Take Stock in Children makes a real difference

When we talk about the future of the country, today’s children really are a big part of that.

It’s important to give our children every opportunity in life, but not all have the foundation to get the ball rolling.

That’s where Take Stock in Children comes in.

Chuck Licis, 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 this morning to talk about the program.

Take Stock in Children is a statewide organization which started more than 30 years ago as a drop-out prevention program.

There are now 45 programs throughout the state.

Licis said, “It’s a program that works with low income, at-risk students and we attach them with a volunteer mentor that meets with them once a week during the school year, during the school day.”

The program is for grades six through ten. Workshops and college tours are also involved.

Licis said, “When they do graduate, as long as they maintain their grades, behavior, attendance and meet with their mentor weekly and remain crime and drug free, they have access to a Florida pre-paid scholarship up to 120 credit hours at any of the 12 state universities or 28 state colleges and we also have 2-year dorm plans to help them with housing costs as well for the first two years. Phenomenal program.”

Fifty-eight students just graduated through the program and scholarships were awarded valued at $2.2 million.

All students need to do is qualify for the program and stay in the program through graduation.

Licis said, “It’s a phenomenal program and it gives them the opportunity to earn a college education or a career tech college education certificate as well.”

Students who enter college after participating in Take Stock in Children, 75% of them will earn a degree or certificate.

Licis explained, “Which is far and above the national average for the same demographic of what we would consider Pell Grant recipients, those low-income students. Nationwide that statistic is about 24%, 25%, so we’re at 75, which is phenomenal.”

This past year, 85 students were brought in to the program. The high water mark enrollment wise for the county is about 320. The group is looking to increase that to 350.

Volunteer mentors for each student are critical.

Mentors are not tutors. They are adults who like to listen to a student, to help a student learn some advocacy skills. Mentors come from all backgrounds.

Licis said, “It’s a caring adult who is willing to give an hour a week, just about, to help that child through. We train the mentors. We provide them a tool kit with some activities that they can do. What you see is a relationship that grows. You have another adult in that child’s life who is not a parent, not a principal or a teacher, but someone who can help that student learn the self-advocacy skills to be successful in college when they do leave the Keys and go on and go to school and work towards their career. We see a lot of tears at graduation. Our mentors walk their mentees across the stage at graduation for Take Stock in Children and it’s the end of an often six-year relationship of meeting on a weekly basis.”

The group is always looking for mentors. School begins August 10 and mentoring will begin the week of Labor Day.

In Monroe County, there is a significant need for the program because of the cost of living.

Because of that, the organization uses HUD, low-income levels as well as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) for families to qualify, so they can prove their income in a variety of ways.

Fundraising efforts are ongoing, but Florida will match what Take Stock in Children raises.

Licis said, “We have an amazing community from Ocean Reef all the way down to Key West.”

If you would like to help Take Stock in Children in any way, log onto www.monroecountyedfound.com or call 305-293-1546.