Scholarship recipients and schools they will attend (in alpha order): Joshua Bridegroom (Valencia College), Danecqua Bryant (Valencia College), Bryan Demosthene (Valencia College), Timothy Fluker (Johnson & Wales University – Miami), Jazzlyn Harp (University of Florida), Rachel Hartsfield (Valencia College), Maleek Hobdy (Graceland University – Iowa), AneMarielle Jean (Valencia College), Phara Marcelin (Florida A & M University – Tallahassee), Keyanna Metayer (Valencia College), Ruddy Nazario (University of Florida), Jamie Prince (Valencia College), Lakia Reynolds (University of North Florida – Jacksonville), Marc-Anthony Rioseco, (decision pending) Abigail Thelusme (Valencia College), Alia Tyler (Valencia College) and Marcus Williams (Valencia College).
On Tuesday, June 9, 2015, Valencia College held a ceremony at the District Office to recognize and celebrate its Orange County Take Stock in Children (TSIC) program’s graduating high school seniors, their parents, mentors, community leaders and corporate partners.
This year’s graduating seniors were from schools across Orange County, including Cypress Creek High School, East River High School, Edgewater High School, Evans High School, Jones High School, University High School and Wekiva High School. Each of the 16 graduates received a 2+2 Florida Prepaid full-tuition scholarship for college.
The program helps underserved children succeed, starting at age 12, by providing college scholarships, volunteer mentors, early intervention and long-term support. High standards, parental involvement and community support are crucial to the program’s success.
“Our goal has been to offer scholarships, mentors and hope,” said Elisha González, director, community affairs and executive director, Take Stock in Children of Orange County. “Since 2008, our Valencia scholarship and mentoring program has impacted the lives of students in Orange County Public Schools. Our Valencia Program has over $4.5 million dollars in Florida Prepaid scholarship assets from the commitment of all of our local donors. It has generated over 100,000 mentor volunteer hours and has recruited over 500 mentors since inception in 2008. I am very proud of its continued success and growth.”
Program alumnus David Ashby III ably served as program emcee. Alumna Leanna McAlpin shared that the TSIC experience was “more than just a free ride to school. Having someone who believes in you when you don’t believe in yourself is a feeling you can’t explain,” she said.
Honoree Timothy Fluker, a recent high school graduate, who was accompanied by his mother along with his mentor, Carol Griffin, participated in the program beginning in seventh grade. Timothy described the program as “amazing — it opened my eyes to new things. My mentor, Carol Griffin, helped me with how to improve my grades in my classes that I struggled with.” Timothy will attend the Johnson & Wales University culinary program in Miami in the fall.
The event was graced with remarks by Valencia College President Sandy Shugart who shared that the program is based on:
- The promise that mentors and community make to students to invest in them and be sources of advisement and encouragement;
- The promise that students pledge to earn good grades and maintain good character; and
- The promise parents make to provide the atmosphere and support for students to achieve.
Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge Bob LeBlanc offered the graduates kernels of wisdom: “Always try to be kind to people. It’s easier to get through life with smiles than scowls,” he said. “Be humble and never forget where you came from or the family you have.”
The keynote address was given by Harold Mills, chief executive officer, Zero Chaos, who shared the value of taking “moonshots” and aiming for the stars with high-reaching aspirations.
“It doesn’t matter what your motivation is. It’s what the achievement is,” he said, noting that while material things may motivate, the intrinsic rewards of being able to give back may be hard to see at the onset of a career. Harold recounted beats in his life “where mentors embraced, supported and endorsed me, providing opportunities that have led to the rest of my life.” Further he encouraged the teens to find something that they are immensely passionate about. “It will guide you through difficult things,” he concluded.
Also attending Tuesday’s ceremony were Jill Mickle, director, Florida Citrus Sports Foundation; Deb Mears, Mears Transportation Group; David Dawkins, senior vice president, Wells Fargo; Stephanie Allen, executive director, Orlando Magic Youth Foundation; Jovanna Heavener, executive director, The Heavener Foundation; Augusto Sanabria, president and CEO, Hispanic Business Initiative Fund of Florida, Inc.; and Bo Outlaw and Nick Anderson, ambassadors, Orlando Magic.