From Lake Placid High School: Gianna Saccente, Yiley Acosta, Joseph Picior, Diana Salazar, and Omar Gloria
From Sebring High School: Adrianne Silva, Shelly Seetaram, Rafael Hernandez, Nathalie Palacios, Grace Duncan, Jordyn Belanger, Chandler Gowan, Alexandria Morris, Kylee Huylebroeck, and Nanichi Hidalgo-Gonzalez
From Avon Park High School: Joyce Morales-Duran and Brittany Castillo
To become a Take Stock mentor, contact Castanon at 863-784-7343 or by emailing Irene.Castanon@southflorida.edu.