Students set sights on college scholarships
Fifty students attended a contract signing Friday morning for the Take Stock in Children program.
Managed through the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, the program signs up students from grades 6-9 to get four-year college scholarships in exchange for staying crime and drug free, and maintaining a decent grade point average.
Island Coast High freshman Lindsey Ridder was one of 50 students chosen from among 300 applicants for Take Stock in Children. She had to get recommendations from teachers and coaches, and her father had to write an essay describing what type of adult she will grow up to be.
Ridder also wrote an essay about herself, centered around where she saw her life going after high school.
“I want to go to the University of Florida and become a defense attorney,” said Ridder, who is a member of the high school cheerleading squad.
Another freshman who signed a Take Stock in Children contract was Hannah Bollman from Ida S. Baker High. She attends classes in the school’s Public Service academy and is considering one of two career paths once she graduates.
“I am taking journalism classes right now or maybe something in the arts,” she said.
Like all of the new scholars, Bollman has to periodically meet with her assigned mentor, Jennifer Berg, a new member of the foundation’s board. The purpose of the mentor is to coach, guide and motivate students, and help them to do their best in school. Mentors don’t have to be teachers or administrators, they can be anyone from the community.
The program is designed for low- incomes students. They must sign a contract agreeing to not only be crime and drug free, but also not get in trouble at school and maintain a 2.5 GPA.
Lee County’s Take Stock in Children program has been in existence for 14 years and recently doubled its numbers. This year 157 students were part of the program from 25 different schools, and 32 students graduated high school bound for college.
The number of students in the program next year is 175.
“This, I hope, is one of the many standing ovations you receive in your lifetime,” said Marshall Bower, executive director of the foundation, to the audience of students and their families.
Lee Schools Superintendent James Browder said it was remarkable that these students have already committed to college before even leaving grade school.
Fort Myers Police Chief Doug Baker was keynote speaker at the signing banquet. He pointed out that no children say they want to grow up to be a robber or drug dealer, and that it takes strict leadership to keep them on track to reach their goals.
“We have to be able to do more for our young people, and the only way to do it is through leadership,” he said.
Other Cape Coral students who are new scholars include Devan Cottone from Mariner High, Enzo Ferrara from Ida S. Baker High, Isabelle Foy from North Fort Myers Academy of the Arts, Janessa Gonzalez from Island Coast High, Kyle Hetherington from Mariner High, Nancy Ho-Nguyen from Cape Coral High, Dayris Lorenzo from Ida S. Baker, Michelle Montoya from North Fort Myers High, Francis Nater from Mariner High, Sierra Thomas from Cape Coral High and Tiffany Zutten from North Fort Myers High.