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Palm Coast Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 8 months ago

Dedicated to students: Take Stock in Children program focuses on mentoring high schoolers for success

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Currently, 62 mentors volunteer to be paired with the 64 students in the program this year.
by: Paige Wilson Community Editor

Matanzas High School freshman Rokavattey Phan said elementary and middle school were difficult for her because she’s shy. At the beginning of high school, she still lacked the self-assurance to speak up in class sometimes.

But Phan is finally gaining confidence through Flagler Schools’ Take Stock in Children program.

The statewide mentoring and scholarship program has made an impact on Flagler Schools through the Flagler County Education Foundation. Since 2000, 180 students have graduated from its four-year program.

There are 62 mentors, divided between Matanzas and Flagler Palm Coast high schools, who meet with 64 students once a week to check in on grades, personal problems and life in general.

“I get more out of it than I think the kids do because the kids that I’ve mentored in the past come back after they graduate and share their good experiences from college,” Summerlot said.

MHS Guidance Secretary Kathy Summerlot mentors Phan, as well as an MHS sophomore.

“I can tell her about my personal problems and what I’m happy about and sad about,” Phan said.

Every Thursday during lunch, the two meet for 30 minutes to stay up-to-date on Phan’s school and personal life.

“It’s strengthening to me,” Summerlot said. “I know that there’s a future out there for these kids.”

The mentors and mentees are paired up for all four years in high school to make sure the students maintain at least a 2.5 GPA, attend the college preparation events Take Stock in Children holds and refrain from discipline or attendance issues.

“By the time they graduate, you know them, you know their family,” Summerlot said. “You’re an impact on their lives, as well as them being an impact on yours.”

Upon graduation, the mentee receives a two-year scholarship to a public Florida state college or university to earn their associate’s degree, if they are successful with the program’s requirements. If the student does well while earning their AA, they are granted a second two-year scholarship to then earn their bachelor’s degree, if funding is available.

FCEF Take Stock in Children Program Manager Rebecca Bower said the state funds half of the two-year tuition scholarship and FCEF raises money for the other half.

“About 96% of our students in the program are first-generation college students,” Bower said. “So, we’re able to work with a population that, if it weren’t for our program, the chances of them going on to college are slim to none with most of them.”

The program accepts students on an invitation basis. Eighth-graders in Flagler Schools who are on free or reduced lunch are invited to apply for the program. A leadership team with Take Stock in Children then interviews the applicants before acceptance.

Flagler County Education Foundation's Take Stock in Children program earned the Gold Award, Program Director Award and Luminary Award at Take Stock in Children Day at the capitol. Photo courtesy Flagler County Education Foundation

At Take Stock in Children Day in Tallahassee this January, which is National Mentoring month, the program at Flagler Schools was honored with the Gold Award, Program Director Award and Luminary Award. The awards celebrated the program’s year-round success.

“This program would not have the success that it has without the dedication and the time commitment from our mentors,” Bower said.

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