Be The One. Be A Mentor.

Author: Jillian Hasner, President and CEO, Take Stock In Children

January 25, 2017

If someone were to ask me as President and CEO of Take Stock in Children what is it about our program that has had the most impact on our students?  The answer is easy.

Our mentors.

As a scholarship and mentorship program, time and time again, I hear from our students that “the scholarship brought me into to Take Stock in Children program, but my mentor changed my life”.

When I think of how mentors make a difference to students participating in Take Stock in Children, I think of our 2016 Take Stock Alumni of the Year, Terrance Gilliam and how his journey to college was shaped and made possible by those who inspired and walked the academic path alongside him. Everyday I’m inspired by the unique stories from our scholarship students whose lives have been touched by those who give their time so generously to ensure that despite challenging life circumstances, they have every opportunity to not only graduate from high school, but move on to be successful in college and in their chosen careers.

Mentors do change lives and from the beginning have been our partners at Take Stock in Children in breaking the cycle of poverty through education. This is what Take Stock in Children has done for over 20 years as we have aimed to establish a strong connection between mentors and students to realize our mission of scholarships, mentors, and hope.

Research by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership shows that young people who are at-risk for not completing high school but who have a mentor, report higher educational aspirations and matriculation into post-secondary education, as well as greater engagement in positive activities. Those who had mentors were:

•    55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who did not have a mentor, and
•    78% more likely to volunteer regularly in their communities.

More than 26,000 children in the state of Florida have been enrolled in the Take Stock in Children program. Upon selection, students and their parents or guardians sign contracts agreeing to fulfill specific performance standards. Students are held to high expectations and with the guidance of advocates and their mentors are accountable for their own success in the program. To be awarded their scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime- and drug-free, and meet with their mentors once a week. The model works - 96% high school graduation rate, and 96% go on to college- 39 and 68 points higher than non-TSIC students respectively.

With the support of our mentors, Take Stock transforms the mindset of poverty, helping people change their thinking about higher education and embrace the idea that it is attainable and can be leveraged to improve one’s quality of life.

It only takes one mentor to make a difference.

For more than two decades, the Take Stock program has shown that all children should have the opportunity to escape the cycle of poverty through quality education. As we celebrate National Mentoring Month, I hope others dedicate themselves to helping others like Terrance has done since not only graduating from high school, but Florida A&M University. As Terrance knows, it only took one mentor to make a difference. He now gives back to the organization that paved his path early in life as a mentor to inspire and support the next generation of college bound students.

We can never thank enough all of the men and women who serve as mentors and are giving back their time, wisdom and experience to our youth. And for those who are thinking about ways to make a difference in each of your communities or in a young person’s life, I invite each of you to be the one.  Be a Mentor.

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