Take Stock in Children helps so many people

Chuck Licis-Masson, County Program Coordinator for Take Stock in Children and the Executive Director of the Monroe County Education Foundation joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM yesterday morning to talk about the program.

Take Stock in Children had a great year in 2023.

Licis-Masson said, “We saw what 6364 students graduated from Monroe County Schools in Take Stock in Children. They’re all enrolled in college currently. They’re beginning their second semester, many of them their first second semester of their college career. They might be in a college university or even a Career Technical Education Institute, and they’re doing great things. We’re getting feedback from our students and they’re really on the path to success, thanks to their coaches, but more importantly, thanks to their mentors.”

Take Stock in Children is a scholarship/mentorship program.

Licis-Masson said, “With the emphasis on mentorship, and our students have to meet certain criteria to come to the program in grades six through 10. They have to have A’s, B’s and C’s, good attendance, good behavior and promise to remain crime and drug free. When they come into the program, they are assigned a volunteer mentor. These are low income at risk students, the parents have to prove income that there is an economic threshold in order to obtain the scholarship opportunity. So these students are, for the most part, a lot of them are first generation college bound students. They are navigating middle school and high school in America for the first time because we have immigrant families, families from a variety of different countries who reside here in the Keys. With the weekly mentor meetings, they meet once a week, our mentors really give a lot. It’s probably an hour if you add in commute time per week during the school year. Throughout the duration, many of our mentors will stick with our students from grade six all the way through grade 12. We’ve had 1,018 students receive scholarships since 2001. So think about the number of mentors who have volunteered their time in our community from Key Largo to Key West to make that possible. So we’re so grateful for our mentors, we have 377, currently active in our system, working with our kids, covering nine school sites, including the Basilica School in Key West, and we’re so very grateful for the efforts and their time. The students likewise, we ask our students every year, if you could choose between the scholarship and the mentor, you couldn’t have both, which would you choose? Hands down, they all say, we’ll take the mentor, forget the scholarship, we’ll take the mentor. It’s that meaningful a relationship that they build.”

This is National Mentoring Month and Take Stock in Children is always looking for more mentors.

Licis-Masson said, “We have some students on a waiting list coming into the program, we’re going to look at their applications at the end of this month, beginning of February. We cannot bring a student into the program unless we have a mentor, ready to assign to that student. It’s a bit of a process to go through. The mentor has to go through the school district volunteer system. So they have to be vetted through the school district since they are meeting with students on a school campus. So they have to have the proper background checks and pass all of that and fill out the paperwork. We also run background checks through Take Stock in Children as well. That takes a little bit of time, a couple of weeks or so. But we want to have our mentors ready to go for students who are coming into the program this spring. I would like to say we’ve moved into the 21st century and Take Stock in Children with a mentor app. There’s an app for everything. But we have a Take Stock app where the mentor can record their mentor sessions on the app, but they can also have a mentor session on the phone on their app with their mentee. It’s a face to face like a FaceTime program where it’s monitored as well through the Take Stock state organization, for obvious reasons, since you’re again meeting with minors. It really helps because we have some mentors who travel and when they’re traveling, they’re still able to connect with their mentee on this FaceTime app, as opposed to not meeting and missing those weeks.”

Take Stock in Children is also involved with American Exchange Project.

Licis-Masson said, “It’s a cultural exchange program in the United States, a domestic program and well, John Padgett saw that he phoned the company and said how can we bring this to Key West? He was instrumental in setting up the meetings. I work with the American Exchange Project. We are now one of three schools in Florida participating in the American exchange project. We have six Take Stock seniors who are graduating this year, who are interested in traveling and visiting and they’re spending a week in another city in the United States, and the cities cover from Anchorage, Alaska, over to Maine, down into Arizona, all across the country. The purpose of it is to diminish or to peel back the divide, basically look at the common interests or the commonalities of people, not looking at political divides and other divides. For our students, when you think about it, and many of our students, they grow up in Key West, they have never seen a mountain, they may not have seen a forest, for example, when you think about living on an island. So this is an opportunity for our students to experience another city in the United States, live with a family and see how they live versus and we have six students coming to Key West, from July 24 to the 31st and they are going to experience the unique things of Key West, what we have environmentally. We’re setting up visits and different activities for the students who are coming in.”

Host families for these students are needed.

Licis-Masson said, “We need families to open up their home for one week to welcome a student, a graduated senior from another city in United States and to show them what we’re all about, what this giving community is all about here in Key West. There is a stipend to help offset some costs. But there’s no cost to the students. Our students who travel, AEP covers it. The students who come to Key West, AEP covers the travel costs. So it’s just a matter of having a spare bed, a bedroom in your home, if you can open up your home from the 24th to the 31st. We would love to hear from you if you are interested in doing this in Key West. Our main line is 305-293-1546.”

For more information, click here:  https://monroecountyedfound.com/about-take-stock