Representatives of SFSC’s Take Stock in Children program accept the award for excellence.

AVON PARK, Fla., Oct. 9, 2018 – The local Take Stock in Children (TSIC) program has earned the Excellence Award, Gold Level Category for the sixth consecutive year from its statewide parent organization, and Irene Castanon, SFSC TSIC student services coordinator, was honored for 15 years of service to the organization.

The Excellence Award and service honor were announced at the annual TSIC’s College and Career Readiness Summit held in Tampa, Sept. 27–28. Local TSIC programs that provide college readiness and mentoring supports to middle and high school students vie for the award each year.

“This is truly a blessing and a team effort to receive a Gold Level award for the sixth consecutive year,” Castanon said. “Our serving communities, school districts, mentors, and SFSC Foundation and College have all contributed to this accolade.”

The SFSC Foundation is the lead agency for TSIC in DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties. TSIC serves students who are at-risk for dropping out of school. Students are matched with a mentor, receive in-school support, and college readiness services provided by TSIC college success coaches. Upon high school graduation, students earn a college tuition scholarship.

TSIC mentors meet with their assigned students each week during the school year, offering encouragement, advice, and a sympathetic ear. A TSIC college success coach provides support and guidance to the mentor and the mentee.

To earn the Gold Level recognition, local TSIC programs must meet or exceed 10 key performance indicators on the Balanced Scorecard. The Balanced Scorecard is an internal measure of a TSIC program’s performance and adherence to the requirements of the Florida Department of Education. TSIC must meet these rigorous criteria that include a data reporting system that measures student readiness, the number of students recruited, mentor matching rates, and mentor contacts.

Irene Castanon (second from left) is honored for her 15 years of service to Take Stock in Children.

Castanon’s service to the Take Stock in Children program began in August 2003, when she was a student majoring in finance at Webber International University. Fellow student, Juan Gomez, was SFSC’s TSIC coordinator at that time and asked her to come on board as a student mentor. In December 2003, she took a job with TSIC as a college success coach. In May 2008, she became the local program’s coordinator.

After 15 years with TSIC, Castanon maintains her passion for the program. “Through Take Stock, we coach our students,” she said. “We get them ready for college. You can provide students with information about college readiness but if you don’t guide them, they may not know what to do with that information, such as how to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form or learn about available scholarships. When we give them this knowledge, it gets them closer to going to college, being successful, and then paying it forward to someone else. If you help one child, they come back and help someone else. In fact, we have several Take Stock alumni who come back to the program as mentors.”

In attendance at the College and Career Readiness Summit were representatives of 45 TSIC programs from 67 Florida counties. They heard from national leaders about the latest trends and data on innovation in education, mentoring, college readiness, and career opportunities.

To become a TSIC mentor, contact Castanon at or call 863-784-7343.