Valencia College, Donors Offer Disadvantaged Children Full College Scholarships

Orlando, FL – A college education can be life-changing – “a golden ticket to a better future” – and it’s a dream that’s about to come true for 16 graduating Orange County high school seniors.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, Take Stock in Children of Orange County will award $33,000 college scholarships to 16 students who have participated in the organization’s unique mentorship program for five years.

The ceremony will be held at Valencia College’s Special Events Center, on the college’s West Campus, at 10 a.m.

Each graduating senior will receive a 2+2 Florida Prepaid $33,000 scholarship from the Orange County Take Stock in Children program, paid for by local donors and corporate sponsors. The scholarship pays for two years at any Florida community college and two years at one of Florida’s state universities.

“This opportunity from Take Stock in Children and our community partners is their golden ticket to a better future,” says Elisha Gonzalez, executive director of Take Stock in Children of Orange County.

In addition to the graduating seniors, 31 new middle-school students will be inducted into the program, bringing the number of participating students to 215.

Take Stock In Children is a statewide initiative that helps under-served children succeed. The mentorship program starts when the children are in seventh grade. All the students are academically promising students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds: Some have parents who’ve been in jail; others have parents who have struggled with addiction, while many have been raised by single moms who are struggling to keep their families afloat financially.

Take Stock In Children provides volunteer mentors, early intervention and long-term support. If the students meet with their mentors weekly, keep their grades up and stay drug- and crime-free, each will earn a four-year college scholarship.

Take Stock in Children was started in 1995 and has been successful state wide. Valencia College brought the program to Orange County in 2008, thanks to a $1 million gift from the Florida Citrus Sports Foundation and another $1 million donation from Mears Transportation. Full Sail University was also one of the first sponsors to sign on.

Other sponsors include: Orlando Magic, the Martin Andersen-Gracia Andersen Foundation, the Haddock Foundation and the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.

Speakers at this year’s event include: Dr. Antonia Novello, former Surgeon General of the United States; Augusto Sanabria, statewide president, Hispanic Business Initiative Fund; Dr. Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools; Bill Sublette, school board chairman, Orange County Public Schools; and Nick Anderson, Orlando Magic community ambassador.

Guests at the event will include: Stephanie Allen, executive director, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation; Susan Fernandez of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office; Linda Landman Gonzalez, vice president of community relations for the Orlando Magic and former president of the Valencia College Foundation; Daisy Lynum, city commissioner, City of Orlando; Deb Mears of Mears Transportation; Rick Singh, Orange County Property Appraiser; and T. Picton Warlow, vice president of the Martin Andersen-Gracia Andersen Foundation.

Click here to see a video about Orange County’s Take Stock In Children program.