Take Stock in Children of Nassau County, Inc. has served the county for 22 years, and its board members, contributors, mentors, coaches, and students are feeling nostalgic. The organization’s annual Light Up a Life Gala will be held on March 28 at 6 p.m. at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, featuring a “walk down memory lane” theme.
“Our gala will bring contributors, mentors, and students together for an evening to celebrate our success in providing scholarships, mentors, and hope,” says Executive Director Robin Lentz. “The evening will begin with raffle opportunities and a silent auction featuring more than 100 items from businesses and artists across the county. A three-course seated dinner with dessert reminiscent of mom’s apple pie and ice cream will follow, and feature talented pianist and singer John Springer, who will take our guests back in time with memorable tunes. In addition, our current high school and college students and some of our college graduates will share their stories about how their lives have been changed by Take Stock in a newly produced video.”
Take Stock Nassau provides services to more than 577 low-income academically talented students who aspire to attend college but could not otherwise afford to do so. Their programs provide skilled mentors who meet weekly with each student in grades 8 – 12, professional college coaches who monitor their progress, college readiness workshops, help with college selection, applications and placement, and four years of prepaid college tuition upon high school graduation.
“Scholarship donations made to our organization are matched 100% by the Florida Pre-Paid Foundation STARS Project,” states Lentz. “All the dollars we raise stay in Nassau to serve our students, many of whom return to our county and are contributing citizens. No scholarship contribution is wasted. If any scholarship hours go unused by a student, we can assign them to another student.”
One such student is Bella Gonzalez, a senior majoring in Economics at UNF. She’s been part of the TSIC program for 10 years. “I started with the program when I was 12 years old at Yulee Middle School. I am a first-generation college student and second-generation Mexican American,” says Gonzalez. “I was fortunate enough to meet my mentor, Donna Givens, when I was 11 years old, and I will be forever grateful. She is truly an amazing woman that has instilled a sense of perseverance in me to pursue my goals, regardless of any setbacks. TSIC support systems have opened up opportunities that I did not think possible, from academic programs to scholarship opportunities and internships.”
TSIC’s Program Manager Kelli Bristow joined the Take Stock family in January 2017. “Once I accepted the position, my appreciation of Take Stock in Children’s vision immediately grew,” says Bristow. “I became passionate about my job and what the program expected of me in order to better serve those within the Nassau community. Take Stock Nassau offers a variety of workshops to not only guide our students but to also help our mentors. We host a ‘Back to School Bash’ at the beginning of every school year to give our students the opportunity to get to know others in the program. We hold a ‘New Student Retreat’ every year which focuses on team building skills for those who were just inducted into our program the previous spring.
“Other workshops include a FASFA workshop for our seniors and their parents/guardians, ACT/SAT Prep Courses, Junior and Senior Workshops. Also, our College Success Coaches do a fantastic job of holding ‘Mentor Chats’ throughout the school year to keep our mentors up to date with what colleges require for acceptance, tips and advice on how to keep their mentee engaged and on track with school, and other topics that are relevant to our mentors in building a solid and trustworthy relationship with their students.”
“TSIC is important because it really changes lives,” says Lentz. “To ‘keep the promise’ to our students, our focus is on results. Statewide studies have shown that Take Stock students have a 26% higher graduation rate than the Florida average and a 65% higher graduation rate than their at-risk peer group. They also have a 23% higher college graduation rate than the Florida average and 136% higher college graduation rate than their at-risk peer group.”
For more information about becoming a mentor, making a contribution, or attending this year’s gala, visit www.takestocknassau.org.