This year, Take Stock in Children is celebrating our 25th year of providing mentors, scholarships, and hope to Florida students in poverty. For those unfamiliar with Take Stock, our signature program provides mentoring, college readiness, and tuition scholarships to over 8,500 students annually, all of whom are 100% low-income and grades 6 through 12, to help them escape the cycle of poverty through post-secondary education. Our outcomes are unparalleled - 97% of Take Stock students graduate from high school, 94% enroll in college, and 68% complete college, rates that far surpass the averages for their at-risk peers. This would simply not be achievable without the passion and commitment of our dedicated Take Stock network. And yet, our students aren’t accomplishing this feat alone.
But the real catalyst that drives our students’ confidence, achievement, and motivation to succeed is the trusted relationship each one has with a volunteer adult mentor. Each year, over 10,000 Floridians serve as Take Stock mentors. These individuals commit to an in-school meeting with their mentees for a minimum of 15 sessions throughout the school year, with most choosing to meet once week. During these meet-ups, mentors provide our students with guidance on a range of topics, from study habits and the college application process to successfully navigating the many emotional and social challenges that characterize the teenage years. As many of our students are poised to become the first member of their family to attend college, the knowledge and experience our mentors provide towards the application process is essential. For others, the mentoring experience may be the first consistent, caring relationship they have had with an adult in their lives, serving as the most invaluable resource we can offer to students facing the challenges of growing up in poverty.
I would be remiss in saying the only benefit of the mentoring relationship is to the mentee. I’ve lost count of the number of volunteers who have confided that serving as a mentor has been a life-changing experience for themselves. It is not uncommon for mentors to maintain close relationships with their mentees well beyond high school graduation, because the trusted bond has become such an integral part of their lives. In fact, in the 2019 evaluation, 92% of mentors of seniors reported they plan to stay in touch with their mentees; 90% of senior students reported the same- our mentoring isn’t for a program, but for life.
Since Take Stock’s founding in 1995, there have been so many lessons learned. With technological advances, we now have more ability than ever before to help maximize the time our mentors and mentees spend together. But one tenet has remained constant through our 25 years of programming and over 34,000 students served – the act of mentoring is life-changing for all involved, creating an impact that will last a lifetime. I was fortunate to have become a Take Stock mentor in 1999 and I am even more grateful to lead this amazing organization as it celebrates 25 years of service. We at Take Stock see mentoring not as an expense, but as the most invaluable investment we can make in our students’ future. And for that we are forever grateful.