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Take Stock program seeks mentors

By Staff | Dec 11, 2010

Take Stock in Children, which has, in its 15-year tenure in Lee County, provided scholarships to more than 500 at-risk students to continue their education in college is seeking adult mentors.
The non-profit organization that was established in Florida provides assistance for low-income and at-risk teenagers, so they can break the cycle of poverty and attend college.
There are currently 175 middle and high school students enrolled in the program in Lee County. Take Stock in Children was originally offered to 9th grade students until three years ago when the foundation decided to offer it to sixth grade students as well. It is now being offered at every middle and high school in Lee County.
High School sophomore Frank Nater said after his guidance counselor told him about Take Stock in Children last year he immediately filled out the application.
“It is a great program,” he said.
Each student must meet the terms of their contract to receive a college scholarship that will pay their tuition for four years. Those terms consist of promising to remain crime and drug free, maintain a 2.5 grade point average or higher, along with exhibiting good behavior and meeting with their mentor until completion of high school.
Since becoming a part of the program Nater has raised his grade point average to a 3.6. He believes that it has also helped him mature because he steps back and looks at a situation and asks himself how it will affect him first.
Executive Director of the Foundation For Lee County Public Schools Marshall Bower explained that the number of students chosen to participate in the program, depends on how much money the foundation has raised to purchase scholarships.
Most of the students typically attend a two-year community or state college, Bower said before they transfer to a four-year university.
“I have my priorities straight,” Nater explained, adding he wants to attend Florida Gulf Coast University. “The scholarship is unbelievable…it is a huge weight off of my parents’ back. I will have free school.”
Director of Scholarships Janelle Beaber said mentors are what they consider the missing piece to the puzzle for students to succeed.
They are required to fill out an application, go through a background check and attend an orientation before they are selected to work with a student.
John Romine, 30, decided to donate his time in September and become a mentor because he thought it would be a good opportunity. He said when the foundation assigns mentors to students they really try and pair you up with someone who has the same interests and hobbies.
Throughout his childhood he said he was fortunate enough to grow up in a very positive situation that allowed him to stay in the same place where money and education were never an issue.
Since Romine is still relatively young, he said he enjoys sharing some of his high school knowledge he accumulated over the years with Nater since it is still fresh in his mind. He explained that now looking back he understands that every decision you make while in high school may or may not affect what you do down the road.
Nater enjoys spending time with Romine because they not only talk about school — athletics and social activities are thrown into the conversation as well. He explained that his parents are not always available because of work, so it is good to have an “older brother figure in his life.”
“You get out of it what you put into it,” Romine said, adding that it is “your effort and your commitment” that makes a difference.
The two have spent up to an hour and a half together twice a month at Mariner. Nater said their conversations are usually about school and advice, along with getting to know each other a little more.
Romine said they also send text messages to each other and talk on the phone in between their visits.
He said one of the things he enjoys the most about the program is that he can only meet with Nater during school hours and on the school grounds.
“It’s a good program,” Romine said. “It’s for the best cause in my book… getting these kids off to college.”
The foundation “matched me up with a perfect mentor,” Nater said, with whom he plans on staying in contact with after he graduates from high school. “I could talk to him for hours.”
Beaber said it’s about an adult taking an interest in the student and monitoring what they are doing to continue that support and encouragement that they need to succeed.
“Mentors can change a student’s life by investing a small amount of time into the student,” Beaber said. “You can really make a difference in one of their lives.”
Although there are currently 180 active mentors for the Take Stock in Children program, the foundation is still recruiting more mentors to pair up with students. For information contact Beaber at (239) 337-0433.