Twenty-three Take Stock in Children graduates

Twenty-three Take Stock graduates bid farewell.

AVON PARK, Fla. – June 9, 2017 – Family and friends came together on June 8 at the South Florida State College (SFSC) Highlands Campus to celebrate and recognize Take Stock in Children mentors and to honor the accomplishments of 23 Take Stock student scholars who had just graduated from high schools in DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties.

The 23 graduates completed the journey to receiving their high school diplomas with the help of their Take Stock mentors. Take Stock in Children matches students at-risk of not completing high school with mentors who guide them toward earning their diplomas, with college scholarships awaiting those who graduate and enroll in college. Many of the students began participation in the program when they were in the seventh grade.

 “Each year, we come together for our mentor appreciation and mentee recognition ceremony,” said Jamie Bateman, executive director for Institutional Advancement at South Florida State College, who also heads up the SFSC Foundation. The SFSC Foundation serves as the lead agency for Take Stock in children within the college’s service district of DeSoto, Hardee, and Highlands counties.

“Our mentors are an amazing group of individuals,” Bateman said. “They motivate and inspire our students. Thank you for volunteering your time. Our program would not be successful without you. And Take Stock graduates, everyone here this evening will go with you in your journey ahead. Know that you have an entire community standing behind you.”

Bateman recounted the students’ achievements. “The average grade point average for the 23 graduates was 4.097,” she said. “One student graduated with a 5.02 grade point average.”

Take Stock student Diana Rivera graduated from DeSoto High School and earned her associate in arts degree in the same year. Sophia Emile graduated a year early from Sebring High School and will attend South Florida State College in fall 2017. Maria Gloria, who graduated from Lake Placid High School, was one of six Take Stock Leadership 4 Life fellowship winners statewide, receiving a $40,000 scholarship to college and won a car at graduation through the Alan Jay Wheels for A’s program. Gloria Montoya-Vazquez graduated number one in her class from DeSoto High School.

Jamie Bateman, mentor Danielle Ochoa, and Take Stock graduate Rosie Fimbres, who show the laptop computer she won.

Jamie Bateman and mentor Danielle Ochoa with Take Stock graduate, Rosie Fimbres, who won the drawing for a laptop computer during the ceremony.

Bateman indicated that, collectively, the students earned $146,707.80 in college scholarships, and explained that they had earned 492 hours of college credit toward their undergraduate degrees by participating in SFSC’s dual enrollment program.

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. Most of the Take Stock graduates plan to complete their first two years of college at SFSC.

“It’s special to watch the mentors and mentees come together for one final meeting,” said Irene Castanon, coordinator for the local Take Stock program. “But some Take Stock graduates come back to us. Our mentors Genesis Castillo, Luzedy Ocasio, and Danielle Ochoa are all Take Stock alumni who are paying it forward.”

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.

To become a Take Stock mentor, contact Irene Castanon at 863-784-7343 or by emailing


The 23 Take Stock graduates were from Desoto High School:

Marvin Coronado-Lopez, Lourdes Espino, Jessica German, Gloria Montoya-Vazquez, and Diana Rivera


From Hardee Senior High School:

Ricardo Aleman, Rosie Fimbres, and Priscilla Villazana


From Lake Placid High School:

Meghan Bennett, Maria Gloria, and Isaac Vega


From Sebring High School:

Jasmine Barajas, Kendall Bowen, Sophia Emile, Leticia Jauregui, Marilyn Lorino, Alison Romero, Hally Sebring, Kaitlynn Wilson, Danielle Woodham, and Kelley Young


From Avon Park High School:

Erin Bonini and Elrad Nevers