June 15, 2017
Take Stock in Children college scholarship and mentor program is a powerful and proven system of success.  Low income, at risk students are selected as early as the 6th grade.  Once selected, students sign a contract to maintain good grades, remain drug-free, crime-free, and meet with a volunteer mentor during the school day, on the school campus.  As long as the student maintains their agreement, they are awarded a college scholarship upon high school graduation.  Take Stock in Children has a 96% success rate of students graduating and matriculating into college.  The mentor retention rate is 95% securing the relationship with the student as a powerful motivator.
What happens to these students once they get into college?  Many of them are the first in their families to attend post-secondary education - about 25% of Take Stock Manatee students are the first in their families to graduate from high school.  These first generation scholars face challenges in college that some of their more affluent peers do not, for example: they are uncomfortable in a college environment, they are more likely to work full time, they are more likely to commute, they face acute financial pressures, they lack cultural capital, they experience social/cultural isolation, and they experience feelings of not belonging/impostor syndrome[1].
Says Holly Gray, Take Stock Manatee College Success Coach, “The transition from high school to college is a journey unfamiliar to most students, and is completely uncharted territory for first generation college students. They need the support of experienced professionals to ensure that they will be able to transition smoothly during the critical first six months of college and throughout their journey to successful graduation.”  Gray emphasizes that resources need to be available to support them through day-to-day classes, settling into college life, tackling financial obstacles, and guiding them as they apply and interview for internships and finally their first professional job. “Graduating from college will change the lives of students, families and communities,” she says.
Take Stock in Children of Manatee County, Inc. receives partial funding from a Department of Education grant through the organization’s State Office.  This funding is only applicable to students in grades 6 - 12.  Any activity on behalf of students outside of this grade range, must be funded through alternative channels.
In order to fulfill its mission to “provide scholarships, mentors and hope for deserving students to achieve success in college and in life,” Take Stock Manatee needs to secure external funding for a professional College Success Coach to serve the scholars utilizing the generous scholarship provided in a post-secondary institution. 
In 2016, Bank of America supported this College Success program with a $10,000 grant.  On June 15th, 2017, Gray accepted another grant for 2017-2018 in the amount of $12,500.  These funds are used to provide individual college planning, admissions and progression support through college graduation for Take Stock Manatee Scholars.  By focusing time on developing a College Success Plan, students select careers compatible with their natural strengths.  Coordinating volunteer mentor support while in college provides these low-income, at-risk students the additional resources needed to succeed.  Minor challenges and distractions do not derail a Take Stock Scholar’s college plan because of the individualized support provided.
The Bank of America grant enables Take Stock in Children of Manatee County, Inc. to provide needed support to the recipients of its scholarship in the form of counseling and community mentoring to help Take Stock Scholars truly break the cycle of poverty.

[1] Unfamiliar Territory: Meeting the Career Development Needs of First-Generation College Students    NACE Journal, November 2016-Heather Maietta
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