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Registration open for Strides in Education 5K

By Staff | Jan 23, 2020

The community is invited to support the next generation of learners by participating in the annual Take Stock in Children’s Strides in Education 5K to be held next month.

Foundation for Lee County Public Schools President and CEO Marshall Bower said nine years ago Take Stock in Children statewide talked to all the various branches throughout the state about raising money for scholarships through a 5K run/walk. He said they agreed because there are many other aspects taking place with a 5K, such as bringing students and the community together, keeping people healthy and working as a team.

“5K promotes getting out into the fresh air. Running and walking are nothing but good for your health. If you are healthy, you are more than ready to learn than if you’re not healthy,” Bower said.

With a little guidance from the state, communities held the 5K for a year or two.

“They lasted for a couple of years and stopped. We decided we wanted to make it an annual thing and keep it going. It keeps growing every year,” Bower said, adding that last year they had 1,336 runners. “We have become one of the largest in the area.”

The ninth annual Take Stock in Children’s Strides for Education 5K Walk/Run will start at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, on the campus of Florida SouthWestern State College, 8099 College Parkway. The run will start and end in Parking Lot 6, near Barbara B. Mann.

Bower said with holding the 5K at FSW, it gives students an opportunity to step foot on a college campus.

“What I have learned is low socioeconomic students don’t get onto campuses,” he said. “We use both of those partners (FSW and FGCU) of ours as a chance to introduce the students of our community, and families, of what we got, treasures here as far as higher education. When students get on a college campus they say ‘Oh wow this is really cool.'”

There is also a Kid’s Dash that will begin once the last 5K participant crosses the finish line.

“We wanted to give them the ability to come out in their own little race,” Bower said of those 9 years old and younger. “We give them all medals for participating in that. It’s a nice way to include everyone that wants to do it.”

Registration is $30 for general participants, and $25 for teachers and students. On race day the price increases to $35 for the general participant and $30 for teacher and students. The fun run is free. For more information, and to register, visit www.flcpsstrides5k.com.

“We are continuing the challenges that we have had to get people out to run,” Bower said. “We have three basic groups that we recognize.”

Those groups include the school which has the most participants, which has been Heights Elementary School; the most participants for a corporate team, which has been Edison National Bank; and a community partner, a scholarship created in memory of Erik Babatz.

The event also will include entertainment, such as a DJ, bounce house, photo booths and face painting.

Proceeds from Strides for Education will go towards the Take Stock in Children program. Bower said the program is one of those best practice programs that works because it provides students at risk and low socioeconomics with support through mentoring with the foundation’s staff and the student’s family. He said if they abide by the rules and regulations, which the student signs when they begin the program at either sixth, or ninth grade, they receive a four-year college scholarship.

The rules and regulations include remaining crime and drug free, a good citizen in school and the community, as well as maintaining a good GPA and meeting with a mentor on a regular basis.

The 5K “gives us part of the funds we need to purchase more and more scholarships every year. We purchase them through Florida Prepay,” Bower said, adding that they assign the student “a Florida prepaid scholarship to any college, or university, in the state of Florida” once they graduate from high school.

There are 180 students continuously benefiting from the program at any given time. He said every year when students graduate they bring on a new group of about 50 students.

“We are trying to raise the number of new students coming on every year,” Bower said, adding it “depends on funds to purchase the scholarships.”

Take Stock in Children is one of Bower’s favorite programs to talk about because of the wonderful stories that transcend. He said around race time last year he was walking back to the foundation building after a meeting downtown when he was stopped by a mother and son in the middle of the intersection.

“They stopped me in the middle of the road. ‘We know you’ the mother said. ‘You have something to do in the Take Stock in Children Program,'” Bower said, adding that he said, ‘Yes, I am the president and CEO of the foundation.'”

It was shared that her son was a graduate of the Lee County Schools and a recipient of the Take Stock in Children program. The young man graduated with a civil engineering degree and was working in downtown Fort Myers at an engineering firm.

The son now wanted to get involved in the Take Stock in Children program as a mentor.

Bower said the program breaks the cycle of poverty while teaching children and young adults to help others.

“That is what the world is made up of,” he said. “I had a smile on my face the rest of the day.”

The Take Stock in Children program not only affects the lives of the student, but the mentor as well, as well as the student’s immediate family.

“These students have the tools to succeed and are succeeding and they pass it on to their kids,” he said. “The gift of education is the gift that keeps on giving.”