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Taking Stock in Children: A mentor opens a world of possibilities

Taking Stock in Children: A mentor opens a world of possibilities

Florida's statewide Take Stock in Children program awards scholarships to students who, otherwise, might not be able to go to college. Those students have to make a six-year commitment to get that scholarship. But, they do get an Angel, like Caroline King, to follow them on that journey to help them keep their eyes on the prize.

"I feel like we clicked right there,” said Escambia High School senior Alyssa Norman on her first encounter with Caroline King. For Caroline, the feeling was mutual, "We hit it off so well from the very beginning."

Alyssa and Caroline have a relationship that's "clicked" for almost six years now. It is just the kind of connection the Take Stock in Children program hopes to make with every pairing. That's one thing that attracted Caroline to the program, "The students go into it knowing that they have a scholarship and that you are the encourager, the cheerleader, the supporter."

Sally Lee is the Student Services Coordinator for the Escambia County Take Stock program; "I tell people, we're not looking for tutors. If they've forgotten chemistry or they've forgotten algebra, that's perfectly all right because most of our students don't need a tutor. What they need is a person to believe in them and to just be that special friend."

Promising incoming seventh graders earn a college scholarship if they keep their commitment to earn good grades, keep up attendance and have good behavior. The mentors are asked to sign on for one year at a time and commit to meet with the student once a week during the school year. Most of them become so attached, they stick with their students through graduation and sometimes beyond. They encourage, counsel and guide them along the way.

Alyssa says that's what she desperately needed, "There are sometimes where I just feel like I'm not going to be able to do this. And she's making it to where, instead of looking at the long-term goals and being like, I'm never going to get there, set the shorter-term goals and reach those, slowly, to the long-term goals. And it's just been really important that she's there."

Caroline believes their success has come primarily from just opening up and communicating; "We just feel very comfortable talking about a lot of things; life stuff included."

Just somebody being there for the life stuff can make all the difference in the world. All of the graduates of last year's Take Stock in Children class received their scholarships and are now in college.

This year's incoming class of seventh graders has great promise to follow in those shoes thanks to volunteers like Caroline King. She says she's enjoying watching Alyssa make her final college choice, "She has grown into an amazing young woman. And it's been fun seeing that happen and to think that I might have just a tiny little bit to do with that."

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.

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