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Woman gets once in a lifetime opportunity helping disadvantaged students

Florida's statewide Take Stock in Children program awards college scholarships to economically disadvantaged students. Those students have to earn it with good grades, good behavior and good attendance.

There are volunteers who make a long-term commitment to help them keep their eye on the prize; Angels, like Carolyn Jones.

"I was a teacher for 35 years here in the county and I really missed the children. So, this was a way for me to continue to work with the children to make a difference in their lives," Carolyn said.

Carolyn signed on to the six-year commitment to mentor not one, but two young ladies in the Take Stock in Children program. Students are tapped for the program in the seventh grade; a time of difficult transitions.

Ms. Jones understood that, "I try to remind them to handle all of the things that are important. Be sure you're doing things on time; choosing friends wisely; knowing what kind of traps are out there and if you get involved, one wrong decision can affect your future and the rest of your life."

For Washington High senior, De'Aja Woods, she was a God-send, "Transitioning from middle school to high school, it's something big for me. I don't know how to take that step, but she was there to help me." Junior, Armelle Delouis, cherishes the life skills she shared. "Communicating, being clear, being effective; you know, being a woman, you know, you have to speak up for yourself. That's something she's taught me very well to do."

Ms. Jones spends one hour a week with each of the girls. It's that short amount of time, she imparts knowledge, mother wit, wise counsel and friendship. She's their champion and number one encourager and self-esteem builder, "You look in that mirror and you like who you see. You work hard. Things are difficult now but they're not always going to be that way. Keep your goals in mind."

With graduation months away for one and a year away for the other, these teens know where the credit is due.

"The main thing I want her to know is how much she made a difference in my life," De'Aja said. "It was because of her that I'm sitting here, walking across the stage fixing to graduate."

Armelle feels the same way, "She's been part of the journey. She's been someone I believe in, someone's who's had my best interest at heart. If I'm successful, she should feel responsible for that.

Ms. Jones said the ladies won't be through with her after high school. She plans to keep in touch as a reminder, "Letting them know, 'I'm still out here and I'm still counting on you to do those things we talked about. That commitment you made, I want you to keep it because I made a commitment to you and I followed through so I want you to follow through.'"

Contact Take Stock in Children by calling 850-46-5458.

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart.

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