The academic workload. Peer pressure. Extracurricular activities.
The demands placed on high school students can get overwhelming. For some, the struggle can make the prospect of higher education seem out of reach – or the path to getting there seem like more than they can bear.
But it doesn’t have to be that way, thanks to mentors who take stock in children.
It’s more than an activity. It’s more than a mindset. Take Stock in Children (TSIC) is a nonprofit that delivers academic support and mentorship to students as early as seventh grade.
The students agree to maintain a 2.5 grade-point average, graduate and remain drug and crime free. If they honor the agreement, TSIC provides scholarship assistance for two years of higher education.
Jim Wheeler manages a TSIC chapter in northeast Florida, where the nonprofit is helping teens create a path toward success.
“Our program in St. Johns County is helping connect students to their futures,” Wheeler said. “Many of our students will be first-generation college students, so we have resources in place to help navigate academics throughout their high school career and the college admissions process. Our program is life changing for students and families.”
Regions Bank recently provided 24 laptops to the St. Johns County chapter – one for each student. In addition, associates have volunteered with the organization to provide financial wellness training for parents.
The bank is committed to reducing the digital divide and improving financial literacy, and education is one of Regions’ top priorities for community engagement.
Jacksonville Market Executive Jim Richardson personally delivered the computers to graduates.
“This is about access and opportunities,” Richardson said. “Already, technology was important to receiving a strong education. Now, with the pandemic and more distance learning, it’s even more vital. These students have a vision for their futures. We share in that vision and want to help them succeed.”
TSIC’s impact reaches across Florida. And these three graduates from St. Johns County represent what’s happening throughout the state.
Tre Evans: ‘I know the program has my back.’
Tre Evans loves sports. At Pedro Menendez High School in St. Augustine, Evans was a star track and field and football athlete. With all his commitments, time management was a struggle. His grades showed it.
But TSIC saw potential.
Evans was mentored by a retired educator and guidance counselor who taught him how to prioritize his studies while continuing to play sports. In addition, Evans’ mentor helped him realize the value of staying in constant contact with teachers.
Evans began as a “C” student, but through hard work and support, he brought up his grades. His plans now? Majoring in graphic design at Florida Atlantic University.
“I learned how to get myself together academically instead of giving up,” Evans said. “Take Stock in Children was the security I needed to know that I can do anything I set my mind to accomplish. I know the program has my back now and into the future.”
Kalani Hancock: ‘My Authentic Self’
Kalani Hancock’s passion was always learning. At a young age, she set a goal to attend college.
“Going to college is a priority for me, but the cost of higher education is a concern,” Hancock said. “The scholarship is one of the many reasons why I applied to Take Stock in Children.”
Hancock entered TSIC with good grades and continued to excel. Her mentor helped her address social challenges and peer pressure.
“Socially, high school may not go as perfectly as you plan,” Hancock said. “Through Take Stock in Children, my mentor helped me realize that it is okay not to always be perfect, but it is important to always be my authentic self.”
Hancock will enroll at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee later this year.
“The laptop from Regions was a major blessing to my family,” Hancock said. “It is a gift that will be used often in the coming years.”
Shawna Law: ‘A Drive to do Better’
Shawna Law needed no introduction to TSIC. When the opportunity to apply came around, Law jumped at the chance.
“I saw how the program guided and grounded my brother, so I knew it could do the same for me,” Law said. “I was excited to apply, but it felt unreal when I found out I was selected. To say I was grateful for the experience really doesn’t adequately describe how wonderful the program was for me.”
Law’s mentor was a retired educator who helped her through one of her most difficult courses in high school: Spanish. But more than the academic support she received from her mentor, such as studying for tests or help with research projects, Law’s mentor supported her personal growth.
“My mentor pushed me to grow and improve my family relationships and friendships,” Law said. “She instilled in me a drive to do better academically and in all areas of my life.”
Law is headed to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville this fall to major in elementary education. She added that the laptop from Regions was just what she needed.
“My old laptop wasn’t working, so the new one from Regions was a welcomed addition that came at just the right time,” Law said.
A Strong Community Partnership
Jim Wheeler from TSIC said the laptops represent just one way community partners step up.
From financial support for scholarships to volunteer opportunities, TSIC uses all available resources to create a foundation for long-term success.
“We couldn’t manage the program without the generosity of corporate donors, like Regions Bank, who come alongside us to support our students,” Wheeler said. “We are grateful for the laptops and know they make the cost of higher education a little easier for students and their families.”
Recently, TSIC held a small, outdoors-only graduation for its 2020 seniors, another visible reminder of how things have changed this year. It wasn’t what the students or the mentors originally envisioned.
But a bright future is still clearly in view. Because of mentors who were willing to take stock.