From left: Linda Roman, TSIC college success coach; Irene Castanon, TSIC student service coordinator; Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel, SFSC president; Nancy McDuffee, TSIC mentor; Amy Albandoz, Leaders 4 Life scholarship recipient; Maria Jimenez, Albandoz’s mother; Jamie Bateman, SFSC executive director of institutional advancement; Dr. Brenda Longshore, superintendent of the Highlands County schools; Kimberly Ervin, Sebring High School principal; and Danielle Ochoa, TSIC college success coach

AVON PARK, Fla. – Jan. 11, 2019 – While participating in her English honors class at Sebring High School on Wednesday, Jan. 9, Amy Albandoz met with an unexpected surprise. Entering her classroom were her mother, Maria Jimenez; Take Stock in Children (TSIC) staff; her TSIC mentor, Nancy McDuffee; Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brenda Longshore; South Florida State College President Dr. Thomas C. Leitzel; Sebring High School Principal Kimberly Ervin; and SFSC Executive Director of Institutional Advancement Jamie Bateman.

They broke the news that Albandoz was awarded a TSIC $40,000 Leaders 4 Life Scholarship from the Asofsky Family Foundation. She was one of six students statewide who received the scholarship, an award that covers non-tuition expenses such as housing, books, and transportation. Her tuition will be covered by a TSIC scholarship.

The Leaders 4 Life Scholarship is an initiative of the Asofsky Family Foundation, which supports programs aimed at helping the state’s youth. The foundation awards the scholarship in partnership with TSIC. The South Florida State College Foundation is the lead agency for TSIC within the College’s service district of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties.

Albandoz was eligible for the scholarship because of her participation in the local TSIC program. The program matches students at-risk of not completing high school with mentors who guide them toward earning their high school diplomas and onto college with scholarships in hand.

“We are happy for Amy for being selected as one of six winners of the Leaders 4 Life Scholarship,” said Irene Castanon, student service coordinator for the local TSIC program. “Her outstanding academics speak for themselves, and she has been an exceptional leader in her school and community. More importantly, she is humble and genuine. With this scholarship, Amy is now able to fulfill her dreams at the University of Florida without stress and financial burden.”

“Basically, this scholarship means that I can go forward with my life,” Albandoz said tearfully. “This is something that I was worried about because I don’t really come from a background that’s very wealthy. But getting this money means that I can actually do some good in the world.”

Albandoz graduates from Sebring High School in May 2019, has earned a 4.57 GPA, and is placed in the top 5 percent of her graduating class. She plans to attend the University of Florida to major in sustainable architecture. “I want to make buildings more efficient,” she said. “I think about the planet and how humanity has to advance. We don’t want the planet to deteriorate and not have any way for people to live.”

Nancy McDuffee has served as Albandoz’s TSIC mentor since she entered seventh grade. “All throughout school, Amy told me, ‘I’m going to get straight A’s.’ I thought that was a bit too lofty an expectation and, as a parent, I didn’t want her to have that kind of pressure on her. But she did it—she got straight A’s. But I also told her when she was a freshman in high school that she was going to win the Leaders 4 Life Scholarship, and she did it.”

McDuffee considers herself a support system and something of a cheerleader for Amy. “But motivation has never been a problem for her,” she said. “She is a self-starter and a hard worker. She gets involved in so many things.” In fact, Albandoz was a drum major for the Spirit of Sebring Marching Band and a member of the National Honor Society. As a member of the National Art Honor Society, she participated in the service project “Soup Up the Arts,” in which proceeds went to a local family who lost their home and to another member of the community who is fighting cancer. She was also involved in “80 Ways to Sweeten Up Parkland,” a service event that was dedicated to raising funds for the victims of the Parkland shooting.

Albandoz attributes much of her academic and personal success to the TSIC program. “Every member of the TSIC staff and my mentor have been supporting me since day one and helped me keep my grades up and stay optimistic,” she said. “They’ve done so much for me.”