Take Stock in Children Continues to Grow in Orange County

Yesterday, Take Stock in Children of Orange County held a ceremony to recognize its new and returning student participants. Twenty seventh-graders from Lee, Lockhart and Howard middle schools were inducted into the program, bringing the total number of participants to 86. 

Brought to Orange County by Valencia Community College in 2008, Take Stock in Children is a statewide initiative aimed at helping underserved children succeed. Students are recruited in the seventh grade and are provided with college scholarships, volunteer mentors, early intervention and long-term support. 
Orange County’s first class of Take Stock in Children students is now in the ninth-grade and will graduate from high school in 2013.
Keynote speaker Lucas Boyce, director of multicultural insights and cause marketing for the Orlando Magic, urged the students to keep up the hard work.
“Where you came from or what’s going on in your life doesn’t have to determine your future direction, success or happiness,” he said. “Each of us were built for something more. We were meant to succeed.”
More than 330 guests attended the event, which also recognized the parents, mentors and community and corporate sponsors who are crucial to the program’s success. 
Attendees included: Ron Blocker, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools; Nick Anderson from the Orlando Magic; Melissa Hernandez, constituent director for Senator George LeMieux; George Rodon, chief of staff, Orange County mayor’s office; Steve Hogan, chief executive officer, Florida Citrus Sports; and Marshall Vermillion, Florida Citrus Sports Foundation chairman.
Founding partner Florida Citrus Sports helped launch Take Stock in Children in Orange County with a $1 million donation. This year, Mears Transportation has also signed on as a partner, pledging to donate $1 million over the course of 10 years.
Since 1995, Take Stock in Children has impacted the lives of more than 17,600 deserving students in the state of Florida, providing more than 9,000 high school graduates with Take Stock in Children scholarships for college.
As the program grows, it is continually in need of additional mentors. Mentors meet with the student twice a month during the school day and will serve as an encouraging force. A student with a mentor is 57 percent less likely to skip school and 46 percent less likely to start using drugs.
“The one-on-one relationship built with your mentee is something that our teachers strive to do but cannot do as much as they’d like,” said Orange County Superintendent Ron Blocker. “As a mentor, you’ll provide consistent support, guidance and a positive role model for our students.”
To volunteer as a mentor, provide a tax-deductible contribution or to obtain more information about Take Stock in Children of Orange County, please contact Elisha Gonzalez-Bonnewitz, program director, at 407-582-3120 or takestockinchildren@valenciacc.edu.