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Students sign up for Take Stock in Children program

By Staff | May 15, 2009

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools hosted a celebration Thursday for students enrolling in Take Stock in Children, a mentoring program for disadvantaged teens where student participation culminates in a full college scholarship.
Students who enroll agree to maintain good grades, exemplify positive behavior and remain drug and crime free. At the same time they meet regularly with a mentor who provides support and advice on how to succeed.
The program is available to students in grades six to nine. According to the foundation, it has a 98 percent success rate.
Dominique Panaretos, a ninth-grader at Mariner High School, attended the celebration and met her mentor, a community volunteer, for the first time.
“I just met her today, she seems like she is nice,” said Panaretos.
Sixty students were inducted into the program Thursday and will eventually receive scholarships worth more than $700,000.
Because Panaretos’ mentor is not an educator or school employee, she will visit Panaretos at the school once or twice a month. The mentor provides his or her individual student with motivation, emotional support and strategies for success.
“She checks in with me and sees how I’m doing academically,” she said.
Students, parents and mentors also heard from guest speaker Don Yaegar, a sports writer and associate editor of Sports Illustrated.
He motivated the students by sharing personal experiences he had with some legendary athletes and coaches, including a one-on-one game against NBA great Michael Jordan, his friendship with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden and working with Tampa Bay running back Warrick Dunn on his biography.
Yaegar also created his patented “Sixteen Characteristics of Greatness,” modeled after behaviors he witnessed in athletes and advice he received from famous coaches over the years.
“Many of you are here with your mentors, but John Wooden is mine,” he said. “He knows how to lead people and live with integrity.”
Wooden won 10 national championships and helped Yaegar create his characteristics of greatness, which specifically makes sure young people know that association is the key to success.
“In this program you all will have a lot of opportunities to make a decision with who you surround yourself with,” said Yaegar. “You need to understand the value of association. You are only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”
According to the foundation, 92 percent of students in the program are in good academic standing. Forty-one percent are white and 30 percent are African American.
Once they graduate, the students receive a two-year scholarship to a community college and another two-year scholarship to a university.